Ankica Petrovic: A Local Treasure From Abroad

by Thomas Paige


Ankica Petrovic has been teaching as an adjunct professor in the department of ethnomusicology at UCLA for several years now. She completed her doctoral work in ethnomusicology with John Blacking in Belfast, Northern Ireland. From 1979 to 1992 Ankica conducted research and taught at the University of Sarajevo Academy of Music in Sarajevo, the city in which she was born; she also served as chairperson of musicology department for several years up until her departure from Sarajevo. Her move to the United States, where she has held teaching positions at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Duke University and other schools as well as UCLA, coupled with her years of experience in Eastern Europe, gives her a unique position and perspective in academia. Adjusting to differences in approach, methodology, and teaching, as well as several years as a nomadic scholar has not been easy for her, but she has embraced this opportunity to learn and adjust with a warmth and openness that only adds to the character she brings to this institution. Furthermore, while her unique position as a potential bridge between the different schools of ethnomusicology in the West and the East presents her with challenges today, Ankica Petrovic is no stranger to adversity.

In 1992 the Bosnian-Serbian War forced her to leave Sarajevo. Simple matters such as finding boxes (commonly used as fuel for fires) in which to store her tapes and field notes proved immensely difficult. Transportation of her materials out of the country was too great a burden in addition to everything else, and she had to resort to leaving her field notes stored in her apartment in Sarajevo, and leaving her recordings and tapes with friends at various other locations. She recently returned to Sarajevo and begun to recover and sort through her field recordings that she had left behind. Unfortunately her field notes were irreparably lost, as the occupants that took over her apartment burned all of them. This is a loss any fieldworker or ethnomusicologist would consider a great tragedy, but Ankica is weathering it tremendously well, explaining that her practice of including background information and names of performers and locations on the tapes themselves has proved invaluable.

Adding to the classes on Music and Religion, Folk Music of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, and Roma/Gypsy Music in Europe that she has taught at UCLA, she has recently taught a class on documentary film work. Her recent release of a video on Flory Jagoda, a Bosnian-born Jewish Sephardic singer now residing in Virginia, is an excellent example of documentary film-work done in a professional manner with both commercial and academic appeal. Ankica said it was quite challenging trying to relate the many facets of the life and music of Flory Jagoda, who performs Jewish secular music traditionally sung by women in the Jewish/Spanish hybrid language of Ladino. Flory Jagoda’s background, coupled with the Bosnian idiom she brings to this tradition (which she has been revitalizing through tours both abroad and here in the United States), truly does cast her as a multifaceted musical figure. That Ankica Petrovic is the scholar responsible for putting this impressive documentary together seems wholly appropriate, as the many facets of her own life provide striking parallels. This beautifully shot and wonderfully edited video made possible by the Maurice Amado Family Foundation in Los Angeles is available through the National Center for Jewish Film (http://www.jewishfilm.org/ or 781-899-7044).