The Balkan Turbo Folk Musical Revolution

Artwork By Rusudan Topuria

Ok, so before we begin talking about old Balkan song lyrics such as “It is time for the Serbian Revenge, all the Mosques will be blown away” I need to first explain some history. To sum it all up as briefly as possible. In 1989 the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was on the verge of falling apart. Essentially, many groups of people with common ethnicities began to form communities, and in 1991 they felt it was in their best interest to separate from Yugoslavia to form their own states. What resulted from this are two new states: Slovenia and Croatia. Only one year after, the state of Bosnia and Herzegovia was also formed and war between Bosnia and Croatia ensued. The war lasted for about 3 years and by the end of it both countries barely even knew what they were fighting for. Probably something about ethnicity and national pride. Who knows. However, after Yugoslavia was essentially gutted and quartered, the last portion of Yugoslavia became known as Serbia.

Now you might be wondering “How is any of this information relevant to these creepy Balkan songs?” Let’s just say that after the states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia formed, they had a little bit of an identity crisis and began trying to re-invent themselves. One of the ways they tried doing this was through music. The genre of music that came oozing out of this cultural identity reform is called turbo folk, it was known to be created by Rambo Amadeus.

To be more specific, most of the famous artists that were a part of this musical revolution were under a record label called Super Ton. Super Ton was a Serbian-based record label and produced turbo folk music from all the states that were born from fractured Yugoslavia. However, don’t be mistaken that all turbo folk music sounds the same. All the countries involved in the creation of turbo folk music had their own cultural twist. 

Serbian turbo folk uses a lot of accordion with high notes accompanied by lyrics that have to do with being at war with a specific country, how they (the Serbs) are divine, how they dislike a specific country, and how they will destroy specific religions. Check out this example of what I’m talking about by clicking here. As you can see within 41 seconds of the video the singer sings about the Serbian revenge, the destruction of Mosques, and how Bosnia should beware Serbia. All these disturbing lyrics always seemed to be coupled with an ironically upbeat melody that makes the music just that much creepier.

Bosnian and Herzek turbo folk music varies but usually consists of two styles: Rock and roll or traditional Islamic chant-like melodies. Their lyrics usually consist of talking about Bosnia and Herzegovina being the best country, being Muslim, how Bosnia and Herzegovia will never be taken away from the Bosnian and Herzek people, etc.. This obviously differs greatly from the extremely hateful turbo folk music made in Serbia. Nevertheless, The Bosnians still seem to have gone a bit overkill with how much they express their love for Bosnia. Click here to get an idea of what this music sounds like.

Now, you may be disappointed about this, but sadly Croatia doesn’t have a huge turbo folk scene. However, that doesn’t mean that it is non-existent. Hints of turbo folk music can be found in Croatian military marching songs and in somewhat strange cinematic music videos of Croatian soldiers dramatically singing. Click here to listen to one of these Croatian turbo folk masterpieces. Lyrics such as “We will be here, now and after the war” and “Fire your Thompson, Kalashnikov, and Zbrojovka.” (In the second quote the singer is referring to different types of guns) are littered throughout the turbo folk songs that Croatia produces. 

In short, turbo folk music is quite the genre, and it can get a little out of hand at times. But it is important to note that the songs mentioned above were published between 1980 and 1990. Since then turbo folk music has evolved into a whole new organism that incorporates wholesome lyrics and groovy melodies that really get your toes tappin’.

But what do you think? Did you listen to the songs? Were you shocked by what you discovered? Comment Below

Sources

My Obsession With Wartime Yugoslav Music (By snakelover23). (2019, December 6). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8EQllZFqLg

Squats, S. (2017, September 15). Sve Dzamije u Oblake Lete – Miro Semberac. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lq4_4o6K0VE&feature=youtu.be

EURO VISION SONG CONEST WINNER ! KEBAB STRONG ! (2014, May 3). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-1DaI2nOfU

Croatian Turbofolk RE-UPLOADED!!! (2019, August 12). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN1oZifRv28

Scott, A. (2019, September 2). Turbo-folk: Pop Music in the Crucible of Balkan History. Not Even Past. https://notevenpast.org/turbo-folk-pop-music-in-the-crucible-of-balkan-history/

Sergei Ganz
Ever since I can remember I always loved looking around corners and seeing what laid on the other side. I guess that's why I ended up as an expat living in Europe. Who Knows. CEO/Co-Founder of The Avant-Guard Media Communications & Digital Media at IE University, Spain

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