The lahuta or gusle (or gusla) (Croatian: gusle, Albanian: lahuta, Serbian: gusle/гусле, Romanian: guzlă, Bulgarian: гусла), is a single-stringed musical instrument used in the Balkans and in the Dinarides region.
The term gusle/gusli/husli/husla is common term to all Slavic languages and denotes a musical instrument with strings. The rge gusle should, however, not be confused with the Russian gusli, which is a psaltery-like instrument; nor with the Czech term for violin, housle.
The Gusle has many similarities with the lira, which was widely used throughout the Byzantine Empire and can still be heard in many post-Byzantine regions in almost exactly the same way. It is also similar to the Bulgarian Gadulka.
The Albanian version "lahuta" is closer to the Romanian version - lauta.
Amongst the South Slavs, the gusle is typically not played on its own; instead, it is used to accompany the voice of a vocalist called a guslar reciting and/or singing an epic story or legend.
* Regional varieties
o Croatian Gusle
o Albanian Lahuta
o Montenegrin Gusle
o Serbian Gusle
A number of regional varieties of the gusle exist. The instrument has either one string (in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Zagora in Croatia) or two strings (in Bosanska Krajina and in Lika in Croatia), made of thirty horsehairs. A bow is pulled over the string/s (made of horsetail), creating a dramatic and sharp sound, expressive and difficult to master. The gusle consists of a wooden sound box, the maple being considered as the best material (therefore often the instrument is referred to as "gusle javorove" - maple gusle), covered with an animal skin and a neck with an intricately carved head. They are held between the legs with the long neck supported on one thigh.
The Gusle has been used by the Croats in Herzegovina, Dalmatian Hinterland (Zagora), Lika, as well as in Bosnia and Western Bosnia as an accompaniment for epic poetry for hundreds of years. Often they were constructed by the singers and players themselves, shepherds or even by specialized Gusle builders from urban areas.
Gusle - Croatian folk instrument
GUSLE - an ancient folk instrument of Croatian people used by gusle performers to recite or sing epic poems.
Most lyrics center around historical figures who played an important role in Croatian history (often folk heroes who died tragical deaths) or significant historical events (mostly battles against invaders or occupying powers). Croatia's most famous contemporary guslar (gusla player) is Mile Krajina. He is known for referring to current topics in his songs and for his performances within the scope of political rallies or commemoration days (e.g. commemoration s for the Bleiburg massacre or the death marches of Jazovka.
Gusle - Croatian folk instrument
The Gusle however, is not a part of Croatian mainstream music and rarely receive airtime in the Croatian media. This might be due to the Croatian media producers' pejorative attitude towards Croatian folklore (especially those folkloristic elements who are native to the Dinaric part of Croatia) and their focus on westernized influences. The Gusle has managed to regain some media attention, since several pop musicians such as Marko Perković Thompson, Mate Bulić and Dario Plevnik have started to incorporate Gusle playing into their Music. Gusle recordings can be heard on a number of CD compilations published by Croatian ethnologists, which are in most cases distributed locally by the artists themselves.
Croatian Ante minstrel Biočić from Imotski. Appearance on "Imotski silima" 6 July 2002. prowess, Croatian identity, dignity and Catholicism were the basic tags and dwelt Croatian minstrel. This is clearly seen in the accompanying figure which shows the minstrel Ante Biocic. Here we see the holster and belt jatagan for Antin, there are fiddle maple, there is also a crucifix on the costumes and crowns around their necks.
The Albanians, most particularly the Northern Highland inhabitants, refer to the instrument by the term Lahuta. It is played by a "Rapsodi". The Lahutari usually plays the instrument while singing about the heroic bravery of the Albanians in history. The Lahuta is played to catch the attention of the audience by its touching rhythm and sound. The Lahutari sings with such a passion, that even the audience often starts to get emotional. Two of the most important pieces played are Muji and Halili and Gjergj Elez Alia.
The gusle is considered a traditional Montenegrin instrument, used in the Montenegro Hinterland as an accompaniment for epic poetry. Themes are mostly heroic struggle and Montenegrin national history.
The Montenegrin prince-bishop Petar II Petrović Njegoš, in his poem "The Mountain Wreath" through words of his literature hero Vuk Mićunović said: "In a house where the gusle is not heard, both the house and the people there are dead".
The Serbian gusle (pluralia tantum) has one or two strings and is also usually made of maple wood.
There are records of gusle (гоусли) being played in the court of King Stephen the First-Crowned (early 12th c.) but it is not certain whether the term was used to specifically denote the gusle or perhaps some kind of string instrument. The first mention of gusle in its contemporary meaning of the term relates to 1415 when Serb gusle players were performing at the court of Polish king Wladislav Jagelo. The Polish poet Miaskowsky from early 17th c. was also familiar with "Serb gusle" (serbskie skrzypki) which he considers a specific instrument, different from the similar string instruments found in Poland at the time.
Guslars (singers) are individuals capable of reproducing long narrative texts about heroes and events from the distant past and are able to improvise new ones in the decasyllabic metre (десетерац/deseterac).
The gusle has played a significant role in the history of Serbian epic poetry because of its association with the centuries old patriotic oral legacy unti. Most of the epics are about the era of Ottoman Turkish rule and struggle for self determination. With the efforts of ethnographer Vuk Stefanović Karadžić many of these epics were collected and preserved early in the nineteenth century.
* Kos, Koraljka, Das Volksinstrument “gusle” in der bildenden Kunst des 19. Jahrhundert. Zum Wandel eines ikonographischen Motivs, Glazba, ideje i društvo / Music, Ideas, and Society. Svečani zbornik za Ivana Supičića / Essays in Honour of Ivan Supičić, ur. S. Tuksar, HMD, Zagreb 1993, 113-124.
* Kos, Koraljka, Representations of the Gusle in Nineteenth-Century Visual Arts, RidIM/RCMI Newsletter XX/2 (New York 1995) 13-18.
* Milne Holton and Vasa D. Mihailovich. Serbian Poetry from the Beginnings to the Present. New Haven: Yale Center for International and Area Studies, 1988.
* Primorac, Jakša; Ćaleta, Joško. "Professionals". Croatian Gusle Players at the Turn of the Millennium Original: Balkan Epic. Song, History, Modernity (2006) (in process of publishing)
* Beatrice L. Stevenson, The Gusle Singer and His Songs. (with "Heroic Ballads of Serbia"), American Anthropologist 1915 Vol.17:58-68.