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Classic 107.3 Highlights St. Louis’ Bosnian Community In ‘Musical Ancestries’

George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

As an education director, Carol Commerford works to curate various programs to attract young listeners for Classic 107.3, a local arts-focused radio station.

One of those programs is “Musical Ancestries.” It's designed to teach children about diverse music around the world, with a reach extending well beyond the audio component.

Since Commerford began it in 2019, “Musical Ancentries” has taken listeners across the soundscapes of Thailand, West Africa, India, the Caribbean and more.

Amir Salesevic (at left) and Carol Commerford joined Thursday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill
St. Louis Public Radio
Amir Salesevic (at left) and Carol Commerford joined Thursday's talk show.

Each of the audio broadcasts tells a journey of a child learning from an elder or community members. In the Jewish “Musical Ancestries” episode, for instance, a cantor was featured. And for the most part, local children who are members of the highlighted community are cast in the productions as well.

“It's all about an adult or a mentor who is sharing their heritage with the child. Often [as] children grow up, they don't really have a relationship; they don't really understand where their ancestors came from,” Commerford said on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air.

“And so in the story, it might be the grandmother and granddaughter, and they go back to the country and go through the experiences and experience the music and culture.”

Classic 107.3 Highlights St. Louis’ Bosnian Community In ‘Musical Ancestries’
Explore the soundscape of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Classic 107's “Musical Ancentries” program.

The effort also includes visual presentations via Prezi, and educational resources are available online for students, teachers and families.

This weekend's episode will explore the music, instruments, dance, history and cultural traditions of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In fashioning it, Commerford consulted with various experts in the St. Louis community, including Maureen Byrne at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Ben Moore of Fontbonne’s Center for Bosnian Studies and local accordionist Amir Salesevic.

Salesevic, himself a St. Louisan of Bosnian descent, joined Thursday’s on-air discussion to talk about the particularities of Bosnian culture and music. He highlighted the sevdalinka genre as one of the unique sounds of the eastern Slavic region.

Sevdalinka, or sevdah, describes the feeling of longing — generally toward a place or loved one. Salesevic explained that the folk music is characterized by a slow and moderate tempo, with intense and emotional melodies that generate meaning.

But, he added, “the feelings are both happy and sad at the same time.”

Accordions are among the commonly used instruments that accompany sevdah — and Salesevic has no shortage. The aficionado has collected more than 150 accordions, “maybe 180?”

Tune in to the podcast episode to hear him play one of the accordions in his collection, as well as a sevdah performed by Safet Isovic, whom Salesevic consider to be the “King of Sevdah.”

Related Event

What: Musical Ancestries: Bosnia
When: Airing at 10 a.m. Saturday; 7 p.m Sunday; and 2 p.m. June 30
Where: Classic 107.3’s “Classics 4 Kids” radio show

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Paola Rodriguez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.