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Europe

Szekely People of Transylvania

Attila Domos
Seeing as I am a Hungarian from Transylvania, I have to make my first "Light of Culture" about the Szekely people of Transylvania. I don't exactly know if I have Szekely blood in me or not, but while growing up, I was often referred to as "egy szep Szekely fiu" (translation "a nice Szekely boy"). But Hungarians living in Transylvania are fairly often refereed to as Szekely by Hungarians living in Hungary, even if they aren't.
In case you're wondering about the current national location of Transylvania, it's the biggest part of Romania, the North West section, from the Carpathian mountains to the borders of Hungary. Think of Transylvania kind of like Sicily. These states both have a strong ethnic heritage, they're both valuable land, and both have been their own state, and part of other nations. Transylvania has very rich farming soil and is also rich in gold and has oil. It has been home to Attila the Hun and Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler aka Dracula. If you've ever been to the Carpathian mountains, they are very steep, very beautiful and have (at least to me) a very creepy vibe about them, I even felt a this vibe when I traveled through there as a child and had no idea of the bloody history of the region.
Getting back to the Szekelys. There are about 1.5 million Hungarians living in today's Romania, and most of them in Transylvania. Roughly about half of them are Szekely. The Szekelys are kind of a "sub-culture" in the Hungarian population. They seemed to appear sometime during the 12th century and according to their own folklore, they are direct descendents of the Huns. However, to the best of my knowledge no one has yet proven this to be true. But like the Huns, they have always been excellent horsemen, and even served the Hungarian Empire as light cavalry. They were very effective against nomad invaders from the East, and at least a number of times played major roles in thwarting Turkish invasions. Like the Huns, they attacked on horseback, struck quickly and disappeared before the enemy knew what hit them. There've been a number of times through out history were they pushed for a nation of their own, but always found themselves to be a minority, and were always denied.
Since my parents were both Hungarians who grew up in separate Hungarian villages in Transylvania (my mother in Szik and my father in Korispatak), I was raised with their values, which of course included going to a Hungarian school, and learning Hungarian dancing and music. Because of the fact that my parents were both in the symphony, I started my music career at a young age by learning the masters, Kodaly, Bartok and Liszt. Though Liszt came later. I also learned about Hungarian Gypsy and Szekely music. My mother was the folk singer in the family (besides the 2nd viola 1st chair in the Nagyvarad or Oradea in its Romanian name, orchestra), and she often sang Hungarian folk songs, again... including Gypsy and Szekely ones. Here's an example of traditional SZekely music:
Though I don't remember much about my dancing days (they didn't last long before we left Romania to escape Nicolae Ceausescu's regime) I did enjoy it. The pictures are of me, and the other with my dance partner, Marika.
Unfortunately I don't have any video of myself dancing, but I did find this interesting video of Szekely dancing being used to help explain how to sort algorithms. I'm posting this because I noticed that the video was created by a university professor in the city of my birth, Marosvasarhely, or in its Romanian name Tirgu-Mures.
I hated having to learn all of these "traditional" things in my youth. All I wanted was to be like the cool neighborhood kids, and play soccer. I even found myself resenting my parents for forcing me to learn these "stupid things which didn't matter in today's world", but you know what? I'm happy they forced it on me. I know my heritage... or at least the roots. I know where I come from, and it's helped me better understand who I am, and knowing that gave me a huge advantage in life, when trying to figure out where I'm going.
Story by: Attila Domos

