Musical traditions: Bosnian folk dance, Bosnian Sevdalinka (singing)
Dancing Master: Mediha Jusufagic
Singer: Ramiz Mujkanovic
BOSNIAN MUSIC – RAMIZ MUJKANOVIĆ AND SEVDALINKA
Ramiz Mujkanovic was born in 1966 in the city of Doboj, Bosnia, where his parents had moved from a small village. Ramiz’s mother often sang old songs while she cooked and did the laundry, and Ramiz especially liked the traditional Bosnian songs known as “sevdah.” Trained as a baker, Ramiz left home as a young man and worked throughout Europe. He eventually returned to Bosnia but was forced to emigrate in the 1990s by the Bosnian war. He brought his family to Barre, VT, in 1999 and worked at various trades, including bricklaying, before opening a bakery, first in Williamstown, VT, and now in Barre. The Bosnian songs have remained dear to him, and he has been teaching them to his children.
BOSNIAN FOLK DANCE IN VERMONT: THE BOSNIAN LILIES
Mediha Jusufagic: In my native country I started to learn folk dance when I was in 5th. It was in a community hall in my hometown Proijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was part of a folk dance group for 15 years. We practiced two hours three times a week. We performed almost everywhere in Western Europe.
Dance was part of the larger community and there were many dances from all over ex-Yugoslavia. Most of these dances are hundreds of years old so people just continue to keep them until today.
Arriving in Vermont as a refugee, Mediha looked back on this experience as a kind of cultural touchstone, and in her new role as community activist and parent recognized the impact that dance could have on Bosnian children who had been displaced by the brutal Balkan war.
Thus was born the Bosnian Lilies, a dance troupe founded by Mediha in partnership with Amila Begovic and Ervina Ramic in 2001. An all-volunteer effort, the troupe quickly grew to thirty members and performed locally and at Bosnian events region wide. Today the Bosnian Lilies troupe is widely recognized as a cultural emblem and source of pride for Vermont’s Bosnian community, and as “ambassadors” to Vermonters who are new to Bosnian culture.
Mediha is an extremely skilled dancer and an expert teacher. She is also a visionary with a seemingly endless reservoir of energy. Newly arrived and facing the challenges of mastering English, finding work, providing stability for her family, and deciphering an entirely new culture, she nevertheless recognized that young Bosnian Vermonters needed an understanding of their own culture as a foundation for navigating the challenges of the American mainstream.
Through the Bosnian Lilies program, which includes instruction in traditional dance, instrumental music, language, and song, Mediha creates an environment where children are focused and excited about what they are learning and the unique and valuable contributions their culture makes to Vermont.
Again, Mediha: Bosnia is a small country but it’s mix of a lot of cultures, diversities. People got together on weddings, any kind of celebrations, and then they danced, they learned from each other. Dance and music was the only thing that connected and brought them together.
My work with children it’s not just a folklore that’s forgotten, it’s here now too. Every time the Lilies go on the stage they show how proud they are of who they are, because they know who they are.
ABOUT THE LILIES
Learn more from the Vermont Folklife Center's Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program