Two new books are coming fresh out of Muses’s oven. Both are published within the project entitled ‘Cultural Route of Bećarac and Ganga’ which studies heritage valorisation in a modern and innovative manner. Hot off the press monography and cookbook dedicated to these poetic and musical expressions listed on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage do exactly the same.

From Christmas to New Year feast,
I will put on a few pounds at least.

The distich that you have just read is a part of a holiday hit performed by a tamburitza music band which, as many before, has found inspiration in the rich heritage of bećarac – one of the two original Croatian traditional expressions which have been on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2011.

Apart from bećarac, a Herzegovinian version of ojkanjeganga, representing a similar musical, traditional and philosophical time capsule, is also listed on the world heritage list.

A few years later, two cities, Pleternica in Croatia and Tomislavgrad in Bosnia and Herzegovina, connected their world famous heritage by the cultural route of the same name. The project was mostly financed by the program INERREG-IPA CBC, Croatia – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Montenegro which made the two cities partners. Each city got a square dedicated to bećarac and ganga, as well as the project documentation necessary to establish a museum for these two musical expressions.

This is a studious and multi-disciplinary work which has as a kind of prelude and guideline, resulted in two printed publications this year. Being project collaborators, we wish to boast about it a bit in our holiday blog. The two printed publications refer to monography and cookbook of “Cultural Route of Bećarac and Ganga”.

While the establishment of museums and squares required the creativity of architects, museum experts, heritage interpreters and tourism professionals, the monography and cookbook publication gathered all the persons who worked on preserving these two expressions either by historical and ethnographic recording or by keeping it alive on so many different levels.

In this sense, the monography and the cookbook are, at the same time, a modern reading of tradition and useful guides and manuals which help us experience our heritage, using all our senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste and body movement. Although it seems that bećarac and ganga refer only to our sense of hearing, its impact is significantly larger. Using all six senses (if we include consciousness as well), they subtly take over and overwhelm the whole person.

The verses stimulate the mind. They make it perceive reality in a different and new manner. The melody provokes emotions. The rhythm invites our bodies to enter this traditional spiral by encouraging it to dance with the others (and the beauty of the others is primarily perceived by the eye). The traditional feast, which has always been very closely connected to bećarac and ganga in a special celebration of life and community, evokes our sense of smell and taste.

Having this in mind, a team led by Muses prepared the texts for the monography and the cookbook. Journalist Josip Antić is the author of the monography and the cookbook was written by the famous gastro expert and publicist Radovan Marčić. Dragana Lucija Ratković Aydemir, an experienced heritage interpreter, art historian and founder of Muses is the books’ editor. So, what do the monography and the cookbook offer to the future reader and visitor?

This monography is not a difficult and profound book intended only for experts. It is exactly the opposite – a diverse tourist and cultural story of Pleternica and Tomislavgrad, told on more than 230 pages, textually and visually describing the musical phenomena and combining different style expressions (verses, essays, reports, historical testimonies, and authentic everyday stories). It is an invitation to a journey, exploration, experience and enjoyment of nature and company.

On the other hand, the cookbook contains authentic recipes of the dishes related to bećarac and ganga. The dishes come to life with the help of photos taken by Đorđe Stošić and texts written by Radovan Marčić. Design studio Beton is responsible for the design and the layout of both books.

“These two books are the crowning achievement in the field. Their task is to transfer the emotion people have for their heritage, not only to native Croatian speakers. Since they have been translated to English, they are also the ambassadors of our heritage. This way, the joy and vividness of bećarac and ganga can be felt much wider and further than the audacious but often anonymous folk poets could ever hope for”, as the editor Ratković Aydemir summarised the social mission of these two publications.

The fact that both books were created using documentary method, through the interaction with the inhabitants of Tomislavgrad, Pleternica and their wider areas is of particular importance. All the recipes from the cookbook were prepared, photographed and eaten at farms and in the local family farms and restaurants. Around twenty experts – professional chefs, housewives, anthropologists and ethnographers – took part in creating the dishes and describing their history and phenomenon. Maja Žebčević Matić, the author of Museum in a Pot, deserves special credit for her participation.

We end this text with verses to prove that bećarac and ganga live the everyday lives of their communities. As we had already mentioned, we gave you an example of a modern bećarac (Christmas bećarac performed by the tamburitza band Gazde) at the beginning of this article, and we are going to finish it with a convenient ganga folk verse:

Christmas and holidays are at the door,
Everything will be better than before!

We wish you pleasant holidays and while you celebrate, remember – they would never be so delightful and precious without cherishing and preserving our heritage.

Author of the cookbook
Radovan Marčić

Author of the monograph
Josip Antić

Đorđe Stošić

Art design