Votes4 DateMay 19, 2015

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Europe

Votes4 DateJul 7, 2016

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Europe

Shoegaze: The Scene That Celebrates Itself

Jonathan Wayne
Taken from the "When The Sun Hits Blog", July 22, 2010:
"Shoegaze? What exactly is that, anyway?" is a question heard too often. Worse still, it's a difficult question to answer! Genre definitions are never fun to do within the realm of art, but in the interest of posterity and to better understand everything about this genre (and culture), we think a brief and painless history lesson is in order.
Let's start with the basics. Shoegaze is a genre of rock music born in the late 1980's in the UK, and heavily features the use of guitar effects pedals, feedback, distortion, drone and atmospheric soundscapes. This "wall of sound" approach soon caught on with a handful of bands, and a scene of like-minded musicians was born. The word "Shoegaze" was coined when it was noticed that the musicians, when playing live, tended to keep their backs turned and their eyes firmly on the ground, both in keeping with the mood of the music and to concentrate on manipulating guitar pedals and gear on the floor. Listeners soon came to call the musicians "Shoegazers", and later the term came to mean anyone creating or listening to Shoegaze music. Or, as we lovingly like to call them, 'Gazers.
The Shoegaze movement was also briefly called "the scene that celebrates itself" because of the close-knit relationships between the Shoegaze bands of the time. Rather than be rivals, Shoegazers were often seen at one another's shows, played in one another's bands, and pub-crawled and hung out together.
Pinpointing the exact moment Shoegaze was born is difficult to do, but it's safe to say that once the Jesus and Mary Chain released their first single in November of 1984, a 7 inch on Creation Records called "Upside Down", the seeds of Shoegaze were firmly sown. The Jesus and Mary Chain defined the early sound of Shoegaze with their noisy, feedback-laden songs, and influenced countless bands then and today. Creation Records, in turn, would become a major player in the early days of Shoegaze, later releasing classic gazer records by bands such as Ride, Slowdive, and My Bloody Valentine, to name a few.
The apex of the first wave of Shoegaze is generally considered to have occurred in November of 1991, with the release of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. Meticulously crafted (Kevin Shields used nineteen different recording studios and nearly bankrupted Creation Records) and unapologetically loud, My Bloody Valentine crafted what many consider to this day to be a record of genius proportions, and the absolute crowning jewel of the Shoegaze movement. Legendary stuff.
By 1994, however, the love for the Shoegaze sound had waned. Grunge music and Brit Pop had taken over the charts, and the scene that celebrated itself died quietly away. Or so it appeared. In reality, the roots of Shoegaze lived on, splintering into other subgenres, influencing the evolution of drone music, noise, and even electronic music. Today, Shoegaze lives on through hybrids of these genres, and a lot of contemporary Shoegaze is a glorious melting pot of all of these sounds.
In recent years, Shoegaze and Dream Pop music has been enjoying a renewed interest and gaining new fans all over the world. Current bands like the Depreciation Guild, Highspire, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, A Place to Bury Strangers, Ceremony, Mahogany, Astrobrite, and many (many) more are keeping Shoegaze alive, building on the classic sound and adding fresh perspectives and spins on it. Shoegaze and Dream Pop is now a vibrant scene, filled with talented musicians creating beautiful noise.
Original article: http://whenthesunhitsblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/shoegaze-scene-that-celebrates-itself.html



Votes1 DateMay 30, 2015

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Europe

Chassidic Music

Bernard Asper
Picture at my father's wedding November 13, 1958. From left to right my grandfather's best friend, the Chassidic head, Rebbe of the Radziner Chassidim a sect of Chassidim, Rabbi Yerucham Leiner shaking my grandfather's hand; A member of the Rebbe's family; My father Rabbi Myer Asper/Aspes; Moshe Aspes, my father's oldest brother; Their father my grandfather Rabbi Yitzchak Yerachmiel Aspes; Rabbi Aaron Yehudah Arak, my mother's mother's brother, they were children of Hinda Renke Arak sister of a famous rabbi in their old country Rabbi Meir Arak; Pinchas Asper/Aspes, my father's next older brother; And lastly but not leastly my father's Rabbinical Teacher.
Since my background is Eastern European Jewish I decided I should start off posting on my heritage so I will. I am first generation American. My mother's natural side of her family was from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and her stepfather was a Chassidic Jew originally from Poland who a widower who married my grandmother who was widowed by the Holocaust.
My mother a hidden child in the Holocaust and her mother a survivor came to the States from Belgium. My father's side of the family came from Lodz, Poland. His father was born in London, England to parents who came from Poland and returned with him to there where he eventually married my grandmother who was born and raised in Lodz, Poland like his parents. Her family was in the textile business and so she knew Polish from having to deal with the customers. My father's parents were Chassidim from generations of Chassidim whereas my mother was not though on her side I had and have relatives who were and are Chassidim including those who are from Chassidic Rabbinical dynasties that led them.
My father born in London, grew up in Bnei Brak, Israel a place where Eastern European Jewish culture was replanted and later in the States where he moved to going with his mother and oldest brother and joining up with his father and his other older brother in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn he again was where Eastern European Jewish culture was replanted. He met my mother there as that is where she grew up on moving to the States. I picked up from my background a deep appreciation of spirituality and sensitivity expressed partly through music.
Chassidism is a pietistic movement that arose in Eastern Europe in the early 1700s. It emphasizes that one can have an immediate attachment to God no matter what their intellectual and educational state. God is right there immanent in everything and so there is holiness hidden everywhere that need only be brought out. Here are some examples of Chassidic music. If I haven't shown enough blame it on Youtube. Only kidding, Youtube.

