Ojkanje is a tradition of polyphonic folk singing in Croatia, characteristic for the regions of the Dalmatian hinterland, Velebit, Lika, Kordun, and Karlovac.[1] As described in The Harvard Dictionary of Music: "The ojkanje is a particular style of singing melisma with a sharp and prolonged shaking of the voice on the syllables oj or hoj."[2] According to experts, ojkanje is a remnant of pre-Slavic Illyrian singing from the area of ancient Dalmatia (today's Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro).[3]

Ojkanje singing
HKUD - Široka Kula.jpg
HKUD Široka Kula from Gospić performing ličko ojkanje
DomainsPerforming arts (dance and music)
RegionEurope and North America
Inscription history
Inscription2010 (5th session)
ListNeed of Urgent Safeguarding

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

Geographical extentEdit

Historically, ojkanje is found in the regions of the Dalmatian hinterland, Velebit, Lika, Kordun, and Karlovac, belonging to the Dinaric area, along with several neighbouring micro-regions.[4][5] Dalmatian hinterland area is considered as main home of the ojkanje style and from there was expanded to other parts of Croatia. Migrations from the Dinaric region during the 16th and 17th century probably introduced this style of singing to Adriatic islands as well migration of Bunjevci from same area to Vojvodina and Hungary.[6] The solo singing type of ojkanje is associated most with the Lika region and surrounding Karlovac, while two-part singing is dominant in the wider area of the Croatian coast and its hinterland.[7] Specific types of ojkanje singing can be found between the rivers of Krka and Cetina (Drniška Krajina), in the regions of Ravni Kotari and Bukovica, in the Cetinska Krajina between Svilaja and Moseč, and the hinterlands of Trogir and Kaštela.[7] The mountainous landscape of Lika the Dalmatian hinterland proved ideal for the cultivation of ojkanje.[8]

Similar styles of polyphonic singing can be found throughout the Dinaric region of the Balkans, such as ganga, found mainly in Herzegovina and inland Dalmatia, and izvika from the Zlatibor area in Serbia. These enduring musical traditions show a connecting link among the populations of the mountainous regions.[9] Owing to emigration, ojkanje groups can now be found in western Serbia and to a smaller extent, Bosnia and Herzegovina.[10]


The main significance with ojkanje is that it is not simply a genre of singing, but a very specific voice-shaking technique originating from the throat.[4][5] Ojkanje has been described as "free beat singing" that is created deep in the throat and has been steeped in the culture of various local communities. There are two main ways of performing: individually, or more commonly, with a group.[4] Lyrics usually cover topics such as love, social or local issues, and politics.[11]

  • Solo singing, also known as "travel singing" (putničko, kiridžijsko) or "solitary singing" (samačko) has several different variants depending on the region. One example from the Konavle region is the ustresalica, a shaking type of singing which has died out amongst the community. In Lika, the rozganje type of singing was popular, and is currently kept alive by local folklore groups in the Karlovac region.[4]
  • Two-part singing can be performed by men or women with two or more people. It is prevalent in the area of the Croatian coast and the Dalmatian hinterland . In group singing, the song lasts as long as the lead singer can hold their breath.[4] The name ojkalica, which is the name used for this type of singing in the area in the hinterland of Šibenik and the villages of Vrlika and Kijevo.[4] Further along the Dalmatian hinterland there are various traditional vocal styles of Ojkanje singing. In Ravni Kotari and Bukovica, the local style of singing is called orzenje (the Serbian Orthodox population calls it orcenje, orcanje or groktanje). Furthermore, when performed by men, the singing is known as treskavica, or starovinsko ("old-style") today, and when performed by women it is known as vojkavica.[4] Treskavica is also used in the hinterlands of Trogir and Kaštela, but is called grgešanje in Grebaštica, a village north of Primošten. In northern Poljice the locals continue to perform the kiridžijsko style of singing.[4]


Ojkanje singing originated in its form in the Dinaric region. It especially thrived among the rural population of the Dalmatian hinterland and surrounding regions.

