If the coastal regions of Croatia had a musical trademark then it would undoubtedly be the stirring sound of the klapa.
Performing a capella songs with delicate harmonies, the klapa is basically a small choir numbering anything from three members upwards. Often made up of informal groups of friends with an instinctual feel for age-old Adriatic melodies, these choirs are an important focus of local life and a source of considerable pride for the communities they come from.
Typical klapa songs focus on traditional Adriatic concerns: falling in love over a plate of squid, going night fishing with the lads, or pining for partners who are sailing the seven seas. Although klapa harmonies tend towards the smooth and soulful, the style retains a raw emotional edge: hearing a klapa perform live – whether on stage at a festival or simply serenading themselves at the table of a konoba – can send shivers down the spine.
Best places to experience klapa singing at its best are the Omiš Klapa Festival (www.fdk.hr), which features outdoor concerts in the centre of Omiš throughout the month of July; or at the Dalmatian Song Evenings (Večeri dalmatinske pisme; www.vdp.hr) in Kaštel Kambelovac in early July.