Votes4 DateMay 19, 2015

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Europe

Gypsies

Bernard Asper

The Roma are an ethnic people who have migrated across Europe for a thousand years. The Roma culture has a rich oral tradition, with an emphasis on family. Often portrayed as exotic and strange, the Roma have faced discrimination and persecution for centuries.
Today, they are one of the largest ethnic minorities in Europe — about 12 million to 15 million people, according to UNICEF, with 70 percent of them living in Eastern Europe. About a million Roma live in the United States, according to Time.
Roma is the word that many Roma use to describe themselves. They are also known as Rom or Romany.
The Roma are also sometimes called Gypsies. However, some people consider that a derogatory term, a holdover from when it was thought these people came from Egypt. It is now thought that the Roma people migrated to Europe from India about 1,500 years ago.
They originated in northern India and by the second half of the 20th century they had spread to every inhabited continent.
Because of their migratory nature, their absence in official census returns, and their popular classification with other nomadic groups, estimates of the total world Roma population range from two million to five million. No significant statistical picture can be gained from the sporadic reporting in different countries. Most Roma were still in Europe in the early 21st century, especially in the Slavic-speaking lands of central Europe and the Balkans. Large numbers live in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, the Czech and Slovak republics, and Hungary.
All nomadic Roma migrate at least seasonally along patterned routes that ignore national boundaries. They also follow along a chain, as it were, of kin or tribal links. The Roma’s own supposed disposition to wander has been forcibly furthered by exile or deportation. Only 80 years after their first appearance in western Europe in the 15th century, they fell under the penalty of banishment in almost all the nations of western Europe. Despite their systematic exile, or transportation abroad, however, they continued to reappear in one guise or another back in the countries they had left.
All unsettled confederations who live among settled peoples seem to become convenient scapegoats. So it is with the Roma, who have regularly been accused by the local populace of many evils as a prelude to later official and legal persecution. Their relations with the authorities in the host country have been marked by consistent contradiction. Official decrees were often aimed at settling or assimilating them, yet local authorities systematically refused them the bare hospitality of a campsite. During the Holocaust the Nazis murdered an estimated 400,000 Roma. French laws in modern times forbade them campsites and subjected them to police supervision, yet they were taxed and drafted for military service like ordinary citizens. Spain and Wales are two countries often cited as examples where Roma have become settled, if not wholly assimilated. In modern times the socialist countries of eastern Europe attempted programs of enforced settlement to end Roma migration.
Traditionally the Roma have pursued occupations that allowed them to maintain an itinerant life on the perimeters of settled society. The men were livestock traders, animal trainers and exhibitors, tinkers (metalsmiths and utensil repairmen), and musicians; the women told fortunes, sold potions, begged, and worked as entertainers. Before the advent of veterinary medicine, many farmers looked to Roma livestock dealers for advice on herd health and husbandry.
The archetypal Roma family consists of a married couple, their unmarried children, and at least one married son, his wife, and their children. Upon marriage, a young couple typically lives with the husband’s parents while the young wife learns the ways of her husband’s group. Ideally, by the time an older son is ready to move away with his family, a younger son will have married and joined the household with his new wife. Although the practice had declined significantly by the late 20th century, marriages traditionally were arranged by the elders in the family or band (vitsa) to strengthen political and kinship ties to other families, bands, or, occasionally, confederations. A central feature of Roma marriages was the payment of a bride-price to the parents of the bride by the parents of the groom.
