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David Byler: 8th Generation of Croatian American, New Dalmatia, Nueva España, Texas, and the way Home
Producing music videos related to the priceless treasure of Croatian culture
Mr. David Byler, 8th generation of Croatian American, had a career in international forest products sales and transportation, now Lutheran pastor, and music video producer.
There was a time in North America when if a child wandered on to a nearby farm, all he needed to know was his own name. The neighbors knew exactly where he lived and he would soon be home. As North America became more and more urbanized the child needed to know his address in order to find his way home.
My family was perhaps a little more complicated than some, so my father taught me this little poem which he said his father taught him and that it came down from starci or "the old ones:"
a na rikanje orahovac hikori san kiši, kavi a na gle na vi
which might be interpreted in english as:
and on the roaring walnut hickories dream rain, coffee and there you are
or something like that.
I haven't always known exactly where I was all the time, but I have always known where is Home.
Just how the family came to be scattered around in North America is another complicated story. Our family's faith orientation was Jevanđelski. I understand that today back Home this is somewhat different from what we knew, but I don't know that for sure. Essentially we were and I still am a Catholic who prays that one day the Bishop of Rome will also become Catholic, but anyway he is Roman and we are Croatian and what does any foreigner have to do with us? The faith we knew and which I still follow insists that the Bible IS the Word of God and as such it is the final authority in all matters of faith.
This faith clings to that Word of God which says that "a man is saved by faith and not by works lest any man should boast." We believe that baptism is the Word of God combined with the water, and we believe that both the body and the blood of Christ are the elements to be served to the people in the Holy Supper. In the Home we had the Bible in Glagolitic, we had worship in our own language and we were content with that. It is my understanding that not long afterwards Rome agreed that Croatians should have worship in our own language so perhaps we contributed something to the culture in all that. The overlords from Hungary or from Austria at the time were not content with our ways and so it became a matter of health to emigrate.
As in the story of the Three Bears, there were three brothers, one of whom had been walk-about as far away as Switzerland. When he returned, the three brothers and about nineteen women of the family boarded the "Carolja Pula" somewhere in Kvarmer Bay. Upon arrival in Liverpool the ship was re'flagged and renamed "Charming Polly," and continued on its way to "Novi Dalmacija," arriving there on Sunday of the Holy Rosary in 1737.
"Novi Dalmacija" turned out to be Philadelphia in William Penn's colony in North America. The family was faced with learning the language of the colony which was German. Whenever modern Americans insist that "America" should be english only speaking, I think about this experience and smile inside.
The colonials and the British troops who ran the place had some difficulties. The gunpowder they had might or might not always work. The brothers had brought with them from Home their water power technology. Soon they were in the business of grinding gunpowder with consistent grain which helped give the colonists the upper hand during the French and Indian War and helped give the Americans an upper hand during the American Revolution.
In those days, industrial accidents did not spawn lawsuits so much as they spawned lynchings. When the powder mill blew up, the surviving part of the family which was involved this enterprise departed. Along the way was an adventure with a trading post in Tennessee which was flooded out when the river rose. There was another adventure with road building for the US Government but for which the Government declined to pay them, so most of the family again packed up and left for Spain, which is to say - west of the Mississippi River. The old powder mill ironwork is in a small historical monument near Stover Missouri.
The portion of the family which was not part of the powder mill enterprise remained behind and eventually fell in with an Anabaptist religious sect. That branch of the family continued to speak primarily German and today they are mostly convinced they are German. Many of them have even "Germanized" the surname to "Beiler." My branch of the family retained the "y" because it worked better with the old way of writing which no one uses any more so our name doesn't even compute with modern croatian but there are a few people in the mountain ridges all around eastern Europe who still spell it like we do in latin letters.
A family member who made it to Texas had authority from the Spanish administration of Texas to operate a road from Stover, Missouri to Orehovac in Texas. Orehovac was later renamed "Walnut Springs" and still later "Seguin" after "Juan Seguin" a hero of the resistance to Mexico's unlawful attempt to conquer Texas. Some of this branch of the family owned land later involved in the Spindletop oil well which Antun Lučić, aka Anthony Lucas, engineered. That branch of the family still theoretically owns the Trinity River under a Spanish grant of the type which Texas honors to this day. No one wants to enforce that claim. Can you imagine how much it would cost to clean that River up to State and Federal standards?
