Međimurska popevka, a folksong from Međimurje

Međimurska popevka, a folksong from Međimurje

Međimurska popevka , a folksong from the north-western part of Croatia, has been included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity thanks to the generations of people who have managed to preserve and immortalise this traditional musical genre.


The first sheet music for this genre dates back to the 16th century, and even though the popevka was historically predominantly a genre practised by women, nowadays it is performed in various versions and occasions, and it is a part of the identity connecting all inhabitants of Međimurje. When it comes to its structure and the age of the lyrics, the popevka can be old or new, whereas, if we consider their stylistic features and central themes, there are lyrical and epic popevkas. Given the abundance of styles, it is no surprise that the popevka of today can be monophonic, multipart, vocal-instrument etc., but it must always respect the original form of having the lyrics match the melody, thus creating the traditional folksong.


The međimurska popevka is also an element found in dances traditional for this region, but the practice of this specific folksong isn’t necessarily linked to stage performances, but it is rather a part of everyday life in Međimurje, which is precisely what guarantees its future. The popevka is the soundtrack to growing up, loving, getting married, having fun, attending church, as well as crying, all with a smidge of that authentic melancholy, characteristic of this region ensconced between two rivers, the Mura and the Drava.


Societies for art and culture are mostly charged with preserving this valued tradition, and there are currently around fifty singers regarded as masters of the art of singing, whose knowledge and skills were critically important for including the popevka in the list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity, with the support from experts, as well as local and national institutions.


It should be noted that women from Međimurje are the mentors responsible for the transfer of the traditional popevka to future generations. There are many hardworking keepers of this heritage, and numerous singers, but Elizabeta Toplek, better known as teta Liza, is by far the most loyal voice and the face of međimurska popevka who will, with the help of other performers, introduce this Croatian musical treasure to international audiences and completely win them over.