Gypsy chieftains (voivodes) are elected for life from among outstanding families of the group, and the office is not heritable. Their power and authority vary according to the size of the band, its traditions, and its relationships with other bands within a confederation.
It was the voivode who acted as treasurer for the whole band, decided the pattern of its migration, and became its spokesman to local municipal authorities. He governed through a council of elders that also consulted with the phuri dai, a senior woman in the band. The phuri dai’s influence was strong, particularly in regard to the fate of the women and children, and seemed to rest much on the evident earning power and organization of the women as a group within the band.
Strongest among Roma institutions of social control was the kris, connoting both the body of customary law and values of justice as well as the ritual and formation of the tribunal of the band. Basic to the Roma code were the all-embracing concepts of fidelity, cohesiveness, and reciprocity within the recognized political unit. The ultimate negative sanction of the kris tribunal, which dealt with all disputes and breaches of the code, was excommunication from the band. A sentence of ostracism, however, might exclude the individual from participation in certain band activities and punish him with menial tasks. In some cases rehabilitation was granted by the elders and followed by a feast of reconciliation.
Bands are made up of vitsas, which are name groups of extended families with common descent either patrilineal or matrilineal, as many as 200 strong.
Spiritual beliefs
The Roma do not follow a single faith; rather, they often adopt the predominant religion of the country where they are living, according to Open Society, and describe themselves as "many stars scattered in the sight of God." Some Roma groups are Catholic, Muslim, Pentecostal, Protestant, Anglican or Baptist.
The Roma live by a complex set of rules that govern things such as cleanliness, purity, respect, honor and justice. These rules are referred to as what is "Rromano." Rromano means to behave with dignity and respect as a Roma person, according to Open Society. "Rromanipé" is what the Roma refer to as their worldview.
Language
Though the groups of Roma are varied, they all do speak one language, called Rromanës. Rromanës has roots in Sanskritic languages, and is related to Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Bengali. Some Romani words have been borrowed by English speakers, including "pal" (brother) and "lollipop" (from lolo-phabai-cosh, red apple on a stick).
The Roma today
While there are still traveling bands, most use cars and RVs to move from place to place rather than the horses and wagons of the past.
Today, most Roma have settled into houses and apartments and are not readily distinguishable. Because of continued discrimination, many do not publicly acknowledge their roots and only reveal themselves to other Roma.
While there is not a physical country affiliated with the Romani people, the International Romani Union was officially established in 1977. In 2000, The 5th World Romany Congress in 2000 officially declared Romani a non-territorial nation.
During the Decade of Roma Inclusion (2005-2015), 12 European countries made a commitment to eliminate discrimination against the Roma. The effort focused on education, employment, health and housing, as well as core issues of poverty, discrimination, and gender mainstreaming. However, according to the RSG, despite the initiative, Roma continue to face widespread discrimination.
According to a report by the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, "there is a shameful lack of implementation concerning the human rights of Roma … In many countries hate speech, harassment and violence against Roma are commonplace."
Edited from the Encyclopedia Brittanica Roma article online as well as from https://amp.livescience.com/44512-gypsy-culture.html

