The music of Croatia, like the country itself, has three major influences: the influence of the Mediterranean especially present in the coastal areas, of the Balkans especially in the mountainous, continental parts, and of central Europe in the central and northern parts of the country.
The traditional music of Croatia is mostly associated with tamburitza and gusle songs. Tamburitza music, a form of folk music that revolves around the tambura is primarily associated with the northern part of the country while the gusle music became mostly popular in southern (Dinaric) region of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Slavonian town Požega hosts a known folk music festival, Zlatne žice Slavonije (Golden strings of Slavonia), which has prompted musicians to compose new songs with far-reaching influences, recently including American bluegrass.
Tamburitza became increasingly popular in the 1800s, and small bands began to form, paralleling similar developments in Russia, Italy and the Ukraine. It is sometimes said that the first sextet of tambura players was formed by Pajo Kolarić of Osijek in 1847.
Traditional tamburitza ensembles are still commonplace, but more professional groups have formed in the last few decades. These include Ex Pannonia, the first such group, Zdenac, Berde Band and the modernised rock and roll-influenced Gazde.
In comparison to tamburitza music, which is mainly focused on common themes of love and happy village life, the gusle music is primarily rooted in the Croatian epic poetry with emphasis on important historical or patriotic events.
By glorifying outlaws such as hajduks or uskoks of the long gone Turkish reign or exalting the recent heroes of the Croatian War for Independence, the gusle players have always kept Croatian national spirit alive bringing hope and self-confidence to the enslaved nation. Andrija Kačić Miosić, a famous 18th century author, had also composed verses in form of the traditional folk poetry (deseterac). His book "Razgovor ugodni naroda slovinskog" became Croatian folk Bible which inspired numerous gusle players ever since.
As for contemporary gusle players in Croatia, one person that particularly stands out is Mile Krajina. Krajina is a prolific folk poet and gusle player who gained cult status among some Conservative groups. There are also several other prominent Croatian gusle players who often perform at various folk-festivals throughout Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Although some fans of tamburitza claim that the tambura is the most commonly used ethnic instrument in the United States, the first sound recordings of the Croatian instruments on the American soil were in fact those of gusle and misnica performed by Peter Boro in California in 1939.
Other folk traditions
The folk music of Zagorje, an area north of Zagreb, is known for polka and waltz music similar to the neighbouring Slovenia and Austria.
The folk music of Međimurje, a small but distinct region in northernmost Croatia, with its melancholic and soothing tunes became the most popular form of folk to be used in the modern ethno pop-rock songs.
The Dalmatian coast on the other hand sports a cappella choirs known as klape, usually composed of up to a dozen male and female singers, singing typically Mediterranean tunes like in Italy.
In Istria, native instruments like sopila, curla and diple make a distinctive regional sound.