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The man from Kumanovo who makes Macedonian musical instruments by hand

Seventy-three year-old Nikola Mishevski from Kumanovo has been making original Macedonian musical instruments for decades, using natural materials such as wood and leather to craft them. He also carves and decorates them.

Kumanovo, 30 December 2019 (MIA) – Seventy-three year-old Nikola Mishevski from Kumanovo has been making original Macedonian musical instruments for decades, using natural materials such as wood and leather to craft them. He also carves and decorates them.

Several rooms in his home in Pero Chicho, in the region of Kumanovo, are fully furnished with musical instruments, decorations and folk dresses which display the wealthy folklore heritage of the Kumanovo area.

Though he lacks a formal musical education, he’s a self-taught kemane, bagpipes and drums player.

Since he retired, he’s a member of the “Gjoko Simonovski” culture association, an organization under the administration of the Society of Retirees of Kumanovo.

He has performed all around Macedonia, Serbia and Romania as a member of the association, as well as with another culture organization called “Panche Peshev”.

“I was born in the village of Beljkovce. My great-great-grandfather played the bagpipes, and he inspired me to want to learn how to play. The first thing I made was a clarinet made of wood given to me by a teacher of the Klechovce village. It was only an amateur try, because the clarinet was unplayable, but I put a lot of love into making it. Afterwards I made a kaval that I used to teach myself how to play,” Mishevski reminisces.

The kemane is his most beloved instrument. He proudly shows off the kemane he crafted in 1958.

“I made it out of Montenegrin maple tree. I put the raw wood in stable manure so that it wouldn’t get damage. After it dried, I crafted it and put carving decorations on it,” Mishevski explains the process, showing off the auburn instrument, suddenly tugging on a string to produce a sound.

He says that his joy is immeasurable whenever he plays the kemane.

“Whenever I’ve played the kemane, they’ve called me back on stage to play another song,” the self-taught musician and instrument craftsman says.

He believes that the most beautiful song one could play on this instrument is Sednal Marko so majka da vechera (Prince Marko Sits Down for Dinner with his Mother), an old folk song dedicated to Prince Marko.

He used to work as a professional driver, working across Western Europe and the Middle East. While driving a truck through Iraq, he stumbled upon a wedding where the band players played the kemane, and he says that it’s often played over there.

Mishevski has also crafted bagpipes made of ram leather. He describes the crafting process down to the finest detail.

“I used ram leather and chestnut wood to make it. I made it back in my home village, where there was no electricity. I didn’t have many tools, either. I used a little piece of wood for measuring. I used a type of drill to make the openings,” Nikola says.

He’s made just about every piece of decoration he owns by himself, such as pots, folk dresses, and other instruments such as kavals and gusle.

“I’m like a woodpecker, always pecking at wood,” he jokes.

Mishevski believes that these original instruments show the soul of a people, and that they should never be forgotten. They pass down the sounds of the past. It’s nice to listen to them because, as he says, they are like a blast from the past.

Aleksandra Maksimovska

Translator: Dragana Knežević

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