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History of Guča Festival

The traditional Dragačevo trumpet - its cult kept alive for nearly two centuries regardless of political and social considerations - has with time become world-renowned. It is owing to the trumpet that the name of Serbia has resounded worldwide, in all the continents. Some orchestras, when they appear on stage, whether for official competition national dress, the authentic and indigenous dances and other folk inspired elements, coupled with music, have become an integral part of national gathering.

The virtuoso music performers, the trumpet players to the paradox and make the story more authentic - are for the most part fully self-taught. They play by ear and quite spontaneously, relying on their musical memory; they play from the heart and soul, and their music reaches out to listeners precisely for this quality. The Gucha Assembly of Trumpet Players continues to grow year after year: today, this musical feast of recognizable national skills is more popular, more diverse and bigger than ever before.

The first Dragacevo Assembly of Trumpet Players was held on October 16, 1961 in the yard of the Church of Sts. Michael and Gabriel in Gucha. Initially, it was a very modest Assembly - almost subversive for the prevailing political circumstances of that time. However, the Assembly gradually grew and expanded its, one might say, magical influence, and over the past ten or so years has become the folk remained its key symbol and raison detre, it is no longer held solely for the trumpet players. It grew into an Assembly of toastmasters, painters, song "Sa Ovcara I Kablara", marks the beginning of the festival each year. Some church music festivals notwithstanding, the Assembly of Trumpet Players is the best know event of this kind extending uninterruptedly for 43 years and attracting guests and musicians alike from every continent. Trumpet players and folk song and dance groups from around the world deem it a great honor to be invited to the Assembly, and the number of v visitors increases with each coming year. The record was set in 2002, when Gucha hosted in excess of 300.000 visitors.

With considerable experience in organizing Assemblies, today the traditionally hospitable Gucha has earned its place on the map of world music festivals, inviting high interest from ethno music lovers, and deservedly so. As an internationally recognized trumpet capital, and a singular corner of positive energy, a place with accumulated joy, gaiety and spontaneity, coupled with the piercing yet gentle sound of the trumpet, Gucha is a place of catharsis of the heart and soul while the festival lasts. All this is more than enough to attract visitors to Gucha each Mexico, Spain, Greece, Denmark, China and many other close or distant countries. The names of Boban Markovic, Milan Mladenovic, Ekrem Sajdic, Elvis Ajdinovic, Fejat and Zoran Sejdic have carried the glory of the Serbian trumpet across the world. Some 600,000 visitors are expected at the next, and 50th Assembly. That would be very impressive indeed, would it not?

Serbian History of Trumpet Tradition

Dragačevo, which used to be a rural region, experienced strong economic and general educational and cultural development after 1950, and mostly in the first decade of the 21st century, first of all thanks to the Trumpeters Festival.

The capital of modern trumpeting - Guča, is relatively small, and the trumpet was first played as far ago as 1831. Before nearly two centuries Miloš Obrenović ordered the establishment of a "Principle's Serbian band" in Kragujevac, and that the first brass band be led by Josip Šlezinger (1794-1870), a man from Sombor, who in those times was the first musically literate expert in Serbia. "Oberlautar" Mustafa, a man who played the violin and "zurle" (zurna), was until then amusing the Serb ruler and his entourage "and was amusing also even foreigners who did not have much understanding for Turkish music". Immediately upon his arrival in Kragujevac he started to organize the band. Since he lacked in skilled musicians, he asked the Principle to arrange that young man from among the population be found, who have talent and will to do this job. Miloš promptly ordered that each county delegates five young men. And, so it started. Although it did not always run smoothly, they learned to play the new "golden" instruments, by playing the round-dances and songs which they knew and were familiar with them, but learning also everything that maestro J. Šlezinger was teaching them in the then Serbian capital Kragujevac.

Almost two centuries passed by, there were many outstanding military brass bands and band leaders from the regiments and divisions. However, only in the mid 19th century were the foreign musical and cultural influence getting stronger; they can be identified at the beginning of the new era in the folk music of Dragačevo and were particularly strong in regard to trumpet music and homophonic multi-part singing , i.e. in singing "na bas". How the brass bands were emerging we heard from spontaneous statements of modern Dragačevo musicians. It is known in Dljina that their oldest trumpeter "was a guy named Ćebić who was playing before World War I… And he himself inherited it from the past times. "In Goračići the first orchestra was founded by the Davidović brothers from Dragačica "probably sometimes about the times of World War I, and this band included only four musicians". Also, the story goes that "in Rti the band leader and first trumpet was Milisav Kostić–Tralja, and his today's heirs are trumpeters playing in the Srećko Obradović orchestra". And so we come also to the trumpeter Desimir Perišić from Goračići and the winning orchestra at the First Festival in Guča in 1961.

The songs are usually based of two-bar motives and melodies, mainly of two part structure consisting of 4 to 5 tones.

The vigorous folk round-dances from the western regions are characterized by occasional pauses of the leading trumpets, with the basses taking over the leading tune of the leading trumpets, highlighting the basic harmonies.
Also, we will notice that southern folk dances are usually characterized by oriental music, in the so-called "aksak" rhythm. This is especially emphasized with the "performance" of the drummer, who expertly combines larger "čukan" (right hand) strokes with those of the thinner stick (left hand, on the edge of the drum, skillfully stressing the changes of double and triple meter in the specific rhythmical formulas and combinations (8/8; 7/8; 9/8 etc.), especially in the characteristic dances – songs called "chochek". Then, spontaneously and ravishingly, genuinely enjoying in the music, dance only those who truly know how to do it.
In the eastern region a big number of folk dances of the "Batrna" (ancient dance) type and "Stara Vlajna", i.e. "Timočka Rumenka" or "Svrljiški laskavac", are preserving the genetic features of the Vallah or Serb Hora dancing, when the dancers are crossing their hands and holding each other by the belt. And all Serbian songs and dances have up to five tones, while Vallah melodies are more diversified and with an occasional alternation of the slow parts with the usually faster refrain. Singing with trumpet accompaniment is gaining in popularity nowadays here with us. Like the first folk trumpeters from the times of Miloš, contemporary ones are also mainly autodidacts having keen hearing, and are playing a huge repertoire of songs and dances by heart, and by the ear, improvising their interpretation spontaneously and from their soles and hearts.
With the first orchestras, their members evolved as musicians and their number was invreasing. At the beginning the orchestras had five musicians, and the contemporary orchestras usually have up to ten musicians (three to four ''B'' trumpets, three bass flugelhorns, one bass trumpet – helicon or euphonium, and, finally, snare drum and large drum with cymbals. Three regions clearly identified themselves by the style of their music, and are today three famous centers with the best trumpeters in Serbia today.
Although the trumpet is not as deeply rooted in our people like the vocal music tradition, the fact is that those active in the field of culture have four decades ago broke the ground for trumpet music in tiny Guča. Since then, like awakening from a dream, trumpet music grew very quickly in those areas of western, eastern and southern Serbia in which the trumpet seed probably had already been thrown and did exist, and it also woke up during so many decades in the center of Šumadija, where its seed was for the first time thrown in the far away year 1831.
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