Klapa Reful Split - The Story
For more than a decade, I have been asked by my Croatian friends, especially by a friend whom I have to mention here – the writer and poet Djordje Matic – why don’t I do a project with one of the famous Dalmatian close harmony singing groups - the so-called klapa, particularly now that those small acapella units and their singing style have been added in 2012 to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
My fascination with the style has already been fuelled by the great recordings of, in my opinion, the best klapa ever - Oktet DC from the small town of Vranjic. Djordje introduced them to me one night at his home while we were having one of our regular You Tube listening sessions. Hearing for the first time their legendary first tenor Josko Prijic, I was very moved by their singing style - one could hear the pain, the emotion, as well as the technical mastery. Those guys were really singing – it was almost like hearing an African-American gospel group.
Yet, soon it became apparent that finding that kind of singing expression was really a difficult task to in contemporary klapas – however brilliant, perfectly in tune (like real choirs), and often obviously musically educated they might be. Today, a klapa mostly consists of 11-12 members, which didn’t match my view or taste - with so many members what you create is a choir, instead of a characteristically small musical unit. The other problem were the arrangements - obviously written for the schooled singers, the arrangements were becoming ever more complicated. Also, many klapa’s were starting to add instruments making the music more commercial. All of that has created even more difficulties in finding what I was looking for: a small, soulful formation instead of the properly trained and technically proficient singers.
So I’ve started an almost impossible task today – to find a klapa in a true sense of that word – a group of friends who just like to sing.
I was busy for months looking for such a group – asking people, doing research on the internet, listening around. And then, somehow, I have finally found the one that captured my mind and my ear. It was klapa Reful from Split. I felt that special connection between the members. I felt their souls.
I did continue with my research – I’ve kept my eyes and ears open, listening to other groups. Yet, somehow, I always came back to klapa Reful. I’ve decided to make a move. So I’ve contacted their second tenor Bruno Klein via the phone message. First he thought that it was a joke. He told me that there are many better klapas in Croatia. I did my best to explain to him why I choose them and noticed that he was moved by my story and by the fact that I felt their way of singing so deeply. The bond was established. The great news was, he told me, that their new first tenor is the legendary Tonci Miletic Gulin – a multiple winner at the most prestigious klapa festival in Omiš, where he sang during the 80’s with his klapa Osjak from Vela Luka at the island of Korcula.
In January 2016 Bruno invited me to Split for a rehearsal. I was really looking forward to it, excited to hear them live and more importantly in a close setting of their natural environment. I didn’t expect the rehearsal to be at Bruno’s home, or to be more precise in the dining room, with all the guys and their wives and, of course, with the food and wine on the table promising a night to remember. And it was such a night. I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing and experiencing. It was the real klapa – just how I hoped it to be. A group of friends, sitting at the table, having a great time. And singing. A moment of the highest form of hedonism in life. It couldn’t have been better, for sure.
After a few minutes I knew that I was going to record these guys, and I wanted to record them exactly the way they sounded that evening. Few times, I’ve almost stopped breathing – I got overwhelmed by their emotion and with every word they sung.
I know there are technically better recordings and more synchronized, in-tune singing units - but I am sure that this particular klapa have something more important: a heart. Now, with this album they have opened it for you as well.
About Klapa Reful Split (Kroatia)
The Singers are, Tonči Gulin Miletić, Bruno Klein, Mladen Radunić, Zdravko Kožul, Ante Podrug and Miro Brnabić
The Song performed is Vila Moja Projde ( live studio session at the Pavarotti Music Center in Mostar )
Gallery of the Sessions & People
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