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DETVA 1997

Dear friends!

At this time I should have already been visiting the USA, but, unfortunately, I didnít get the visa, so Iím spending this yearís summer in Slovakia. But everything has got its advantages - I could visit several folk festivals, especially the one which takes place in my native town Detva every second weekend of July.

The festival has got its own conception, which you already know from my previous articles, so Iím not going to give you any detailed description. I think you could be interested more in some events, meetings, and experiences of mine.

Before the official opening of the festival, always on Friday evening there are already a lot of various activities like competitions, contests, exhibitions etc. These usually take place in the museum, church or in house of culture, not in the area of the amphitheater. I wanted to see everything, so I stopped everywhere for a while. Before the evening started I went to the amphitheater and my first "task" was to find Vladimir. It was quite easy to find him, even among thousands of people. First I was looking for his pink cap, but to see it I would have had to sit on a tree and look around from up there. I could have asked somebody if he or she hadn't seen him yet, but that would be TOO EASY. I relied on my detective abilities. It was interesting to watch how the people run towards somebody who could possibly be "that ucok Vlado" breaking their conversations and leaving their partners alone. He is very popular around here and everybody's glad to meet him. When I finally met Vlado, he surprised me with a little gift (fragrance was beautiful)! We didn't even have time to talk because there were already other friends of Vlado who wanted to say hello, shake hands, kiss and embrace him. He quickly told me some of his new jokes and moved forward. Actually, a 50-meter's long way from the entrance gate to the auditorium takes him half an hour, maybe more. He doesn't make more that 2 or 3 steps when there is already someone who embraces him leaving him then free to talk to other people. There were some duties waiting for me as well. For me Detva festival wouldn't "count" if I didn't play with some of the folk groups. I met my old friends from the group Dobrona who just in case brought a costume for me having expected that Iíd play with them on the stage. One hour before the performance I didn't know what we were going to play yet, but thatís not a problem. Itís enough to say the tune we play in - and an experienced folk musician can go straight on the stage.

Having performed with Dobrona I fulfilled the obligation I gave myself and now I could start watching the program in a place of a spectator.

The amphitheater is situated just behind the very last houses of the village and thatís approximately 3-4 kilometers from the new part of Detva neighborhood. Normally, when I meet in the street, we say hello, talk for a while and then we just keep on walking. But once we've crossed the entrance gate of the amphitheater, everybody kisses everybody, people embrace as if they haven't seen each other for several years (even if they already met in the town the same day). At least half of the visitors' folk musicians, singers, and dancers, who even if they don't perform, come here to feel this unique and unforgettable atmosphere. I met my students who kissed me hello and my former teachers who I kissed hello. Everybody is equal here, we have fun, and we play and sing all together. A little 10 year old musician plays side by side with a 60 year old, experienced "primas." Here you "pick up" the experience, make new acquaintance and friends.

My mother can't be missing at any program. She is not a folk musician, but she kind of a "belongs to the inventory." All my relatives know that during the festival we don't cook at home. Who would stand beside the stove all day, when there's so much fun up there in old Detva? On Friday my mom makes a lot of goulash, our relatives, and friends are given the keys and if somebody is hungry, he/she goes home and eats. There are packsacks, musical instruments, personal things all around the apartment; it looks like a camp! But that also belongs to the festival and we really enjoy having new and new visitors. My mom enjoys watching the musicians from Detva and surroundings on the stage. Many of them used to be (or still is) her student at the school of music in Detva where she teaches. She considers the question: "Guess which of these I haven't taught?" to be a good joke. It's very funny for us and we enjoy laughing at her jokes of this kind. Her students, guys and girls, come to talk, they shake hands, they tell her about themselves..., and my mom is very happy to hear about their success. There were quite a few well known personalities, people famous in cultural and political life of Slovakia in Detva this year. We could also meet a lot of foreigners, not only folk groups from abroad, but many foreign people who came on their own as well.

Besides being happy and nice to each other again, you could also see some tears in our eyes-especially during the performance of Slovaks living abroad. Maybe they don't fell that way as we do here in Slovakia; they are happy in their home countries and happy when they can come to Slovakia. They found their homes elsewhere and their hearts take them there. The program on Sunday morning was very touching for all of us and when it finished, whole audience spontaneously stood up saying goodbye with great applause and tears. This year we had Slovaks from the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Hungary, Ukraine, Belgium, Romania, and Brazil. All of them were very, very good. It was very hard to say if the person dancing on the stage is native Slovak or a not. I have to say a few words about the group from Brazil, because it was special for me. Brazil is something I keep in my heart. Not a folk group Mladost, but mainly because of my friend - former "primas" (first violinist) of our folk band Valaska, that we played in together during our university studies - Adriana Valaskova who found her love and home in Brazil. Ada came to Slovakia with the folk group Radost from Sao Paulo, she is a leader of this group. They had two performances. In the first dance (it looked like "capoeira" to me). Ada danced in a Brazilian costume and in the second one she played "Dances from Horehronie" with a Slovak folk band. When we met, we couldn't talk about usual things; we only held each other's hands, very long and very tight. Ada has many friends here, she wanted to say hello to everybody. As I was watching their performance, I couldn't concentrate, I was only looking at Ada and crying all the time. And then we couldn't find each other; we didn't even say goodbye! We used to study and play together for so many years, sometimes we got angry, said bad things to each other. But after such a strong experience all mistakes and wrong things simply go away and one remembers only good old students' times spent together. I'm sure Ada reads this newsletter-maybe she could write about the feelings she had when she came to the old well known places as a "guest."

