The Bagpipes Revival Process Through the Agency of Vanja Ilijev in Central Banat

Folkloristics 7/2 (2022):
Author: Katarina Nikolić

Present-day bagpipe performances in Vojvodina, the northern part of Serbia, are an element of the wider traditional music revival movement since the last decade of the 20th century. In Central Banat, region of Vojvodina revitalization of the “big triple-voice bagpipe” practice, typical for the whole Banat in the past, began in the first decade of the 21st century through the multiple activities of Vanja Ilijev. His agency is the main focus and research subject of this paper.
The paper illustrates the multidimensional revival strategies of Vanja Ilijev consisting of: 1) performing the “big triple-voice bagpipes” solo and with the singing group, 2) building and reconstruction of bagpipes, and 3) transmitting and promoting knowledge concerning bagpipes through the various forms of education. Assessing his activities through application of Tamara Livingston’s theoretical frame on revival, we confirmed strong and grounded presence of revival tendency in Vanja Ilijev’s emic narratives documented during the fieldwork. Providing argumentation for each layer of revival potential, it becomes clear that activities of Vanja Ilijev belong to the idea of revitalizing and preserving the music tradition that is approaching extinction or is already extinct. Bagpipes in Central Banat were musically and socially overshadowed by other instruments during the 20th century, until the last decades.
Finally, analysis of the music presented here exposes the integral repertoire grounded in the Banat region. It consisted of the instrumental accompaniment to the dance, as well as the examples of instrumental complement to the singing group. In-depth music analysis exposes the style of his performance as heavily ornamented, tending to rhythmically develop middle voice part. Repertoire choices of Vanja Ilijev instigate broader presentation of the Banat region’s identity, in association with traditional costume he wears while performing.

Keywords: big triple-voice bagpipes, revival, Vanja Ilijev, Central Banat (Serbia).