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ZASPO JANKO


As always with Balkan folk songs, there is much heated dispute as to the origin of Zaspo Janko. Picking through the many YouTube comments it seems most likely that it originated in the Kosovo region, and is in the Serbian language, but has travelled further afield in the Balkan region.

The Lyrics Translate website provides the following translation of a version similar to the one sung by Gurt Lush:

JANKO FELL ASLEEP
Janko fell asleep under the poplar
My dear and beloved
My beautiful black eyes
Look at me

Under the poplar's golden branch
My dear and beloved
My beautiful black eyes
Look at me

I tore the golden branch,
My dear and beloved
My beautiful black eyes
Look at me

This song is clearly influenced by Eastern Orthodox church music to a much greater degree than most of the Romany songs in the Gurt Lush repertoire, and its traditional mode of performance is a capella. Listen to this 1951 recording of the song performed by a Croatian village choir, and a 2012 home video by Sestre Brankovic (the Brankovic Sisters).

There are scores of other performances of the song on YouTube. Modern arrangements tend to suffer from an excess of new-age gloss, such as this one by Zbor Lipe. The Serbian Grupa Rasanke do it rather more restrainedly.

For variety, try Serbian male voice trio Pastiri Vremena Becej or this mesmerising solo performance by American soprano Stephanie Heidemann.

Finally, with a special award for bringing out the song's demonic scariness, here is a girl sextet going by the name of F.M.D. Kolo Neuhausen.