Well, enough of nostalgia. One of the most important things of the festival is-the weather. As one week before in Vychodna it was raining, we knew, even without weather forecasts, that the sun would shine in Detva. It is always like this- if there is sunshine in Vychodna, we expect rain in Detva. Some people took their umbrellas with them to protect themselves from the hot sun. And this was a very wise decision! On Saturday, right in the middle of the children's program, a "greeting from heaven" came down on us. A big black cloud appeared all of a sudden, moving very fast, we could hear a thunder and then it started raining so heavily that everybody started running trying to find a shelter. But where could several thousands of people hide? So we hid under the trees, behind the fence, one person close to another, so that we would at least stay partly dry. The rain was so heavy that the water dropped on our heads even through the umbrellas. Ten minutes later the sun was shining again and the seats in the auditorium were almost dry when we came back there. That big cloud just probably came to see what was happening at the amphitheater, down in the village, a hundred meterís from there, people didn't see a single drop of rain.

During the folk festival people don't care about etiquette so much. Their clothes are of different kinds. Many people are dressed in folk costumes, some are in bathing suits, the others in jeans, these wear boots, and those that are bare footed. We usually take blankets with us to sit more comfortably. If it is cold, we cover ourselves with the blankets and go home like that. Just imagine this: in your country, in the street you meet such a creature, tired, wet from the rain, drunk a bit, "wrapped" in blanket and the creature sings all through the way. Maybe you would call the police. When I go to the amphitheater, I usually spend whole day there, so I look like this: packsack with a blanket on my back, viola hanging on my shoulder, suitcase with costume in my hand, a bottle of something in case I meet a good friend, a bag with a day's food in the other hand (although there's no time to eat and no time to sleep, normally). Well, I exaggerate a bit, not everybody looks like that, only those real fans of folklore that cannot miss one single hour of the festival and canít go home to eat something or change their clothes.

When I talk about how the people are dressed there, I have to remind you of Vladimir again. I watched him from the auditorium when he was taking pictures of the performing people and I tried to count the number of pockets on his jeans and the two of his vests. There were so many different strings, laces, cameras hanging all around him, pockets were sagging though they were already empty, and he had already given away all the gifts he brought. He moved very fast, he was everywhere and he managed to see and do everything. He was giving not only gifts to his friends, but smiles and jokes as well. Vlado has probably got a computer in his head, he knows everyone, knows everything about him and if thereís someone he doesn't know yet, he immediately makes friends with him/her and puts all the information about the person into that computer of his.

I don't know where he went at the end of the whole program I lost him. I had to go to Banska Bystrica in the evening, so we didn't meet. But with Vlado you always have this feeling that it was just yesterday when you saw him last and tomorrow he'll be back again.

After the second Sunday of July people leave Detva tired, but smiling and happy, having been kissed so much, it's enough for the whole coming year till the next festival comes. My boyfriend, who for two days let me enjoy all the wild meetings with my old friends, came to Detva only on Sunday and this way he could be a witness of my saying goodbye (at least as crazy and friendly as saying hello!). I'm glad he's so tolerant and admits that kissing and embracing was ok under the circumstances.

My dear friends reading this newsletter, don't you want to make plans for next year's summer holiday and come to Slovakia? To be honest- there may not be such a comfort as you'd find at some other places, but if the weather is "good" to us, It's worth it! And not to feel so comfortable from time to time, that's all right. If it doesn't work out in Detva, it certainly does in Vychodna, Helpa, Terchova, Myjava, Banska Bystrica. Thereís something happening every week-activities connected with folklore and national traditions. And those-I hope-wonít die out in our country, till the world exists.

Yours Dana

Dana Hodulova
A. Bernolaka 2
962 12 Detva

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Published in the Slovak Heritage Live newsletter Volume 5, No.3, Fall 1997
Copyright © Vladimir Linder 1997
3804 Yale Street, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5C 1P6
The above article and photographs may not be copied, reproduced, republished, or redistributed by any means including electronic, without the express written permission of Vladimir Linder. All rights reserved.