Zagreb, 1960 – Zagreb, 2014

Ruža Bonifačić was born in Zagreb on 30th August 1960. She studied musicology in her native city, graduating with the thesis on the solo songs of Vladimir Bersa in 1985, and being awarded the prize of the Croatian Music Institute as the best graduate of that year. In the same year she commenced working at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb. In the following year, Ruža enrolled in the post-graduate study of ethnomusicology at the Music Academy in Sarajevo, earning her master’s in 1991 with the thesis on the traditional singing in Punat on the island of Krk. The traditional music of the island of Krk, whence her family originated, was to remain in the permanent focus of her research. The results of that research were presented in twelve published scholarly articles, the first in 1987 and the last in 2009. Particularly significant in that body of work were her observations on music structuring – tonal relations, and also other elements of music phenomena – in dependence on the concepts of the bearers of tradition. Apart from the traditional music of Istria and the Croatian Littoral, she dedicated herself during the war years of the 1990s to analysis of historical and contemporary cultural, national and political processes in tamburitza music, which led to an output of three studies (in 1993, 1995, 1998) that are frequently quoted by authors from both Croatia and abroad. In addition, in the first half of the 1990s she also worked on the oral tradition and inter-ethnic dynamics in the music of Burgenland in Austria, participating in the joint project of the Zagreb Institute and the Institut für Volksmusikforschung und Ethnomusikologie from Vienna. Her overall work was exceptionally thorough as she endeavoured to encompass the issues in all their complexity. With her systematic approach, the reliability of the data she presented, her sensitivity to every detail and cautious interpretation that always firmly relied on analytical findings, as well as the ongoing connection of the concepts of music in the researched community with its uses, functions and meanings, and with analysis of the structuring of the music material, Ruža Bonifačić was successful in linking the merits of the classical and contemporary scholarly approaches in ethnomusicology. Along with the rich material that she housed in the Institute’s documentation (some 160 units), the results of her research into tamburitza music, the inter-ethnic relation in the music of Burgenland and the town of Krk, and particularly the results of her meticulous research into the genres of kanat and tarankanje within the framework of the narrow interval styles of Istria and the Croatian Littoral, will remain as permanent heritage in the Croatian scholarship on music. Equally permanent is the heritage that Ruža leaves to the communities of Krk: she herself descended from them, researched them, documented a thirty-year segment of their music life, elucidated some of the key elements in their music culture, and developed a dialogical relationship with them apart from and prior to that becoming the catchword of ethnomusicological approaches – and she finally returns now into the twilight in Punat Cove. Ruža died in Zagreb on 14 September 2014.

Naila Ceribašić