Vlado Kreslin - A musical legend and a troubadour of the Pannonian soul

Published: 22.6.2020

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Vlado Kreslin - A musical legend and a troubadour of the Pannonian soul

Vlado Kreslin is a poet from Prekmurje. A true one-man band, he is a writer, a composer, and a singer. He is a musician who enjoys cult status among his audience for his great personal charisma, emotional musical expression, and effortless transitions between genres.

Vlado Kreslin - A musical legend and a troubadour of the Pannonian soul

Photo: Miro Majcen

His music is a mix of ethnic music, blues and rock. Kreslin has made his opinion on his eclectic style known: genres are just an excuse to put records on shelves, otherwise it’s all music.

He has been on the scene for over 40 years and he was the first musician to begin playing on his balcony during the pandemic, delighting his neighbours with 50 songs, one for each day of the quarantine. Many of his songs became folk classics. He adores his home region and the Pannonian plains. How could he not? The Pannonian world is one of endless lowlands and fertile fields with the slowly meandering Mura River, long-legged storks, and views that stretch out toward infinity.

Photo: Boštjan Ikovic 

The originality of Prekmurje and Slovenia

“In Prekmurje, you can watch the sun’s walk across the sky from sunrise to sunset, and it’s not blocked by a rugged mountain. The feeling the landscape carries is similar; soft, somehow rounded. Our river runs slowly, and it seems that time does too. Cereals sway in the wind more gently and a language the rest of Slovenia has difficulty understanding can be heard.” This is Vlado Kreslin’s poetic description of his native Prekmurje. He is captivated by Slovenia’s diversity. There is no place between the Alps, the Mediterranean, and the Pannonian plains that he would not recommend for a break. “I believe that every region in Slovenia has its charm. As a musician, I have been cruising around this country for decades; I have performed in almost every village, and I’m still fascinated by the newly discovered places in the most hidden parts of Slovenia. The more inaccessible places are, the more beautiful they are – that’s my secret.” He believes that it is difficult to take the Prekmurje out of a person from Prekmurje, and the same goes for people from Dolenjska, Primorska, Gorenjska, etc. “I think that Slovenians in general are strongly attached to their origin, their land.”

Photo: STB Media Library

When the world stops...

Following in the footsteps of Italian apartment dwellers, Slovenians sang and played on their balconies when in quarantine during the pandemic. The citizens’ response to the initiative of Slovenian musicians and creators was extraordinary. Vlado Kreslin was no exception. “On 14 March, when the first global balcony musical initiative took place and a solidarity connection with the world could be felt, I set up an amplifier and took an electric guitar and played my first song. I thought that would be it. But by the end of quarantine, I had played 50 songs. I can see that many people follow what I do and I’m glad if it cheers them up at least a little bit. Each day they guess which song I’ll play. I just hope that I don’t run out of songs...”

Kreslin has also joined the campaign “A Return to the Written”, an initiative launched by the Slovenian Book Agency, inviting readers to visit bookstores and take a book home with them. Working with 60 Slovenian bookstores, Kreslin has helped encourage a love of reading around the country.

Sir, do you still have that black guitar?

When Vlado drags the syllables of this famous verse through his larynx and nose in his Prekmurje accent, Slovenians of all generations get goosebumps. The legend says that his father’s black guitar was one of the first inspirations for his musical creations. When he was looking for a way to record “Black Guitar”, he wanted people to know about various music genres. He wanted people to hear about the cimbalom and the fiddle, traditional instruments of the Pannonian plains from Slovenia to the Hungarian steppes. In 1991, he began cooperating with older musicians from his home town of Beltinci – with the Beltinška Banda. He committed himself to folk music, and Slovenian ethnic music was reborn. He introduced it to younger generations and rehabilitated the Prekmurje language. Beltinška Banda currently consists of the second and third generations of folk musicians. The oldest member is Vlado Kreslin’s father Milan Kreslin. “Otherwise, members of Beltinška Banda, meaning the crew from Beltinci, began their careers in the Central Inn owned by my grandfather, which used to be among the largest and most prominent inns in Prekmurje. Many years later, at the end of the 1980s, we found each other and created music until his death, when the gentlemen were already in their nineties. We recorded three CDs and filled venues around Slovenia and abroad for years.”

Photo: STB Media Library

Childhood in full contact with nature

He grew up by the Mura River and caught fish. His memories go back to nature. He remembers that, as a child, he used to spend all his time outside and that his mother had to threaten him to get him to come in for lunch or dinner. Perhaps that is why the metaphors he uses in his songs are often related to nature. He mentions the Mura River, plains, storks, birds, and more. He says that he does not sing about nature, but that he expresses himself through it. He has been enjoying the mornings in recent years. He wakes up at five or six, and the moments when the day breaks are magical to him like his song “Nekega jutra, ko se zdani” (One Morning, as Day is Breaking). New verses are born along with the day. “I exercise a little, but the breakfast I whip up with cereals, kefir, pumpkin and flax seeds, cinnamon, turmeric, walnuts, a banana, hemp oil, nuts, and so on is more like a ritual.”

A musical mix of ethnic music, blues and rock

Last year, a feature film about Vlado Kreslin entitled “Poj mi pesem” (Sing Me a Song), which is about his rocker soul and ethnomusicologist’s soul, his music, and the people who love it, premièred at the Liffe Festival. He says in the film that music was always a symbol of rebellion for him. “At the end of the 1960s, rock music was indeed a form of rebellion and it changed the world to a certain extent. When I was hit by the first Rolling Stones electric chord in the mid-1960s, I was shaken by some kind of unconscious “revelation” that this was my world. That you can think with your own head and not necessarily like most people and the people around you. That it was the truth, not just make-up as was the case then (and now) in popular music.”

Photo: STB Media Library

Three languages of his world

When Prekmurje celebrated the 100th anniversary of its reunification with Slovenia, he came up with the idea to translate texts into the Prekmurje language upon the long-planned overhaul of his website. The speakers of the easternmost Slovenian dialect claim that their dialect is related to Slovenian but is still a special language that must be preserved and used. “People of Prekmurje are proud of their literary language, which has existed since the first records in the 16th century. We don’t give up our language easily. I am always moved when I speak the “old” Prekmurje tongue with elderly people from Prekmurje in Australia or Argentina. We strongly identify with our language, perhaps also because it is very different from Slovenian.”

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