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The best books on Slovenian popular folk music

Content by Phillip Nadvesnik

There are some great books I’ve been reading (albeit slowly in Slovene) that I’d like to share with you, about Slovenian popular folk music, and more specifically Slavko and Vilko Avsenik who started and shaped the entire genre of ‘narodnozabavna glasba’ (Slovene for popular folk music) or ‘Oberkrainer’ (German name of the genre derived from the German name for the Gorenjska region in Slovenia). This extends to other influential figures who further shaped and pioneered the music such as Lojze Slak, and I’ve included 3 accordion and guitar technique books at the end of the list as well. I’ve also outlined where these books can be bought, and whether they have translations available.

If there’s a book that I’ve missed, that you’d like to share, please leave a comment 😊

“S polko v svet – Glasbene poti bratov Avsenik” by Aleski Jercog (2008)

▫ Translates to “With polka into the world – The musical path of the Avsenik brothers”
▫ Available in Slovene with German and English summaries on each page
▫ Recommended for brief overview of Avsenik’s importance, achievements and challenges

This is a great introduction which captures all the achievements and history of Avsenik’s ensemble. It’s filled with rare photos, interesting facts, and a summarized timeline of the ensemble’s career from start to finish. It is written by Aleski Jercog, a Slovene-Italian radio host and musician from Trieste, who also wrote my other 2 favourite books below.

“Slavko Avsenik: Življenje za glasbo” by Aleski Jercog (2017)

▫ Translates to “Slavko Avsenik: Life for music”
▫ Available in Slovene only
▫ More detailed timeline from start to end of career through to retirement
▫ Rare insight and interviews with family and people who worked with the Avsenik brothers

If you can read even partial Slovene, this book is worth the time to read. It features very interesting anecdotes of the Avsenik brothers’ and ensemble’s musical and personal challenges, successes and hard work throughout their lives. Included are anecdotes from Aleksi’s interviews with Vilko and Slavko, band members, family members (sons Gregor, Martin, Slavko Jr and wife Brigita), radio producers and sound engineers, which also aired throughout episodes of his Radio Rai Trst A program ‘Iz domače zakladnice‘. This book is a result of years of Aleksi’s hard work, interviews and research culminating into one book with 312 pages and many rare photos.

“Zlati Zvoki – Goldene Oberkranerklänge 1953-2016” by Aleski Jercog (2016)

▫ Available with Slovene and German in one book
▫ No longer in circulation
▫ Details every album from 1953 to 2016
▫ Lists all songs composed by the Avsenik brothers with years and titles

This book details every album in chronological order, with track lists in Slovene and German, detailing all versions of every vinyl record, cassette and CD that was officially released for the ensemble, in over 400 pages. It also highlights interesting facts behind the albums (such as which musicians were present on the recordings), the year they were recorded and released, alongside a large photo of each album. It ends with a long list of every song known to have been written by Vilko and Slavko Avsenik, during their full-time career as well as during retirement for other bands.

“Lojze Slak: moje plošče so moje knjige” by Ivan Sivec (2017)

▫ Translates to “Lojze Slak: my records are my books”
▫ Available in Slovene only
▫ Complete history of Lojze Slak’s life and music career

Written by Ivan Sivec, an accomplished Slovenian writer and lyricist who has written over 150 books, and wrote lyrics for Slaki and Avseniki among other groups. This book details interesting anecdotes, rare photos and a comprehensive history of Lojze Slak’s life and music career with Ansambel Lojzeta Slaka with Fantje s Praprotna.

“Avsenik brothers, European musical phenomenon from Begunje na Gorenjskem” by Ivan Sivec (1999)

▫ Slovenian title: “Brata Avsenik, evropski glasbeni fenomen iz Begunj na Gorenjskem”
▫ German title: “Slavko Avsenik und seine Original Oberkrainer: ein europaisches Musikphanomen aus Oberkrain”
▫ Stories from interviews, 200 photos, and accordion sheet music for 24 songs

This book is a result of years of research and interviews by Ivan Sivec and details the impact that Avseniki had on Slovenian folk music and Slovenian identity, the history of the Avsenik brothers’ early lives as children and teenagers, and other milestones in Avsenik’s private life and musical career. There are also chapters dedicated to each band member, and many rare photos.

“Vsi najboljši muzikanti” parts 1 and 2 by Ivan Sivec (1998, 2003)

▫ Translates to “All the best musicians”
▫ Only printed in Slovene, and no longer in circulation
▫ Part 1 (1998): 620 pages, 500 photos, 130 bands, 135 lyricists and composers, sheet music for 50 songs, lyrics for 120 songs
▫ Part 2 (2003): 620 pages, 200 photos, 250 bands, 180 lyricists and composers, lyrics for 68 songs

I haven’t yet obtained this one, but one way to get your hands on it is to wait for it to appear on and arrange a friend/family member to buy it for you. 4,000 hardcover copies were circulated in total, between parts 1 and 2, and outlines the history of Slovenian popular folk music from its beginnings to 2003. This is another example of Ivan Sivec’s life of amazing work and dedication to the genre of Slovenian popular folk music.

Techniques and sheet music

“Play like Slavko Avsenik” by Slavko & Vilko Avsenik (1987)

Picture of Igraj kot Slavko Avsenik

▫ Slovenian title: “Igraj kot Slavko Avsenik”
▫ German title: “Spiel’ wie Slavko Avsenik”
▫ Daily exercises to develop and improve accordion skills for Oberkrainer/Slovenian popular folk music, using Avsenik’s own techniques and methods
▫ Sheet music for 8 songs

“Stücke für Akkordeonprofis” by Andrej Toplišek (2011)

▫ Translates to “Songs for professional accordionists”
▫ Daily exercises for accordion using Toplišek’s methods and techniques
▫ Sheet music for advanced level songs by Toplišek
▫ Translation of the book’s instruction available in other languages directly from Toplišek

“Guitar playing methods of Leo Ponikvar” by Gerhard Kraus (2016)

Picture of Guitar playing methods of Leo Ponikvar - Slovenian version

▫ Slovenian title: “Narodno zabavna šola igranja po metodah Lea Ponikvarja”
▫ German title: “Das Gitarrenspiel des Leo Ponikvar”
▫ Theory and exercises for Ponikvar’s chords, rhythm, and solos