…or New Yugoslavism in Contemporary Popular Music in Former Yugoslavia
Parallel to Yugonostalgic enjoyment of Yugoslav-era music across the region, another related musical phenomenon emerged in the 1990s: original music glorifying Yugoslavia.
In this episode of Remembering Yugoslavia: the music of New Yugoslavism.
Thanks to the generosity of their creators, performers, and record labels, the episode features 12 songs:
- Zaklonišče Prepeva – “Jugoslavija Blues” (1998)
- Zabranjeno Pušenje – “Jugo 45” (1999)
- Tijana Dapčević – “Sve je isto samo njega nema” (2005)
- Magnifico – “Land of Champions” (2007)
- HZA – “Dragi Tito” (2007)
- Mirko – “Druže stari” (2011)
- Gužva u Bajt (GUB) – “Jugoslavija” (2009)
- Roy de Roy – “Titovka” (2011)
- Priki – “Yustalgija” (2012)
- Dubioza Kolektiv – “Walter” (2013)
- Željko Vasić & Ana Bebić – “Jugoslavija” (2015)
- Amadeus – “Jugoslavija” (2015)
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Episode Transcript (and More)
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[JINGLE – ALTERNATE VERSION]
PETER KORCHNAK: This is Remembering Yugoslavia, the show exploring the memory of a country that no longer exists. I’m your host Peter Korchnak.
Wherever you travel around former Yugoslavia, except perhaps Kosovo, you’ll hear Yugoslav-era music on the radio or on various compilations or at festivals, parties, and concerts, including reunion tours. There are in fact radio stations that play exclusively or at least predominantly Yugoslav-era popular music. It’s all one sonic memoryscape.
Of course, 30-plus-year-old songs on the radio or band reunions aren’t all that unusual around the world. But in the countries of former Yugoslavia, listening to music dating back to the socialist period can carry political connotations.
In some republics more than others, socialist Yugoslavia was either scrubbed from official history as if it never existed or as if it had no impact on the present, or it was vilified, as the prison of nations, as the communist dictatorship, what have you. Remember what the historian Hrvoje Klasić said, back in Episode 10, “Croatia’s History Illness,”
HRVOJE KLASIĆ: Everything what happened between 1945 and 1990 is percepted [sic] as a bad time, as a prison, especially for Croatians. So because of that, everything connected with Yugoslavia and communism became bad. So today, it’s very hard to talk about good aspects of that 45-year period.
PETER KORCHNAK: Listening to Yugoslav-era music has been viewed as an expression of Yugonostalgia or as a subversive political statement, expressing opposition to the nationalist and capitalist politics of the present. Recall what the Slovene scholar Martin Pogačar said in Episode 6, “Yugoslavia as Cultural Subversion.”
MARTIN POGAČAR: Everybody who would say anything positive about Yugoslavia was labeled Yugonostalgic.
PETER KORCHNAK: —very much a negative label, almost an insult.
Parallel to these developments another related musical phenomenon emerged in the 1990s: original music glorifying Yugoslavia.
In this the 20th episode of Remembering Yugoslavia: the music of New Yugoslavism.
Sexy Young Pioneer women, Tito, and Valter also make repeated appearances.
PETER KORCHNAK: Thanks to the generosity of their creators and performers, I have 12 songs of New Yugoslavism on the playlist for you today, the chief reason for this episode’s extraordinary length.
To make sense of this phenomenon, I’ve recruited the help of various sources. The main analysis comes from the 2013 book Rock’n’Retro: New Yugoslavism in Contemporary Popular Music in Slovenia by Mitja Velikonja. This episode’s title is courtesy of this superstar of Balkanologist and Yugoslavist studies and an all around good guy. He told me he wanted the book to be called “Sex, Drugs, and Red Stars” but his editors weren’t too impressed. I’ll call out other sources accordingly. There actually isn’t all that much written on the subject.
According to Mitja, New Yugoslavism is the “ideological discourse of imaginary Yugoslavia that materialized only after its physical counterpart had been destroyed.” It is a “construction of images relating to the Yugoslav political system, social order, cultural production, everyday life, and Partisan fighters’ resistance.” It is found in Yugonostalgia, cyber communities, websites, retro-marketing, first-hand memories, second-hand images by post-Yugoslav generations, and “music that speaks about ‘those times.’”
New Yugoslavism stands against not one but two Others: the Balkans and capitalism. So Yugoslav socialism versus ethno-nationalism of the successor states and neoliberalism of their economies. Yugoslavia’s modern, urban, multicultural, egalitarian self versus the backward, rural, chauvinist, patriarchal, self. Rock’n’roll versus narodna muzika and turbofolk.
The dozen represent a cross-section of New Yugoslavist music. These are songs I managed to get permissions for. I’ve embedded their videos and lyrics and their translations as well as a number of other songs in the episode blog post which also contains the transcript and which you can find at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast. That said, even with those additional tracks, New Yugoslavist music is but a small note in the overall musicscape in the region.
