Sevdah

The following is from this site (by Dr. Semir Vranic), and describes the background of sevdalinka, an urban Bosnian folk genre:

“The meaning of the word sevdah in the Turkish language denotes amorous yearning and ecstasy of love, and has its origin in the Arabic expression “säwdâ”, which encompasses and specifies the term “black gall”. Namely, ancient Arabic and Greek doctors believed that the black gall, as one of the four basic substances in the human body, affects our emotional life and provokes a melancholic and irritable mood.

There from derives the expression in the Greek language “melancholy” with a figurative meaning of the direct projection of its basic meaning: melan hôlos – black gall. Since it is love itself that causes the same mood, in the Turkish language these terms were brought into a close link with the semantic identity, accomplishing a conceptual result of a dual projection of the basic meaning. Linking these two meanings has opened the process of a poetic transfer of symbolic and emotional qualities from one term to another. This resulted in the birth of a new term related to specific lyrical and psychological features.

In our society, the feeling of love expressed by the word “sevdah”, retaining the basic tone of its emotional commitment has got a melancholic notion of the Slavic-Bogomilian transience of space and time. In essence, our sevdah is both, the passionate and painful longing for love, as well as the melancholic and sweet one, the feeling when you are incapable of enduring the pain caused by love, and the pain transforms into the ecstasy of the intoxication of love that compares to the slow process of dying. Pain, because love cannot be fulfilled at that time, sometimes because space and time act as a wall and obstacle to it, sometimes because there are obstacles of individual, social, familial, traditional or simply emotional and psychological nature. Sevdah expresses itself as torture by others and oneself, and the pleasure of whipping deriving from the identification with the yearning and masochistic experience of love despite the awareness of its futility.” (Muhsin Rizvić, Literary Historian)

“In my opinion, sevdah is an aura surrounding you, it is of invisible and non-material form, but every individual who defines aesthetics as part of his/her life, may feel sevdah in its slightest form and in the smallest space.
It is a gift of God for those lucky ones who view and live life optimistically, and find elements of beauty and pleasure in such view.  And once your soul is filled with the beauty of sevdah, you feel sevdalinka is refreshing and gladdening your heart: “Play and sing to gladden my heart”.

Sevdah is not just a word – it is rather an imaginative ambience of beauty, in whose immense expanse, souls feel, find grains of joy, thus forming a mosaic and making their lives beautiful.

Unfortunately, life is not just love, and sevdalinka as a peak expression of sevdah is not just a love song. Sevdah is a style, a Bosnian lifestyle, and sevdalinka is a historical note-keeper of the lives of Bosnians.” (Omer Pobrić, Musician)

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4 responses to “Sevdah

  1. It’s so interesting, We have this word as its arabic version, Sowda. And it has been used in persian poetry so much. I didn’t know the importance of it..

  2. Wow, I didn’t know it was in Persian poetry too! That’s interesting.

  3. They use it like this in persian poetry esp Hafiz and Molana: Sowda-ye Eshgh.

    For example, Hafiz says: Habiba, dar gham-e sowdaye eshghat .. (o’ beloved, in sadness of sowda of your love..)

    And Eshgh( Love) is meant to be a sowda between lover and beloved.

    So interesting. Actually muslim countries share many part of their cultures..

  4. Interesting! Thanks for sharing that.

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