Votes1 DateJul 24, 2018

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Europe

MY TIME in the VIENNA BOYS CHOIR

Attila Domos
The Wiener Sängerknaben (Vienna Boys' Choir or Vienna Choir Boys) is a choir of trebles and altos based in Vienna. It is one of the best known boys' choirs in the world. The boys are selected mainly from Austria, but also from many other countries.
The choir is a private, not-for-profit organization. There are approximately 100 choristers between the ages of ten and fourteen. The boys are divided into four touring choirs, named after Austrian composers Bruckner, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert, which combined perform about 300 concerts each year before almost 500,000 people. Each group tours for about nine to eleven weeks.
The choir is the modern-day descendant of the boys' choirs of the Viennese Court, dating back to the late Middle Ages. The choir was, for practical purposes, established by a letter from Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg on 7 July 1498, instructing court officials to employ a singing master, two basses and six boys. Jurij Slatkonja became the director of the ensemble. The role of the choir (numbering between 14 and 20) was to provide musical accompaniment for the church mass Additionally, the Haydn brothers were members of the St. Stephen's Cathedral choir, directed at the time by Georg Reutter II who used this choir in his duties for the imperial court which at the time had no boy choristers of its own.
Over the centuries, the choir has worked with many composers, including Heinrich Isaac, Hofhaimer, Biber, Fux, Caldara, Gluck, Salieri, Mozart, Franz Schubert and Bruckner.
The above content from Wikipedia.
Now that that's out of the way, I'll tell you about my personal experience as a member of the world famous boys choir.
It was in 1978 when my family and I left our home in Romania to escape the tyranny of Nicolae Ceausescu. Being a Hungarian minority in Romania was not advantageous in any way, in fact it was quite the opposite. The Ceausescu regime did everything it could to make life as difficult as possible for any of the ethnic minority groups, especially the Hungarians.
Even though life was difficult in the communist regime, we had a decent life. Both of my parents were musicians in the Oradea Symphony Orchestra, my father was principle flute and my mother was 2nd viola 1st chair. As a result, I spent most of my Monday evenings in Oradea's concert hall, watching the orchestra perform. My parents submerged me into the world of music since I could remember. We often had foreigners at our house for parties... Italians, Russians, Germans, etc... what ever orchestra or ballet was in town, members often ended up at our house for get-togethers. I was always surrounded by artists, but as much as I loved the company, I never really wanted to be a musician. I wanted to be an athlete. I was drawn to sports like a fish to water, and I spent much of my single numbered years either playing soccer or roller skating. Sometimes I even did both. It might sound silly, but I became such a good skater, that anything I could do on foot, I was able to do wearing skates.
When we moved to Austria, we spent our first year inside a refugee camp, about 30 minute drive outside of Vienna, in a quiet little town called Traiskirchen. The camp was a culture shock to this 10-year old boy. My little brother was fortunate, he was only 4, and no one messed with kids that young, but a 10-year old, that was another story. All of a sudden we were living inside a gated community of people from all over the Eastern world. We were surrounded by people from India, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Bulgaria, Nigeria and many other places. Some of these folks were nice, others weren't. You had to watch your step in the camp, and stick with your own kind, for there was strength in numbers. It wasn't unusual for a rumble to break out between Turks and Armenians, Romanians and Hungarians, etc... My parents did their best to keep me away from that environment, so they had me audition for the Vienna Boys Choir.
I didn't want to. By this time I'd made friends in the camp. I had my little gang of Hungarians I ran with, and I wasn't interested in some ninny choir thing. All I wanted was to be like every other kid. I just wanted to hang out and play soccer. It was the one uniter in the camp. But seeing as how I was 10, I had no choice in the matter. I figured I'll audition, they won't take me and that'll be the end of that. Well... it was just my luck that I was accepted!
As initially scary as the refugee camp was, being in the Vienna Boys Choir was even more terrifying. As I'd mentioned, I was 10 years old, didn't speak German, and this was the first time away from my parents for extended periods of time. The choir was a boarding school, so we lived at the palace from Monday morning until Saturday at noon, when we went home for the weekend only to return on Monday, and do it all again. For a frightened 10-year old, who couldn't communicate with anyone, my family might as well have been on the other side of the planet. Six days with out them was an eternity, but... eventually things got better.
My first few days were the roughest. I got into a fight on my first day at the small soccer field (there were two of them at that time). I was a good soccer player. In Romania I always played with the older kids, so my competition was very tough. Well... a few of the boys in the choir didn't take kindly to the fact that I showed them up, so they decided to teach me a lesson. As scared as I was of the prospect of having to fight 4 of them, it was a blessing in disguise. Once I bloodied the leader of the group, the other kids left me alone and from that moment on, no one else bothered me.
