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San Francisco Tamburitza Festival

  Sat - Sun, Feb 13-14, 2010         8:00 PM        Sunday 1PM-8PM $15

Event Details

tamfest10postcard_300For the past decade the Croatian American Cultural Center has annually showcased the best tamburitza music in California and presented nationally renowned orchestras. On President's Day weekend each February; the halls are filled with singing, dancing, and the music of the tamburitza. For two days the San Francisco Bay Area reverberates with a rich tapestry of tamburitza music, both traditional and contemporary.

The Gypsy Stringz will headline the festival. They can play just about anything that's Croatian, Serbian, Macedonian, Italian, Rumanian, Hungarian, or Slovak.  They are famed as the house band at the Gypsy Cafe, Southside Pittsburgh, where they hold forth every Thursday evening.  It's a rare treat to hear their hot tambura music on the West Coast.  Join us for Valentine's Day weekend at the San Francisco TamFest. Also playing will be the Kolo Festival Band, Novi Stari Tamburasi, Dalmacijo Singers, Slavonian Traveling Band and Sidro Tamburitza Orchestra.

Two locations to celebrate! On Saturday 2/13 at 8PM the traditional Welcome Dance will be held for the first time at the Ashkenaz Dance and Music Center in Berkeley.  The Gypsy Stringz and the Kolo Festival Band will play for dancing including kolos. Jerry Duke will teach kolos to start the evening.  Eszterlanc Hungarian Dance Ensemble will perform later in the evening. On Sunday 2/14 at 1PM the music moves to the Croatian American Cultural Center in San Francisco for the finale with the Gypsy Stringz and all the performing groups. The Center will host a full Concert, sing-a-longs, participatory dancing, exhibits and the lively music of the tamburitza resounding from two halls. 

Food will be available from 1PM on Sunday.

gypsystringz2_300cropThe Gypsy Stringz Orchestra

George Batyi: George is a genuine, Romani violinist of the finest, and fastest, caliber.  He can play just about anything: traditional Eastern European songs, folk, classical, country-western, Latin--even a jig or two.  Hailing from a multi-generational musical family, George is largely self-taught, but following his acceptance to the Chatham College School of Music at the age of 10, he studied with Jack Goldman of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  George has been leading various orchestras since 13 and is a sought-after performer at music festivals all over the United States.  George is a 2006 recipient of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship in the Folk and Traditional Arts.

Bob Sestili: Raised in Cokeburg, PA with a Croatian club on the right and an Italian club on the left, Bob gravitated to the Croatian side of the street, and, although Italian music is in his blood as well as his repertoire, he has been playing Tambura instruments since the age of 8.  Bassist for The Gypsy Stringz, Kumovi and the Jerry Grcevich Orchestra, Bob is also a co-founder of Tamburaland ( dedicated to the promotion of ethnic music and to musicians from abroad.  He is a 2008 inductee into the Tamburitza Association of America Hall of Fame.

Peter Kosovec:   Former member of the Duquesne University Tamburitzans. Peter is as well-known for his skills on the Brac and Bugarija as he is for his beautiful voice.  Known for his orginal arrangements and recordings, Peter is also known as one of the finest Tambura players in the United States and leader and founder of the orchestra "Otrov" with his cousin David.  Peter is also a recipient of the Tamburitza Association of America Founders award.

David Kosovec: Living proof that talent runs in families, David Kosovec, Peter's cousin and close friend, has a similar list of accomplishments.  Also a Computer programmer by day and Junior Tamburitzan instructor by night, David is also known for his voocal talents and skillful playing of the instruments in the tambura orchestra.  David is a former member of the Duquesne University Tamburitzans, in which he performed as a musician and featured vocalist.  In addition to the Gypsy Stringz, Davic also currently performs with Kumovi, Tamburaski Orkestra Momci, MSTO and OTROV, playing various instruments of the tambura family in each.  Davic also is a recipient of the Tamburitza Association of America Founder award.

Robert Sestili Jr., brac player, was born in 1978 in Pittsburgh and is living proof that the beauty and love of tamburica music is trans-cultural, and is carried down through generations. Like his father, Robert is a protégé of Jerry Grcevich, and has become a very gifted prim player. Robert also has played in several tamburica bands, and has recorded and produced numerous tamburica recordings.

Ryan Werner plays brác and celo with Gypsy Stringz. Born in Milwaukee in 1981, he learned to play in the Milwaukee CFU Tamburitzans, a junior tamburica ensemble, and has become very respected for the quick virtuosity and strength in his playing. 

Origin of the Tamburitza:

Tamburitza's origins can be traced back to Europe the mid-1800s, when along the central Danube River and its tributaries, tamburasi (tambura musicians) began to form ensembles. While it is believed that Hungarian Roma were the first to play tamburitza instruments in groups modeled on their famous violin ensembles, the first known ensemble was formed in 1847 in Osijek in eastern Croatia. They played a repertoire much like that known today: Croatian folk songs, and circle dances, folk songs and dances from neighboring peoples, light classical songs and instrumental pieces, and popular music of the day.

Five instruments are key to tamburitza music: the small lead prima (or bisernica), the alto brac (or basprim), the tenor celo, the chordal bugarija or kontra, and the large fretted bas or berde. It is not unusual to find other instruments in a tamburitza orchestra; violin and accordion are most common.

When massive immigration from eastern Europe to North America peaked in the years 1870-1910, tamburitza ensembles began to make their appearance in the immigrant's new country. The first known American ensemble was active in the early 1890s around Steelton, Pennsylvania. It is no wonder that Pennsylvania is the home of today's acclaimed group Gypsy Stringz.


Saturday, Feb 13 - Ashkenaz

8:00 pm Jerry Duke teaches kolo
9:00 pm Welcome Dance - Kolo Festival Band, Gypsy Stringz play for dancing.  Eszterlanc Hungarian Dance Ensemble.

Sunday, Feb 14 - Croatian American Cultural Center
1:00 pm Tamburitza panel/talk by Mark Forry

2:00 pm   Concert featuring Gypsy Stringz and all the groups.
5:00 pm    Dance and sing-a-long with Gypsy Stringz and all the tamburasi.

Food and drink available from 1:00 pm

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