Slovenia is Grieving for the Legendary Musician Slavko Avsenik
Internationally-recognized accordion musician and composer Slavko Avsenik has died at the age of 85. He is leaving behind a rich legacy of oompah music and a polka that is believed to be the most frequently played piece of music in the world.
Avsenik was born November 26, 1929 in Begunje na Gorenjskem, close to Lake Bled, a popular tourist spot in Slovenia. In 1953, he established The Avsenik Brothers Ensemble with his brother Vilko, with whom he has produced nearly 1,000 songs in Slovenia and Germany.
The band performed before millions and in thousands of concerts. All together, they have sold over 30 million records. Their most popular is a polka entitled "Na Golici" in Slovenian, or "Trompetenecho" in German, "Trumpet Echoes" in English.
The "Trumpet Echoes" is believed to be the most played instrumental song in the world. Other great milestones of the band include performing in front of over 80,000 people in Berlin Stadium and touring the US and Canada.
"Everything that has happened was coincidental and I am still analyzing it today. All I can say is: 'Thank you, my destiny'," Avsenik once said about his career.
"Avsenik is a real trade mark of Slovenia. A man who gives joy to millions of people most certainly deserves today's recognition," former President Milan Kučan said about the acclaimed musician on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
Slavko Avsenik (bio)
The pioneer of Oberkrainer polka music Slavko Avsenik (1929-2015) started the band with his brother Vilko in the 1950s sold more than 30 million records across the world, gaining global popularity with a very distinctive sound which has since become symbolic of Alpine nations.
Most Alpine nations, including Austria, Germany and Switzerland, have made the Avsenik-style music their own, while the band was also incredibly popular among European expats in the Americas and Australia.
Slavko Avsenik wrote the music and played the accordion in the band. He composed his first song in 1953, the same year he started the band with his brother.
The Ansambel bratov Avsenik or the Avsenik Brothers Ensemble in English, was best known abroad under its German names the Avsenik Quintett and the Oberkrainer Quintett.
Their music became known as Oberkrainer-style, named so by an Austrian radio DJ, referring to the historic region of Carniola in what is modern-day Slovenia.
Their first record came out in Germany in 1955, two years before their first record in native Yugoslavia.
It included what has since become the iconic piece of Slovenian music, a polka entitled "Na Golici" ("Trompetenecho" in German, "Trumpet Echo" in English), which is believed to be the most frequently played instrumental song in the world.
A year after the first record came out Avsenik was invited to Germany and played his first major tour - 60 concerts in 60 cities in a single month.
In 1961 the band played at the Berlin Olympic stadium in front of tens of thousands of fans and what followed were years of sold-out tours across Europe.
Riding the wave of popularity, the band was given an opportunity to perform at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. It played some 150 concerts that year, only a dozen of them in Slovenia. It also received its first golden record, as its record sales reached one million for the first time.
After releasing its tenth LP album in 1967, the band drove more than 650,000 kilometres across Europe in a single year. Popularity in Europe secured the band its first tour of the US and Canada in 1970.
Over the years the Avsenik name became synonymous with Slovenian music, while the sound he pioneered was adopted by performers around central Europe.
His songs, especially Trumpet Echo, are featured at all big events in Slovenia. Even today the song is used to get the crowd to its feet at major sporting events.
Interestingly, Avsenik has long had a love for sports. A ski jumping prodigy in his teens, he donated much of his income for the construction and overhaul of the large hill in the legendary ski jumping valley of Planica.
He has received a number of state decorations, among them the Yugoslav silver order for national merit, the Slovenian order of merit and the Herman Lons golden order from Western Germany.
Fans from across the globe can see the band's achievements at the museum established in the large family home, a 150-year-old tavern in Begunje na Gorenjskem, a tiny village nestled at the foot of Karavanke Alps.
Avsenik's heritage, which has been declared Slovenia's cultural heritage, is continued today by his grandson Saša.
Although the only official Avsenik successor, Saša's is hardly the only Oberkrainer band. There are reportedly some 10,000 bands playing music pioneered by Slavko and Vilko Avsenik around the world.
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