To help me adjust to my strange surroundings, the choir directors brought in a tutor, a beautiful blond Hungarian woman, whose job was to help me learn German. I don't remember her name, but I remember having the biggest crush on her and very much looked forward to her visits. Not only because she was hot, but I had someone with whom I could speak using my mother tongue.
The palace was absolutely beautiful with all kinds of modern (for the time) facilities. I've never seen such a beautiful pool, and the gym? For a sports enthusiast like me, it was heaven. I also found the food to be excellent, but looking back, I'm not sure if that's true, or I remember it to be excellent because the food at the refugee camp was that awful. Either way, I enjoyed the meals. Our sleeping facilities were also pretty cool for a 10-year old. It was almost army barracks-like, in that it was a large room with marble floors, and it had two rows of beds, about a dozen beds on each side of the room. I had to use slippers because the floor got pretty cold at night, and the last thing you wanted to do if you had to get up in the middle of the night, was to step on that cold floor.
Our days were very regimented. I remember having to wake fairly early in the morning, hitting the showers (which was also a big room with at least a dozen showers in it) and then it was off for breakfast. We all ate as quickly as possible, so we could get a little game time in, before we were off to class. In the mornings we had our reading, writing arithmetic, and in the afternoons we had our music classes. Like I said, our schedules were made out to keep us busy from morning to night. Every so often we would travel somewhere in Austria, mostly not too far from Vienna, to perform. I couldn't leave the country for any performances since I wasn't an Austrian citizen. However... I'm fairly certain that the junior members never got to travel outside the country. We were limited to performances mostly around Vienna.
I was surrounded by all of this famous musical history, and any downtime I had, I spent on one of the soccer fields. I could not have been more uninterested with the prestige that surrounded me. All I cared about was the athletic competitions. I didn't matter if it was soccer, rope climbing, broad jumps... what ever we did, I excelled at. Probably because unlike with just about every other activity, when it came to sports, I didn't have to speak any language to understand what was going on.
Our music teachers were some of the best in the world. I didn't appreciate it then, but to this day I still remember some of the lessons I was taught about how to sing properly. I could not have been easy to teach, because for most of my time there, I couldn't understand what they were saying to me, so there was a lot of gesturing going on, pointing to body parts and making exaggerated movements to show what I needed to do. Naturally everything we were taught was classical, but when it came to the piano, I entertained some of the boys by playing boogie-woogie jazz. I loved the big-band era of genre and I was much more interested in Bennie Goodman and Tommy Dorsey, than I was in Chopin and Stravinsky.
Meanwhile, I still had to spend my weekends and holiday times in the refugee camp. So... I kept as quiet as possible about where I was during the week. The last thing I wanted the kids in camp to know was that I was a choir boy.
I'll never forget my last day with the Vienna Boys Choir. My father picked me up early, and we left before the other boys, so we could catch the train to Traiskirchen. I was very excited to see him, and couldn't wait to leave for Bad-Ishl for summer vacation. It's a quiet little town in the Alps, where my mother had a gig playing with the summer orchestra. As we were walking along the road leaving the choir's property, my father told me the news that I wasn't returning in the fall. It's funny because I didn't really want to be there in the first place, but now that I found I won't be returning, all I wanted was to be back in the fall!
Luckily I was 11-years old, and I had the attention span of an 11-year old. My father took me out for ice cream, which was awesome! After about a week's stay in the hospital for low blood sugar, I ended up joining my mother in Bad-Ishl for the greatest summer of my young life, and the Vienna Boys Choir became just another memory.
At my current age of 47 I still occasionally think back on my time as a member of the world's most famous choir, and even though I didn't appreciate it then, I am very thankful to have had the experience. I was incredibly fortunate to have had some of the finest music teachers in the world, even if it was often hard for me to understand them. To this day I'm still both an athlete and a musician. It's funny... I never wanted to be a musician, yet... here I am... I've written hundreds of songs, scored music for feature film, short film, and corporate videos. I've acted in musical theater, have played in many orchestras growing up (both jazz and classical), performed with marching bands, attended Duquesne University on a music scholarship as a classical piano major/voice minor, lived the life of sex/drugs/rock n roll, all while having won scoring titles in soccer, and won power-lifting competitions and marathons. I will now embark on my biggest journey of em all... a trip to circumnavigate the globe, and I can credit much of the discipline it took and still takes to excel in everything I do, to my one school year in the world famous Vienna Boys Choir. Life is funny that way.
Story by: Attila Domos
Here are the boys performing the music of Joseph Strauss, with former music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Mariss Jansons.

