President Stevo Pendarovski, at a solemn ceremony in the Philharmonic, on the eve of October 11, the Day of the People’s Uprising, decorated Anka Gieva and Violeta Tomovska, and posthumously Pece Atanasovski, Nikola Badev, Mirvet Belovska, Airi Demirovski, Vaska Ilieva, Vanja Lazarova, Kirill Mancevski, Tale Ognenovski, Kocho Petrovski, Aleksandar Sarievski and Jonche Hristovski, with the Medal of Merit for the Republic of North Macedonia.
The decoration is awarded to them for their greatest contribution to the nurturing, popularization and preservation of Macedonian folk and original songs, as well as for the promotion and affirmation of Macedonian musical creativity and culture internationally.
In his address, President Pendarovski said that the honored artists dedicated their lives to promoting national creativity as an essential element of the Macedonian identity. Through their unique instrumental and vocal talent, President Pendarovski said, these top folk artists presented our folk music to the Macedonian and world public in a masterful way.
Below is the integral text of the address of President Pendarovski.
Dear fellow citizens,
A little while ago we heard one of the first songs that were written and sung during the people’s liberation and anti-fascist struggle. Our national anthem “Denes nad Makedonija se ragja”, authored by Vlado Maleski, was one of the most popular partisan songs that united the people in the fight for national freedom and social justice.
On the eve of October 11 – the Day of the People’s Uprising, with the Medal of Merit for the Republic of North Macedonia, we pay tribute to some of our best artists who created and sang songs about the life of our people throughout the centuries and his struggle for freedom and human rights.
There are many reasons to be grateful to our legends, but today, I will single only two out. First, national creativity is central for Macedonian identity. The creation and transmission of folk songs is the most significant collective creative feat of the Macedonian people in conditions of occupation and propaganda. The songs that helped our ancestors withstand all attempts at assimilation have become an inalienable part of our identity. As a testament to linguistic, cultural and spiritual continuity, songs remember much more than we can forget.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The artists honored today dedicated their lives to promoting this essential element of Macedonian identity. Through their unique instrumental and vocal talent, these top folk artists presented our music to the Macedonian and world public in a masterful way. Through their performances and concerts, sound and video recordings, the world learned of the unique 7/8 Macedonian rhythm. And the artists themselves created original works that were accepted by the people and became part of all our private and public celebrations.
Most of them, today, are no longer among us. Unfortunately, for more than three decades, the independent Macedonian state did not pay them due respect, at the highest level, for their work, although their deeds glorified the Macedonian name on all the meridians.
I will start with the bard of the Macedonian folk music, Nikola Badev, who intimately experienced the song and emotionally incorporated himself into it. From “Parahodot”, through “Poslushajte Patrioti”, to the love and joke songs, Badev managed to give soul to every song with his voice. His most famous contemporary is the nightingale from Galicnik, Aleksandar Sarievski. This artist, who is born once in a century, has sung hundreds of songs, including the anthology “Zajdi, zajdi, jasno sonce”. Vaska Ilieva, the uncrowned queen of Macedonian folk song, naturally, comes along. She unites Macedonians wherever they are, especially with her most performed song “Zemjo Makedonska”. Vaska Ilieva left behind over 1000 Macedonian folk songs and was one of the most famous ambassadors of Macedonian music in the world.
Vanja Lazarova, a world-class vocalist, also belongs to the same generation. No one remained indifferent to her singing of the classic “I was born in pain”.
Today we also remember the lady from Debar, Mirvet Belovska, who, out of love for the song, rejected the veil, so that she could perform freely. She left us the first recordings of the Chalgi chants “Po drum odam majce” and “Ja izlezi Gjurgjo”. Kiril Mancevski also comes from the Debar region, who performed best urban, lyrical and elegiac folk song. Even today, his musical pearls, “Aber dojde Donke” and “Koga si trgnav v tugina” have the same effect on listeners as they did five decades ago.