Ivan Lovrić (1756—1777) mentions ojkanje as part of Morlach culture.[12]

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.[13]

In 2008, ojkanje singing was nominated by the Croatian Ministry of Culture for inscription on the UNESCO Urgent Safeguarding list.[14] 2010, it was inscribed in UNESCOs List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding as representative of Croatia.[15]

Modern dayEdit

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 younger generations migrating to cities and modern ways overtaking certain traditional practices, resulting in the decline of Ojkanje singing.[4]

Many folklore groups have been performing to keep Ojkanje singing alive.[16] 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,[17] and their success insured them an appearance in the official 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). Croatian public television has aired numerous programs on ojkanje groups and reviving the custom among young people.[18][19] Examples of other groups include "KUD Petrova Gora - Kordun" Beograd,[20] and "KUD Kordun - Inđija",[21] formed by ethnic Serbs from the Kordun region of Croatia, but now perform throughout Serbia. There are numerous festivals and cultural events throughout the region that display Ojkanje singing to the public.[22][23] The village of Prigrevica in Sombor, Serbia, and other places in Vojvodina settled by Military Frontiersmen has the musical tradition of Ojkanje.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "UNESCO - Ojkanje singing". ich.unesco.org. Retrieved 2020-02-05.
  2. ^ Don Michael Randel (2003). The Harvard Dictionary of Music. Harvard University Press. pp. 227–. ISBN 978-0-674-01163-2.
  3. ^ "Culturenet.hr - Ojkanje na UN-ovom popisu zaštićene baštine". www.culturenet.hr. Retrieved 2019-10-19.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Croatia (November 2010). "Urgent Safeguarding List: Nomination file no. 00320": 2–3. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ a b Jaramaz, Dusko (16 August 2019). "OJKANJE - najstariji način pjevanja na ovim prostorima kojega možete naučiti i vi". Hrvatska katolička mreža. hkm.hr.
  6. ^ Grozdana Marošević, 2006, One-part Ojkanje-singing in the Historical Perspective, https://hrcak.srce.hr/23185 #page=144-145
  7. ^ a b Croatia (November 2010). "Urgent Safeguarding List: Nomination file no. 00320": 3. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ Boersma, Paul; Kovacic, Gordana (8 June 2005). "Spectral characteristics of three styles of Croatian folk singing" (PDF). The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 119 (3): 1805–1816. Bibcode:2006ASAJ..119.1805B. doi:10.1121/1.2168549. PMID 16583921. S2CID 717234. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  9. ^ Jordania, Joseph (2015). Choral Singing in Human Culture and Evolution. Part 2: Comparative Perspectives: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing. p. 245. ISBN 978-3659488412.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  10. ^ Hina/HRT. "Festival ojkače u Petrinji održan bez incidenata". HRT Vijesti. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  11. ^ Croatia (November 2010). "Urgent Safeguarding List: Nomination file no. 00320": 5. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Stjepan Gunjača (1979). Ivan Lovric i njegovo doba : Referati i saopcenja sa znanstvenog skupa. Kulturno drustvo "Cetinjanin". p. 335. ojkanje
  13. ^ Croatia (November 2010). "Urgent Safeguarding List: Nomination file no. 00320": 4. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ Croatian Ministry of Culture (2008). "Ojkanje singing: Nomination for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding list". unesco (at Youtube). Retrieved 8 November 2010.
  15. ^ UNESCO Culture Sector. "Ojkanje singing". UNESCO. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  16. ^ 2. večer ojkanja
  17. ^ Recept ojkalice: Jedan potra, drugi priuzme i trese, a onda svi gonimo do kraja
  18. ^ Štefelić, Ivana. "Ojkanje oslobađa i dušu i glas". HRT Magazin. Hrvatska Radiotelevizija. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  19. ^ Šuvak, Vedran. "Mladi pokazuju sve veći interes za ojkanje". HRT. Hrvatska Radiotelevizija. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  20. ^ Sjeničarska zabava Retrieved on 2 March 2016
  21. ^ Izvorna grupa Kordun Inđija Retrieved on 2 March 2016
  22. ^ Četvrti sabor ojkavice: "Ajde, brate, zapivaj polako..."
  23. ^ "Croat Veterans Accused of Silencing Serbian Songs". Balkan Insight. 2018-08-23. Retrieved 2019-10-19.

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