Dunav was born in 1964 through the meeting of four people who became its Founders. From school days, Henry Morris had been keen on folk singing, including songs from other countries. One day he heard the Yugoslav song that we now call 'Vranjanka' and was hooked from that moment. He then found people in London doing Bulgarian dancing to old tapes and records, and he longed for live music to dance to. He met John Baldwin, who felt the same way, and they brought in a few other musicians and had a go at learning Balkan dance tunes. John first fell for Balkan music in 1952 when he was 17, wandering around a youth camp in Yorkshire at 2 a.m. and coming across four people dancing to a 78 rpm record. He learned they were from a group that did Bulgarian dancing in London. He joined them, first learning the dances, and soon picked up the music on his mandolin.
The next important meeting was between John and a young Indian called Narendra Kotiyan. Naren was born in Bombay (Mumbai) and had seen Scottish dancers at the kirk next to his school, and when he came to live in London in 1957 he got involved in Scottish and Russian dancing, met the Society for International Folk Dancing and the Živko Firfov Yugoslav dance group. He picked up a drum and hit it. Now Naren was hooked, and when he learned about the little Balkan music group he joined them.
Accordionist Susan Coppard had discovered Greek music and wrote to Henry's group asking if others in London were interested in playing Balkan music, and indeed they were. They called themselves Dunav, after the name given in several Balkan languages to the River Danube. Their first concert was for an Indian social club at the School of Pharmacy in Brunswick Square, and their first major public performance was the Balkan Festival in St Pancras Town Hall, now the Camden Centre, for which Naren in particular worked extremely hard and made many useful contacts with London-based Balkan folk-dance groups.
The members in the first year were Henry Morris, John Baldwin, Narendra Kotiyan, Susan Coppard, David Lev and Frank Beer. Over the years many musicians and singers came and went, and a couple came back to Dunav after a break of several years. Here is a list of members whose time with Dunav has ranged from a couple of years to several decades, in order of arrival: Jack Davis, Cliff Beck, Geoff Sole, Elizabeth and Nadia Letsky, Dragan Miletić, Paula Gečević, Tony Brewer, David Johnson, Brian Dowsett, Caroline Thomas, Hamdi Ataoǧlu, Gonca Sanal, David Wells, Donald Lee, Lilija Zobens, Oliver Baldwin, Dominic Coltman, Ileana Shirley-Smith, Dana Berciu, Refida Everett, Lucy Castle, Judy Greenwell, Belinda Sykes, Roger New, Cahit Baylav, Gary Bridgewood, Dessi Stefanova, Paul Miller, Mary Hastilow, Jenny Dearn, Çiǧdem Aslan, Eirini Sanoudaki.
All these people contributed in their special ways, bringing in new repertoire, new instruments to diversify the 'Dunav sound', such as okarina, bouzouki and cymbalom, advising on the musical styles from their regional knowledge, and enhancing our concerts both aurally and visually.
At the end of 2023, having existed for 60 glorious years, Dunav quietly retired as a group, due to health and age-related problems.
The 'little drummer boy' logo, above left, was originally designed by the late Adi Diklish, a good friend of Dunav in the early days. She also made the embroidered black jackets seen in many of our photographs, and still worn today, though often open down the front because they fit less well due, presumably, to shrinkage. On the Silver Jubilee cassette sleeve he has even matured and sports a moustache!