On this occasion, we are also reminded of the greatest bohemian of his generation of folk artists, Jonche Hristovski. This singer, songwriter and composer, like no one else, knew how to empathize with the song and help us recognize each other in both joy and sorrow. His “Oj, Vardare Makedonski” and “Makedonsko devojce” have long been accepted by our people as their informal anthems.
Among the greats is Airi Demirovski, who, far from his native land, knew how to express the deepest emotions with simple notes and words. “Bitola, moj roden kraj” is a song that many consider to be the song of the century, and one of its verses is also inscribed on his tombstone in Izmir, Turkey.
Today, we have two real ladies of folk music on the list of honorees. Anka Gieva started her career with “Eleno kerko”, and became famous with the legendary “Kazi, kazi libe Stano” and “Ajde slushaj, slushaj kales bre Angjo”. Everyone who attended her concerts remembers that regardless of whether she performed solo or in a duet, she always sang live.
With us today is Violeta Tomovska, who in the past 60 years recorded over 1000 songs, held a huge number of concerts in the country and in the world, and released records with a circulation of over 100,000 copies. Madam Violeta, thank you for giving us so many beautiful songs like “Pesna vi peam Makedonci”, “Za mnogu godini Makedonci” and “Molitva”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All these vocal artists have performed with numerous orchestras and soloists in their careers, but among them, three names stand out. The elusive master, the bagpipe soloist, Pece Atanasovski, was simultaneously a choreographer, dancer, teacher and founder of the festival of folk instruments and songs that produced top ethno-musicians. He did not allow the trash to penetrate and pollute the pure folk tradition. The second name on this list is the inimitable Tale Ognenovski, the first Macedonian to perform at Carnegie Hall, one of the greatest clarinet virtuosos in the world, whose oeuvre included folk, classical and ethno-jazz music. The legendary Kocho Petrovski, on the other hand, with his accordion and orchestra composed unforgettable dances and songs that are still performed today. Many of our pop stars started their careers precisely accompanied by him.
These are the greatest sources of Macedonian folk music and song. Each of them deserves a special honor and ceremony, and together they present to us the many layers of the original Macedonian folk music. They cooperated and supported each other, aware that they were not working only for their personal careers, but for a much higher purpose. An example of this interweaving is the most famous duet of Macedonian folk music, Tomovska – Mancevski, which, accompanied by Kocho Petrovski, performed many songs written by Jonche Hristovski.
Badev and Sarievski performed unforgettable duets with Vaska Ilieva, Anka Gieva and Mirvet Belovska. Vanja Lazarova collaborated with Pece Atanasovski. Hristovski, Sarievski and Tomovska made Airi Demirovski’s “Bitola, moj roden kraj” famous.
Their work is an example of true patriotism. Therefore, we should not be surprised that their performances and songs so powerfully connect and unite us, no matter where we are in the world.
Everything said so far leads us to the second big reason why we are grateful to our best folk artists, and it is related to our biggest national challenge: the division in the Macedonian society. We are faced with a big task: how, in times of deep divisions, to renew the awareness of the common good and to think and work not only for personal interest.
In the past, when we did not have our own, free Macedonian state, folk songs gave strength and hope to our ancestors to endure all the hardships. Even today, the work of our national artists does not divide, but unites the people. No matter how divided we are, we still listen and sing the same songs that remind us that we are part of the same people.
When we listen and sing these songs, we become part of the great meeting of generations, past and present, in the homeland and throughout the diaspora. Because, through folk songs, we most authentically experience the Macedonian language as our unique, complete homeland. These songs about freedom, about pain, nostalgia and love can, at least for a moment, help us forget the divisions, and turn a new page in our lives in which we will have more respect for each other.
The icons of Macedonian folk music give us an example of how together we can overcome the current challenges. So that the song “Parahodot mi pristigna” will not be our fate and we will not tread our life paths far from the homeland.