I’m using all of these songs with permission, from artists themselves and from their record companies. Whether they’re a rapper from a small town in Slovenia releasing albums independently or a top Yugoslav act from Sarajevo working with major labels, they all were so generous as to let me play these songs for you for free. So please buy their music! I’ve included links to purchase tracks and albums in the episode blog post (they’re mostly Amazon, Apple Music, and Bandcamp FYI).
One last and perhaps the most important thing: This episode, like all the past and upcoming episodes of Remembering Yugoslavia are brought to you by…you. Thank you to everyone who has signed up to support me and Remembering Yugoslavia on Patreon.
Today I welcome new patrons Ana, Mikal, Rebecca, and Stacy. If you like the show and would like to support it with your hard-earned cash in 2021 and beyond, join these and other generous people at Patreon.com/RememberingYugoslavia.
PETER KORCHNAK: Though the songs of New Yugoslavism are original and made from the late 1990s on, they echo a Yugoslavist strand of pop and rock in the 70s and especially the 80s as the country hurtled toward disintegration. In socialist Yugoslavia, Western-influenced pop and rock music represented a generational response to the dominant culture. Rather than fighting it like the governments in the Eastern Bloc, the party quickly moved to neutralize its political potential and incorporated it into the mainstream. There was also a strong current or tradition of popular music glorifying Yugoslavia, Tito, Partisans, socialism, from major acts playing original compositions to alternative, punk, or new wave bands covering Partisan or revolutionary songs. It is in this latter musical relay that the music of New Yugoslavism carries the baton.
Our musical journey today begins in the late 1990s with two songs whose emotional register underscores the charges of Yugonostalgia.
Zaklonišče Prepeva, which translates roughly as Shelter Singing, is a Slovenian band that plays Yugo rock. Rather than Slovenian, they sing in Serbo-Croatian, sending a clear message about their neo-Yugoslavist leanings.
The song “Jugoslavija Blues” is the bonus track on the 1998 album Novo Vreme, Stare Dileme, or New Time, Old Dilemmas, which is in itself very telling and which is in fact the song’s opening line. On the album’s cover the band poses before a red flag featuring a yellow hammer and sickle inside a five-pointed star. Visual references to socialism like these are a common characteristic of neo Yugoslavist music. On top of that the album contains a cover version of the 1978 generational anthem, “Računajte na nas” or “Count on Us” as in, you, the communist party, can count on us, the youth. You heard a cover of the song at the end of the last episode “Happy Birthday, Yugoslavia!”
The neo-Yugoslavist heart of the song beats in the chorus variations: “We’ll mess everyone up, from Washington to Rome / Long live Yugoslavia (They used to say) / Live happily in freedom, let our love guide you / Yugoslavia” or “Death to Clinton and Jacques Chirac, We’ll cut everyone’s head off / Long live Yugoslavia (They used to say) / Live happily in freedom, let Tito lead you along the way / Yugoslavia.” The anti-Western sentiment reflects a common charge in the region that Western powers were behind or at least did not prevent Yugoslavia’s disintegration. A whole another story; for now, we’ll let our love guide us, Yugoslavia.
“Jugoslavija Blues” by Zaklonišče Prepeva (1998)
Lyrics of “Jugoslavija Blues”
Novo vreme, stare dileme / New times, old dilemmas Niko nije prvi bez malo krvi / No one is the first without a little blood Sta če nama struja, munja i oluja / What do we need electricity, lightning and storm Mi smo vlast, i svaka nama čast / We are the government, and every part of us
Bilo je slovenaca, bilo je hrvata / There were Slovenes, there were Croats I Tito bio naš dok nije bile rata / And Tito was ours until there was a war Neka sad svi čuju, pa makar i psuju / Let everyone hear now, even if they swear Neko se duva, a ko nas čuva? / Someone is puffing up, and who is guarding us?
Jebačemo mater svima, od Vašingtona pa do Rima / We’ll mess everyone up, from Washington to Rome Živela Jugoslavija (…Nekad govorili su) / Long live Yugoslavia (They used to say) Živi srećna u slobodi, ljubav naša nek te vodi / Live happy in freedom, let our love guide you Jugoslavijo / Yugoslavia
Vlast i dalje živi a narod se krivi / The government is still alive and the people are to blame Batine su svuda, vremena luda / Beatings are everywhere, times are crazy Ko to tvrdi da sve to smrdi / Who claims that it all stinks To oni lažu pa zato kažu / That’s what they’re lying about, so they say
Smrt Klintonu i Žak Širaku / Death to Clinton and Jacques Chirac Skinučemo glavu svaku / We’ll take each one’s head off Živela Jugoslavija (…Nekad govorili su) / Long live Yugoslavia (They used to say) Živi srećna u slobodi, ljubav naša nek te vodi / Live happy in freedom, let our love guide you Jugoslavijo / Yugoslavia
Gde nas vodi ljubav stara / Where old love leads us Tamo dole do Vardara / Down there to Vardar Živela Jugoslavija (Nekad smo pevali) Long live Yugoslavia (We used to sing) Živi srećna u slobodi, Tito putem nek te vodi / Live happily in freedom, let Tito lead you along the way Jugoslavijo / Yugoslavia
- Buy music by Zaklonišče Prepeva here
PETER KORCHNAK: The next band is perhaps the most famous in today’s lineup. Zabranjeno Pušenje, or Smoking Prohibited, is a legendary Yugoslav band founded in 1980 in Sarajevo and still going strong. Their 1999 song “Jugo 45” or “Yugo 45” became the band’s fastest-selling single. Over a distinct nostalgic buildup it narrates in the band’s signature storytelling style a story of the titular car. The Yugo is a stand-in for Yugoslavia and the story a sketch of its history in Bosnia and Herzegovina, from socialism to war to the post-Dayton world.
