Today, I arrived in Kotor. It’s the first time I’ve been here in 11 years. And coincidentally, I have a song from the Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska), queued up just for you!
Igralo je zetsko kolo
Igra, igralo je zetsko kolo
Na taracu pred Kotorom,
Na ta, na taracu pred Kotorom.
Skoči kolo, da skočimo,
Skoči, skoči kolo, da skočimo,
Da vidimo ko će bolje,
Da vi, da vidimo ko će bolje.
A ja vidim ko ne može,
A ja, a ja vidim ko ne može,
Bolje momče neg’djevojče,
Bolje, bolje momče neg’ djevojče.
The zetsko kolo was danced
Dance, the zetsko kolo was danced
On the terrace in front of Kotor,
On that one, on the terrace in front of Kotor.
The kolo jumps, let's jump,
Jump, the kolo jumps, let’s jump,
Let's see who will do it better,
Let's see, see who will do it better.
And I see who can't,
And I, and I see who can't,
The boy is better than the girl,
Better, the boy is better than the girl.
I haven't been able to find a recording of a song with these lyrics. It's clear that the song is from present-day Montenegro, due to the use of the adjective “zetsko” to describe the kolo. “Zetsko” probably comes from Zeta, a principality in the middle ages that was roughly in the area of today's Montenegro. There’s also the mention of Kotor, an important coastal city in today’s Montenegro (where I am currently writing from!), as well as the use of ijekavian (djevojče, girl), which is spoken in Montenegro.
Although I can’t seem to find this exact song anywhere on the internet, there are recordings of the zetsko kolo (the dance itself) that are not set to this song, such as this archival video of Jugoslav peoples’ dances: “Jugoslovenski Narodni Plesovi-Zetsko Kolo, Cetinje.”
This video gives us an idea of how a zetsko kolo might be danced. There is a PDF document going around on the Internet with some descriptive information on the dance, although the source is unverified.
Translated into English, it reads:
Region: Bay of Kotor
Place: under the orange (tree?) in front of the yard, in Zadar, in the city of Udbina, on the terrace in front of Kotor
Contains: only girls, boys and girls
Function: meeting and getting closer of the youths, boys look at girls in the kolo
Form: half-circle, a pair of unconnected dancers
This is basically what we see in the video.
There are also recordings of a song with a similar meter and structure and first two lines (“Igralo je vito kolo”), but none of the other lyrics in the Velika Narodna Lira version.
There's also a song called “Skoči kolo da skočimo“ that appears to be a popular children's song. Despite the similarity in these two lines, I don't think they're the same song.
I think all of the videos I’ve linked here are dances in the style of the zetsko kolo, just set to different songs and with different songs.
I found a lot of videos of children's folklore groups from Montenegro in the process which were cute and also very illuminating in terms of children's folklore dancing culture throughout the region—imagine being part of a huge kolo festival with kids from all over the region where you just spend all day in the town square, learn different dances and have fun with your friends! “Meeting and getting closer of the youths” indeed.
You can find a collection of all the songs from Velika Narodna Lira that are available on Spotify on my playlist.