My branch of the family mostly lived quietly in Central Missouri near the north end of the Texas road. Great grandfather had a smithy where he repaired wagons and farmed. Grandfather farmed, but my father left home to go to college. They lived in the middle of a German community but Grandmother would not allow anyone to speak on German around her. She said "If you are going to speak a foreign language, then you need to learn to speak english."
That was my father's side. Mother's side was a little more straightforward. The Vawter/Vauter/De Valletort/Dolonić (all the same name) family ran a trading venture between Konavle and Cornwall from about the twelfth century. When the Saracens burned them out in Cornwall in the sixteenth century, they emigrated to Virginia where they set up the first mechanized sawmill in North America.
My Father and Mother met in college. Mother was a little ahead of her time. In an era when women did not swim in public, mother helped organize a state wide women's swimming competition which she then won. School teachers were men but mother became a school teacher. She carried, and used, a pistol on her first teaching assignment. She was the first "bi-lingual" teacher in Texas, and helped pioneer "special education" here as well. The whole time she was leading the way she detested so called feminists.
The two of them had come to Texas to attend the Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth during the depression years. The school let Mother take classes side by side with Father and they both turned out to be fair Greek and Hebrew scholars. Afterward, they returned to Missouri for a while.
Along their second way to Texas, my father was a professor at Bacone Indian College in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where I was born. Father also served as a pastor to part of the Muskogee nation for a while. During an era when the government was bent on suppressing "Indian" languages, my father conducted worship and preached in the muskogee language.
Father had an opportunity to help start up what later became the University of Corpus Christi in Texas. At the same I had polio. The doctor said I was going to die, so they packed me in ice and came on to Texas. I lived.
I remember my first day of school. As soon as the class was settled in our seats, the teacher showed us a card about the color of well watered spring grass. She asked if anyone knew the name of the color. I raised my hand because I knew my colors. She asked if I could spell the name. "Yes ma'am! Zelena! Ve ej ere de ej!" Now how many kids do you know who can say the name in croatian and spell it on Spanish without blinking an eye at six years of age? The teacher was not impressed. Immediately, I was on the way to the principal's office. Fortunately for me, the principal was my father who right away taught me to speak only in english around "people." Of course then I became a very quiet person until I could sort out which word was in which language.
My parents kept looking for assignments in a town where I might hear some of the language in the community. We finally found a place where there were forty six languages spoken and there were a handful who spoke so I was able to hear a little. There were some radio stations also which had brief broadcasts but they were mostly in Czech. On the school yard we developed our own language - I suppose you would call it teksikanski. A classic example of teksikanski: "por favor, moviti tvoj karu." In english this would be: "please, move your car."
English prevailed in the classroom, and when we all went off to college we were scattered into an english speaking world, which even I mastered. Eventually I had eight years of schooling above high school and a graduate degree. Besides hebrew and greek of course, I mostly studied english and ways to effectively use english so when I tell you that english is a Slavic language, don't argue with me, I have the scholarship that gives me the authority to say that if I want.
I still write the names of nations with upper case letters and the names of their languages with lower case letters because I want you to know the difference between a Croatian person and the croatian language which he might speak. Learn my way and there will be less confusion, or you can just cringe if you want at the way I do it.
In between schooling, there was the US Air Force, a career as a salesman for a major Texas forest products company, and a brief stint with a company exporting forest products to Europe.
I met a woman who happily liked the same kind of music I like and who had a few cassette tapes of her own. In her youth she had sung with a group of Gospel singers in Kentucky and Indiana. She had always wanted to sing and dance on Broadway but that just had not worked out for her. After her first husband had died, she had a brief opportunity to sing "Off-Broadway" - about seven thousand kilometers "Off-Broadway." I have a recording of her singing a song my father wrote for my mother in croatian. It's delightful. Perhaps someday I will quietly slip it onto my YouTube channel.
