“Do not listen to turbo-folk- die of natural causes”-Belgrade graffiti.
I find myself in a very awkward situation when I need to write about something I do not like and I do not truly understand. And that something, that I do not like and do not understand, torments me, haunts me and disturbs me. It is what some call music, “folk music”, and what, as I can see, many like and perceive as music. I will try to clarify some terms related to that dreary phenomenon that became music for many of my people. I will start with how little I know about this phenomenon. It is very simple: as soon as I hear zurla and the howling, bellowing and grimacing, if I cannot exclude myself- which I seldom succeed- I get up swiftly and I flee. Once I slipped out, and got some fresh air- I would feel a relief. I tried to force myself to listen to one of those kitsch- products, because as I said earlier, it is what many of my people call music, – but I could not. Life and my understanding of dignity would not let me do it. I truly want to die of natural causes.
Someone might ask, what does some preacher care about what someone thrums somewhere, and with what quasi music and imbecile howling of the words (“Shallow stream, water deep”), and pornographic undulating many of his people pour their woes or joy. I, in fact, care about it very much, because there isn’t such thing that, no matter how insignificant it seems, does not have significant consequences. Craftsmen, brokers, those that know how to manipulate human souls using everything, even music, are writing articles and they insist that Milosevic used turbo folk to remove his people from modern music trends (They probably mean punk, rock, heavy metal and this misery called rap) so he could mobilize masses through quasi patriotic lyrics for the Balkan war. They are talking about turbo folk as the “sound grounds for the crime”.
When the demons convinced me that there is a possibility of musical and other type of dumbing down, I didn’t have any choice but to accept that musical removal of Serbian people from their roots is for the purpose of a greater plan to make them soft and indifferent. My people fell ill a long time ago, separated from themselves, lost self-consciousness and dignity, lost their path, and now stray lost, taking everything that is offered. Dragutin Gostuski, once said: “Like people-like music”. “Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness– only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil.” (Isaiah 1:5, 1:6) As such, bemused and groggy, these people were given a fishhook using this quasi music as bait, and they bit. What is presented as music to my people is in fact poison which dilutes their blood and weakens their spine so they could be removed from their productive work and allured into futile daydreaming and drunken reverie.
While passing through Serbian country, regardless of what side of the separating river I was, I saw weeds up to roofs, unharvested fields; I could not hear the song of harvesters. People fell into lethargy of inexistent Hollywood life. Those dreadful TV sets offer to poor impoverished and hungry masses illusory escape from troubling reality. TV offers rosy dreams, and it is a lot easier to some fellow to flick through one dream to another with the remote than to tackle a job. “Don’t worry be happy”, and we couldn’t care less that we are falling deeper down into abyss. “Just as the Americans contaminate the whole planet with their “Hollywood poop” and at the same time make huge amounts of money, some Serbian newly made businessmen decided to make profit on limitless human stupidity and bad taste of uneducated people.”(Mikica Ilic) Denuded so called singers perk up in some monstrous turbo-cars, hang around in star adorned hotel bars; they flaunt, they teasingly undulate on beds and sofas in their or who knows whose big and luxurious houses and mansions. They are the ones that bring women down to sexual-hedonistic objects. Easy money, fast cars and all sorts of enjoyment are promoted and celebrated. “Take all that life offers you”. “Coca-cola, Marlboro, Suzuki/ discotheques, guitars, bouzouki/ that’s life, that’s not a commercial/ no one lives better than we do.” Run away from the kind of man they are promoting “Big heart, strong fists/ they sit in dark surrounded by smoke/ I love such boys/ those dangerous, terrifying and strong boys.”
In those days of real bravery, not to mention the days of minstrels and singers with big and strong voices, when people were fed from an early age with bravery and courage, in those healthy times our music was healthy too. With music people expressed their deepest emotions; subtle things were implied and not explicitly said or demonstrated. The healthy, dashing, manly Serbian kolo was danced. Those who weren’t capable of keeping it up with the rest in kolo, were better off staying out of it. Nowadays, my people shake and move to two and a half musical notes of some heartbreaking tune in an infinitely boring and long line. In my days, I watched at a fair, a bear forced with a whip of a sooty Roma move with more grace in his dance.
It all started innocently, I think in the sixties. The first crows and ravens of the so called newly composed folk music still were able to squawk a few notes of the true folk music. That helped take the thirsty people over the water and to finally lead them to kitsch and nonsense of turbo folk. The Seljuks brought zurlas and kettledrums along with their troops. If by any chance one of them returned from the dead, he wouldn’t know where he found himself, in Anatolia or Serbia. In Serbian country one can hear zurlas, cheeping and peeping, yelling and howling-everything but pure Serbian singing.
Ratko Bozovic talks about “colonization of soul and musicality”. When you remove the rhyming words from turbo folk songs, such as “Djurdjevdan”, what you hear as music could be heard anywhere from Azerbaijan to Tehran. “Those are stolen, rewritten songs from Greeks, Turks, and who knows what other nation. And we are good tailors -said Saban Saulic- so we take those songs, rearrange them and present them as ours, with words in Serbian language. It’s often enough to watch “Viva” or some other satellite channel to see and hear Tarkan, Turkish singer who sings a different version of what was presented here as something new.
We can’t blame Turks for everything. I think that our turbos are worse than Turks. I read once that Turkish Ambassador in Belgrade said that it “bothered him that some low quality music with oriental tune was called “Turkish music”, and that they had the same problem in Turkey, but they called it there “Iranian music”.
But those male singing crybabies really get on my nerves. They could water the fields with their tears. (“Don’t cry on my doorstep, so my door doesn’t get moldy”-turbo folk). They cried over everything that was worth something. They started with Kosovo and Kosovo trumpets, Serbian flags and unseen glory, then moved to Krajina, one and then the other, and I now fear they are going to move to Sumadija. Woe is us, because places they extol, will not hear a song for a long time. They will die, but they won’t give up Krajina. They challenge and defy all. (“Some want Croatia/ to expand to Zemun and Drina/ but they are afraid to come close to Knin and Glina/ No one dares to offend the Serbian glory/ nor to place their flag on the Knin tower.” Borislav Zoric, Licanin, (Serbian child from head to toe). Now they bawl and ask their women to cry because they cannot overcome Raca. “I can’t come to you; they are not letting me pass”. Those who visited Raca, have probably seen some water there; I am not even sure myself whether it is a small Syrmia river or a pond. They swore to their country, but they fled from it all over the world. “Oh Serbia, our motherland, don’t be sad, just call and all the eagles will give their lives for you.”
The nonsense and the vulgarity of our rhyme makers is not even worth to be put on paper. It is a long line of their imbecilities. But that vulgarity with all its nonsense has a purpose: dumbing down the people. When you make people dozy, soft and weepy, all you need is to dumb them down and spread more McDonald’s restaurants across the Serbian country, so they can eat from paper plates and drink the sugary Coke from paper cups, and then you can manipulate them as much as you like, break them, bend them, tie them in knots, but they will redeem their weakness with those two to three notes. This is why I do not like these unsound quasi musical rhyme makers and why the turbanization of my country hurts me and haunts me.