Votes1 DateMay 29, 2015

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Europe

(HEMA) Historical European Martial Arts: A Living History

Nathaniel Pantalone
Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) are martial arts that were practiced in Europe that have been lost or that have evolved into other practices. These arts include sword fighting (and other weapons forms), grappling, and wrestling.
HEMA organizations are like karate clubs in that members join together under a teacher to learn lost martial arts through historical texts, practice, and physical effort. This sort of living history keeps old martial art styles alive in a way that text cannot. Many HEMA teachers and instructors use historical text (source material) to teach new techniques, but they emphasize that immediately trying to practice a technique after reading about it is very difficult. This demonstrates the importance of practice and the necessity of the sport. Practitioners are eager to practice their art against non-cooperative combatants, which makes competitions athletic and competitive.
HEMA organizations are growing in popularity, and teachers are quick to emphasize that they do everything to ensure that their students will be safe--modern equipment with modern technology is used.
Learn more in this HEMA documentary:

Votes2 DateNov 5, 2015

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Europe

Catalonia

Bernard Asper
Catalonia
The autonomous community of Catalonia occupies a triangular area in the northeastern corner of Spain. It is bordered by France and Andorra to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, the autonomous community of Valencia to the south, and the autonomous community of Aragon to the west. The autonomous community of Catalonia was established by the statute of autonomy of December 18, 1979. The government consists of a Generalitat (an executive council headed by a president) and a unicameral parliament. The capital is Barcelona. The principal rivers in Catalonia are the Ter, Llobregat, and Ebro, all of which flow into the Mediterranean. A Mediterranean climate prevails throughout most of Catalonia, with hot, dry summers and mild, relatively rainy winters.
The towns of the Catalan coast have dominated the development of the region, with the result that the population is heavily concentrated along the Mediterranean, increasingly depopulating the hinterland. In the 20th century there was additional concentration of population in the city of Barcelona and its satellite towns.
Catalonia’s traditional agriculture was centered on the production of wine, almonds, and olive oil for export, as well as rice, potatoes, and corn (maize) as staples. Slightly more than one-third of Catalonia remains under cultivation, and the traditional crops of olives and grapes are being supplanted by fruits and vegetables for consumption in the cities. The raising of pigs and cows is the dominant agricultural activity. Agriculture accounts for only a tiny fraction of Catalonia’s domestic product, however.
The autonomous community of Catalonia is the richest and most highly industrialized part of Spain. The Catalan textile industry first achieved prominence between 1283 and 1313 and long remained the region’s premier industry. The manufacturing sector underwent rapid expansion and diversification since the 1950s, however, and metalworking, food-processing, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries had overtaken textiles in importance by the 21st century. Textile, paper making and graphic arts, chemicals, and metalworking industries are concentrated in Barcelona; Sabadell and Terrassa are also textile centers. One of Barcelona’s plants produces electric automobiles for Nissan. Catalonia’s growing demand for petroleum products led to the expansion of Tarragona’s petroleum refineries. Services, particularly those of tourism and transportation, are highly developed.
History
Catalonia was one of the first Roman possessions in Spain. Occupied during the 5th century by the Goths, it was taken by the Moors in 712 and at the end of the 8th century by Charlemagne, who incorporated it into his realm as the Spanish March, ruled by a count.
Frankish suzerainty over Catalonia was merely nominal, however, and was completely rejected during the reign of Count Borrell (died 991).
From 1137, when Count Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona was betrothed to Petronila, queen of Aragon, Catalonia and Aragon were united under the same ruler. Catalonia monopolized trade in the western Mediterranean in the 13th and 14th centuries, and Catalan interests dominated the union with Aragon until 1410, when the male line of the counts of Barcelona became extinct.