We were married and had a very good life together. She was supportive of my return to school to complete my education and she supported my work as well. By this time, by the way, I was again with the Jevanđelski, or Lutheran as they are called here. I'm with the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod who think the background of their church is Saxon. Never mind that my Grandmother's people included the Junakać family who moved from Slavonija to Slovakia about the same time my father's family left. They moved from modern Slovakia to Saxony where their name changed to "Kaempfer" and were on the boat with the so called "Saxon Immigration" to America which became the roots of the LC-MS. Sigh. You would think people would check little details like that when they write history, wouldn't you?
A classmate from Concordia University in Austin once wrote in an "official" Church newspaper that Bach was a German and Bach wrote the basis of the music of the Lutheran church so to be a good Lutheran one had to adopt German culture. I sent him a link to Crown-Croatia and a link to some information on Primož Trubar. I haven't seen a word in print from him since that time. I think he is still in shock to discover that one of the top three or four Christian religious movements in the world has its roots in the Balkans in a place he probably didn't know where to find on the map. He probably also does not know the extent of the collection of Glagolitic material from this period in Croatia which is held by the Library at Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. Actually, most Croatians probably don't know how important our little culture has been to the world at large either.
Cancer found its way to Carole. She struggled with it for about five years. The more she struggled, the more she wanted to hear the music from Home. With all the medical bills we couldn't afford to buy much so I set out to find the music for her. First I discovered internet radio from Croatia and then someone suggested I look on YouTube. There I could build a playlist of the songs Carole especially liked and play them for her.
One person who came around in those times complained that we always had "that stuff" playing. He told me privately that I did not want to be Croatian because "those people" are always in the Berlin airport and they are dirty and smell bad. As though I could choose my heritage? I did not tell him that I know a baggage handler in his beloved airport and that unless my friend got sweaty he didn't get his baggage. In my family we were always taught that hard work and sweat were honorable and we did a lot of both.
Carole died during the evening of the Sunday of the Holy Rosary in 2006. That's also Croatian Independence Day. Since then, I've spent a lot of time on YouTube. I have developed my own channel, Canovals, http://www.youtube.com/user/CANOVALS which is now a fairly well recognized venue. Its not the largest, but the viewership is strengthening steadily and there are viewers from at least 130 countries. My goal there is primarily to promote Croatian musicians and Croatian culture and to keep this material accessible to Croatians in the diaspora, of whom I am one. I also want to attract non-Croatian people to our music. We have a treasure which needs to be known and appreciated.
One of my goals when I make a video is to somehow illustrate the text of the song. Perhaps this is my church training where the text is so important. Our poets have written wonderful poetry. I want people to see the story with their eyes and with their hearts while they hear it.
Through these efforts, I've been blessed to meet and to work with several of our Croatian entertainers such as Džo Maki and Nenad Bach. It is a pleasure and an honor to be around such men. This has been one of the richest times of my life.
ALL I WANT IS FREEDOM - Nenad Bach Band video: reflects the quest for Freedom coupling the Crna Madona with Liberty
After World War II, in America parents began to teach phone numbers and addresses to their children so they knew how to get home. David Byler's parents taught him a little "poem" so he could find his way Home. Home, almost three hundred years ago, was a little town in western Slavonia.
David had a career in international forest products sales and transportation. He has had another career as a Lutheran Pastor which continues at the present. David is currently producing music videos with which he hopes to attract both Croatians of all kinds and non-Croatians to the priceless treasure of Croatian culture.
Mravica i Golubica - Djed Ranger video: animated story telling
Radio, Television, and YouTube
I have informally extended a project about Croatian internet radio in which I was invited to participate by Nenad Bach and which we talked about on the last post. There is a lot of information floating around which suggests that many people are moving away from traditional radio / television to the internet. Google's whole business model is based on the notion that this move has already been underway and is substantial.
Over the years, I've had a few modest experiences with broadcasting on radio/television in Southern Illinois, Central Tennessee and in South Texas. In each case the population within the reception area amounted to about three million and the stations presumed from their studies that the audience might be around 300,000. The fact is that for any particular broadcast we didn't know how many listened. We knew that some people tuned in because they wrote letters.
