A group singing at the annual Ojkača Festival in Moštanica.

Ojkanje is a tradition of polyphonic folk singing in the Dinaric area including the regions of the Dalmatian hinterland, Velebit, Lika, Kordun, and Karlovac in Croatia. As described in The Harvard Dictionary of Music (2003): "The ojkanje is a peculiar style of singing melisma with a sharp and prolonged shaking of the voice on the syllables oj or hoj."[1] Narrative songs are accompanied with the gusle.[1]

In 2010, it was inscribed as Ojkanje singing in UNESCOs List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding as representative of Croatia.

Geographical extent

In Croatia, it is found in the regions of the Dalmatian hinterland, Velebit, Lika, Kordun, and Karlovac.[2] Due to migration, ojkanje can also be found in western Bosnia and Herzegovina and Vojvodina in Serbia.


The singing style is marked by a distinctive voice-shaking technique where the singer utilizes an archaic form of singing from the throat.[2] Ojkanje has been described as "free beat singing" that is created deep in the throat, steeped in the tradition of various local communities, and can be divided into two main groups: individual singing or group singing.[2] Lyrics usually cover topics such as love, social or local issues, and politics.[2]


Ojkanje singing originated in its form in the Dinaric region, and shares many characteristics with Illyrian musical styles, hence the hypothesis on its origins.[3]

Ivan Lovrić (1756—1777) mentions ojkanje as part of Morlach culture.[4]

In the beginning of the 20th century, the Croatian Peasant Party began organizing folklore festivals which focused on rural traditions through their charitable wing. Traditional dancing, music, regional costumes were the main focus, especially in the 1920s and 1930s, with Ojkanje singing being an important addition.[5]

In 2008, ojkanje singing was nominated by the Croatian Ministry of Culture for inscription on the UNESCO Urgent Safeguarding list.[6] 2010, it was inscribed in UNESCOs List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding as representative of Croatia.[7]

Modern day

Over the years, Ojkanje singing was passed down from generations, with singers learning directly from their accomplished predecessors. However, the last century has seen significant changes in the traditional rural life, with modern ways overtaking certain traditional practices, resulting in younger generations not continuing the Ojkanje singing.[2]

Many folklore groups have been performing to keep Ojkanje singing alive.[8] Examples include "KUD Petrova Gora - Kordun" Beograd,[9] and "KUD Kordun - Inđija",[10] formed by Ethnic Serbs from the Kordun region of Croatia, but now perform throughout Serbia. A prominent group, "KUD Promina" from Oklaj was formed by five locals from the area to preserve and perform their region's local Ojkanje singing,[11] and they appeared in the video on UNESCO's website. Other cultural groups (KUDs) noted by UNESCO that are active in preserving Ojkanje are "Sveta Magareta" from Velika Jelsa near Karlovac, "Gacka" from Ličko Lešće, "Radovin" from Radovin, "Sveti Nikola Tavelic" from Lišane Ostrovičke, and notable people from Srijane (near Trilj) and Kokorici (near Vrgorac). There are numerous festivals and cultural events throughout Croatia and Serbia that display Ojkanje singing to the public.[12] The village of Prigrevica in Sombor, Serbia, and other places in Vojvodina settled by Military Frontiersmen has the musical tradition of Ojkanje.

See also


  1. 1 2 Don Michael Randel (2003). The Harvard Dictionary of Music. Harvard University Press. pp. 227–. ISBN 978-0-674-01163-2.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Croatia (November 2010). "Urgent Safeguarding List: Nomination file no. 00320": 2–3.
  4. Stjepan Gunjača (1979). Ivan Lovric i njegovo doba : Referati i saopcenja sa znanstvenog skupa. Kulturno drustvo "Cetinjanin". p. 335. ojkanje
  5. Croatia (November 2010). "Urgent Safeguarding List: Nomination file no. 00320": 4.
  6. Croatian Ministry of Culture (2008). "Ojkanje singing: Nomination for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding list". unesco (at Youtube). Retrieved 8 November 2010.
  7. UNESCO Culture Sector. "Ojkanje singing". UNESCO. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  8. 2. večer ojkanja
  9. Sjeničarska zabava Retrieved on the 2nd of March, 2016
  10. Izvorna grupa Kordun Inđija Retrieved on the 2nd of March, 2016
  11. Recept ojkalice: Jedan potra, drugi priuzme i trese, a onda svi gonimo do kraja
  12. Četvrti sabor ojkavice: "Ajde, brate, zapivaj polako..."

External links

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