As we wait with biated breath for the semi-finals of the World Cup, here’s an absolutely cracking stat for you – if either Germany or Spain go on to win the tournament (which, with no offence intended to Nagrarok, they probably will), then the only team in the entire tournament to be unbeaten will be New Zealand. Fancy that. Switzerland – already covered way back in part 7, were Spain’s conquerors in the first game, but Serbia, the only team to beat Germany, have remained untouched until now. Let’s change that.
The thing I find most immediately fascinating about Serbian music throughout the ages is the unique fascination with epic poetry – it’s certainly not the part of the world you would first think of when epic poetry comes to mind (Greece wins out there, of course), but where the Greeks kept their words and their music generally separate, Balkan culture, and particularly that of the Serbs, has sought to integrate the two. As a result, it’s now as much a musical genre as a literary one. This piece of music is based on the poem “The Building of Skadar”, a religious text of unknown authorship, and a traditional Serbian folk melody.
Unfortunately, not all Serbian music is as high-minded and moving. Some people react to major world events by trying to reflect the devastation in their own art, while some ramp up the feel-good factor in an effort to re-dress the balance – and when Yugoslavia fell to pieces, Serbia certainly did the latter with turbo-folk. Don’t let the misleadingly cool name fool you – turbo-folk is actually highly sexualized, disposable sugar-rush dance pop dressed up with a few Balkan folk influences, and its existence makes Serbia the nation that comes closest to having a Eurovision entry at #1 every week. Believe it or not, the woman behind this hulking pile of ridiculous campness has sold 10 million records. Her boobs may have helped (although, let’s face it, she’s no Byanka).
If you prefer something a little more credible, you’ll be glad to learn that Serbia has its own hip-hop subculture. As with most nations, it has its roots in the early to mid 1980s, when Run-DMC and Beastie Boys began to find fame outside of America for the first time, but it wasn’t until the mid-90s that a true scene began to develop – one that proved to be a little more hardcore than most, thanks in no small part to the gutteral nature of the Serbian language. Mainstream exposure was stop-start, as one should probably expect for a genre so prone to political activism and social nihilism in a country at war, but its place in Serb culture was cemented with the arrival of the influential label Bassivity in 2000. This is a track by one of their flagships acts, Belgrade Syndicate (or if you want to be proper about it, Beogradski Sindikat).