Dissatisfaction in Catalonia with the new Trastámara dynasty of Aragon increased after 1412, and during the reign of John II it developed into a full-scale but unsuccessful rebellion (1462–72).
After the marriage of John II’s son Ferdinand with Isabella of Castile (1469) had brought about the unification of Spain, Catalonia became of secondary importance in Spanish affairs. Though it retained its autonomy and Generalitat (assembly), by the 17th century its conflict of interest with Castile, along with the decline of the Spanish monarchy’s prestige, led to the first of a series of Catalan separatist movements. In 1640 Catalonia revolted against Spain and placed itself under the protection of Louis XIII of France, but the revolt was quelled in the 1650s. In the War of the Spanish Succession, Catalonia declared its support for the archduke Charles and resisted the accession of the Bourbon dynasty in Spain, but in 1714 it was completely subjugated by the forces of the Bourbon Philip V, who abolished the Catalan constitution and autonomy.
The Catalonians' language Catalan developed from its inhabitants bordering with various language areas. In the 1850s serious efforts were made to revive Catalan as a living language with its own press and theater—a movement known as the Renaixença (“Rebirth”). Catalan nationalism became a serious force after 1876, when the defeat of the Carlists led the church to transfer its support to the movement for autonomy.
Catalan nationalism had two major strands: a conservative, Roman Catholic one and a more liberal, secular one. The former was initially predominant, particularly in the first decades of the 20th century. By 1913 Catalonia had won a slight degree of autonomy, but the legislation conferring it was repealed in 1925 by Miguel Primo de Rivera, who attacked all manifestations of Catalan nationalism.
Primo de Rivera’s policy led to the formation of a left-wing coalition party in Catalonia, the Esquerra Republicana. The Esquerra won a sweeping victory in the municipal elections of 1931, and two days later its leader proclaimed a Catalan Republic. A compromise was worked out with the central government, and in September 1932 the statute of autonomy for Catalonia became law. Catalonia played a prominent role in the history of Republican Spain and in the Civil War (1936–39). The Nationalists’ victory in 1939 meant the loss of autonomy, however, and Gen. Francisco Franco’s government adopted a repressive policy toward Catalan nationalism.
The establishment of democratic rule in Spain after Franco’s death did not lessen Catalonia’s desire for autonomy, and in September 1977 limited autonomy was granted to the region. The pro-autonomy Convergence and Union party was founded the following year, and it served as the dominant political force in Catalonia over subsequent decades. Full autonomy was granted in 1979 with the establishment of the autonomous community of Catalonia. In 2006 Catalonia was granted “nation” status and given the same level of taxation responsibility as the Spanish central government. Spain’s Constitutional Court struck down portions of this autonomy statute in 2010, ruling that Catalans constituted a “nationality” but that Catalonia was not, itself, a “nation.”
Many Catalans, frustrated at the management of the Spanish economy throughout the euro-zone debt crisis, continued to push for increased fiscal independence from the central government. In 2013 the Catalonian regional parliament passed a measure calling for a referendum on independence from Spain to be held in 2014. Scotland’s referendum on independence from the United Kingdom in September 2014, although ultimately unsuccessful, galvanized the independence movement in Catalonia. Convergence and Union leader Artur Mas called for the long-promised, albeit nonbinding, independence referendum to be held on November 9, 2014. The move was immediately challenged by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and the independence campaign was suspended while the Constitutional Court considered the legality of the vote. Ultimately, Mas proceeded with the referendum but framed it as an informal poll of Catalan opinion. With more than one-third of registered voters participating in the balloting, over 80 percent expressed a desire for independence.
The push for Independence and the push against continues and has not let up on either side of the debate. Whatever happens there is no doubt that the Catalans have a unique culture and their language is the official language of the small principality of Andorra that lies between France and Spain.
Edited and compiled mostly from https://www.britannica.com/place/Catalonia

Votes1 DateSep 23, 2016

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