It is difficult to compare "traditional" transmissions to internet transmissions where we can have hard data. On YouTube for example - we know how many times a video was clicked and we know in the aggregate how many minutes people stayed on that video. The algorithm which YouTube currently uses to "rank" a particular video takes into account "engagement" which includes "comments","like / dislike", and now its important to somehow keep the viewer on the video all the way through.
On YouTube we do not actually know where someone is located. We know only where they say they are located so I did not take location into account. My specifications were simple: channels which broadcast a fair amount of music by Croatian performers were included. In this group were channels operated by what appear to be Croatians in the same five continents where we found internet radio, as well as Slovenia and Serbia. A few I know to be operating from France, Germany, and Sweden.
A few channels have dropped out in the last few years. A few more have been hit with DCMA complaints and have been dropped from YouTube. If memory serves, those may have amounted to as many as forty million views between them. I did not take into consideration channels with under a hundred thousand views.
Among the remaining top seventy Croatian/Croatian friendly channels the views amount to about 300,000,000 since 2006. I've informally kept up with the top 20 or so channels for several years and I'm aware that the vast majority of those views have come in the last twenty-four to thirty months.
This sounds impressive until you realize one Korean fellow made one video with one song which has gone over a billion views. If you discount that one as a fluke it still sounds impressive until you look around just a little. As a "group" we've accomplished a lot but we have a long long way to go.
There was a time when all one needed was a killer song to get a lot of views. That's still important, but now it works best with a video which keeps the viewer "engaged" throughout the song. It is no longer sufficient just to have a lot of music on a channel and it is no longer sufficient to have a wonderful piece of music and a killer video although all that is important. Now it requires that the broadcaster continually "engage" the audience and it requires that we find ways to find and engage our potential audience. It also requires that we engage the performers and that we engage the companies which distribute the music.
Can I tell you how to do any of this? No I can't. I am still learning, but there is plenty of help. Lisa Irby has information on YouTube for us. You will have to follow your nose among her extensive information and you will have to adapt it to suit your style but her information is solid and a good place to start. Lisa also has a blog with a world of information on it for us. This isn't about promoting Lisa, this is about learning how to promote us and our performers. YouTube provides us some help also.
We have to out perform radio. We have to out perform Television. We may have to use FaceBook, Twitter, blogging of some sort, or whatever is available to us. Oh yes, we might even have to somehow use some radio and television along the way. We have to use every legitimate means at our disposal to accomplish this task.
We are broadcasters. We are DJ's at the party. We have a product to sell. That product is the music of our beloved Homeland and her singers where ever they are in the world. Its our job to sell this product and not the job of the performers and it is not the job of the Record Houses. The performers task is to compose and perform. The record companies job is to make the records and count the sales. We are the sales people.
We are closer to the people, we are closer to the market than anyone else could ever hope to be at this time. If we want to keep our jobs and continue to have access to the product, then we must succeed at our task. We must engage as many Croatians in Croatia and in the diaspora as we can. We must engage other people as well. The Japanese already know "U boj, U boj," so we have a good start on this project.
Along the way we must discover and help our performers know how to make a little money on the work we do to promote their efforts. The record houses must see an upswing in sales. We must put the music out there so people of all kinds want to hear it and want to buy it. That's the task.
Yes, we are competitors but we also have a common goal - our Homeland, our culture. We can either play around with this or we can get after it and have a great time doing it. Are you ready?
Do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,
Čerge - Zlatko Pejaković video: attempts to reflect the pathos of a man and his lady who is a violin
Kad uistinu voliš ženu - Davor Radolfi & Ritmo Loco video: abstracts with melts into constellations as seen from Croatia
PRIJATELJI STARI GDJE STE - Tereza Kesovija
Neću krivit cili svit - Mladen Grdović
Hosanna - Međugorje
On je Ljubav koja ljubi - Luka Balvan
U RANU ZORU - Mladen Grdović
Pusti selo neka priča - Hrašćanski čestitari
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