Thursday, May 20, 1999
Tradition Preserved
Chubritza Lends Time For Kosovo

by Wendy Butler
The Humboldt Beacon

When Craig Kurumada was living in Salt Lake City nine years ago and studying Balkan dancing, he met an instructor and performer from Kosovo. Kurumada said that he heard recently that the man's hometown of Mitrovica was hit in the NATO bombing campaign.

"I can't be terribly optimistic," Kurumada said, "I only hope he's alive."

"If Mitrovica falls, that would be the de-facto end of Kosovo," said Randy Carrico. "A group of refugees in very bad shape just crossed the border."

"They must feel a lot like pawns in this really gross chess board," added Debra Robertson

It is Wednesday evening and Kurumada and five other musician members of Chubritza are gathered at his home. Talk normally goes into the Balkans, but tonight the focus is on more than repertoire; it is on the plight of Albanian refugees who have been forced to flee their homes in order to escape prosecution and death.

Chubritza, a Balkan band founded in 1993, is one of three bands lending their time to a Kosovo Refugee Relief/Benefit Concert this Saturday at the Eureka High School Auditorium. The fundraiser is sponsored and organized by Eureka High's Spring Semester Freshman Careers class, the school's Amnesty International, student government and KHUM Radio.

Some of the band members have visited the Balkans, though their interest in music finds its beginnings in its sound. As they learned the stories behind the music, members became intrigued with and concerned about the people's lives that produced it.

"I was just drawn right to it," Kurumada said of the Balkan goatskin bagpipe in particular. He remembers the first time he heard the gajda. The instrument produces a different sound than that of Scottish bagpipes.

He studied with a gajda master in Bulgaria. This was in the late 1980s. He observed that people maintained strong links to their own villages, and used a barter system for trade.

Joe Brookshire, a Chubritza alumnus who returns for the May 22 concert, visited Kosovo and was impressed by how poor the area is -- the rugged mountainous terrain encapsulating people lugging tiny carts filled with produce.

Linnea Mandell and Kurumada visited Bulgaria, Turkey and Macedonia in 1994, 1995 and 1997. They bought tamburas from a Bulgarian instrument maker in Gabrovo.

Mandell started out as an an international folk dancer. As a result, she said, she got interested in playing the music.

"I started traveling, developing a knowledge and love of the people," she said.

Chubritza's playlist, which included traditional song and dance pieces from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Rom or Gypsy ethnic minorities, is not the music embraced in these areas by youngsters today, Mandell said. "Some of the older people feel very nostalgic for this music," she said. "Young people want to be modern. Balkan folk music has become more popular in the United States than it has in the Balkans."

The benefit concert doors open at 7 p.m. Music will also be provided by the Eureka High Jazz combo Perpetual Motion and Staff.