“They say the wonders of the world are the African pyramids, the great rivers of India but no miracle equalled the one when the old man parked in the garden the Yugo 45,” the song begins.
Then there was a party, the whole neighborhood came and half the family. The family used the car for those classic Yugoslav past times like shopping trips to Trieste or vacations at the Adriatic. Friends and relatives, who with their names and forms of address are stand-ins for a Bosniak, a Croat, and a Serb, used the car, too, to sell apples at the market, to drive the pregnant wife to the hospital, to visit prostitutes.
But then, all of that stopped and people could no longer fraternize. The family fled. They returned to live in an apartment in a different town. The old man, he became a joke and a cantonal minister.
But, the narrator concludes, “In my head I still have the same picture, the same flash: the old house, the small garden, and in it the Yugo 45.”
The video supports the story with heavy retro styling like furniture, clothes like Young Pioneer uniforms, and newsreel footage from Tito to the notorious presidential trio signing the Dayton agreement.
The message is clear: life was better before. Along with retro, this critical comparison of the present with the past is an important characteristic of neo-Yugoslavist music, persisting like that image of the Yugo.
“Jugo 45” by Zabranjeno pušenje (1999)
Lyrics of “Jugo 45”
Kažu da su čuda svijeta / They say they are the wonders of the world Piramide Afričke / Pyramids of Africa Kažu da su čuda svijeta / They say they are the wonders of the world Velike rijeke Indije / The great rivers of India Al’ nijedno čudo nije / But no miracle Bilo ravno onome / Was equal to that Kad je stari uparkir’o / When the old man parked U bašču Jugu 45 / In the garden a Yugo 45
Skupio se sav komšiluk / The whole neighborhood gathered I pola rodbine / And half the relatives Ono pola nije moglo / That half couldn’t Nije moglo od muke / It couldn’t be from the pain Stara napravila mezu / The old woman made mezze Ispekla ‘urmašice / Baked ‘urmašice Stari otis’o u granap / The old man went to the store Po još logistike / For more logistics
Bilo je to dobro vrijeme / It was a good time Sve na kredit, sve za raju, jarane / All on credit, all for heaven, buddy U auto naspi čorbe / We loaded soup in the car Pa u Trst po farmerke / And went to Trieste to shop for jeans Bilo je to dobro vrijeme / It was a good time Te na izlet, te malo na more / We went on trips, or sometimes to the sea U kući puno smijeha / Lots of laughter in the house U bašći Jugo 45 / In the garden a Yugo 45
Vozio ga čika Franjo / Uncle Franjo drove it Da proda jabuke / To sell apples Vozio komšija Momo / Neighbor Momo drove it Da mu zenu porode / To take his pregnant wife to the hospital Vozio ga dajdža Mirso / Uncle Mirso drove it Kad je iš’o u kurvaluke / When he went to the whores Vozio ga malo i ja / I drove it a little too Kad bi mazn’o ključeve / When I could steal the keys
Virio sam jedno veče / One evening I peeked Iz bašće čuo glasove / And heard voices from the garden Momo, Franjo, dajdža Mirso / Momo, Franjo, Uncle Mirso Nešto tiho govore / Were talking quietly Onda pružiše si ruke / Then they held out their hands Na komšiju se ne može / You can’t go to neighbors anymore Onda popiše po jednu i razguliše / Then they signed it and stripped Izgledao je baš mali to veče / It looked really small that night Naš Jugo 45 / Our Yugo 45
Pobjegli smo jednog jutra / We fled one morning S dvije kese najlonske / With two nylon bags Prvo malo Lenjinovom / First on Lenin Street Pa preko Ljubljanske / Then via Ljubljana Street Danas nam je mnogo bolje / Today we are much better Novi grad I novi stan / New town and new apartment Stari nam je postao fora / The old man became a joke Kantonalni ministar / And a cantonal minister
Ali meni je u glavi / But in my head Uvijek ista slika, isti fleš / Always the same picture, the same flash Stara kuća, mala bašča / Old house, small garden I u njoj Jugo 45 / And in it a Yugo 45
PETER KORCHNAK: In this century, a Skopje-born, Belgrade-residing pop star Tijana Dapčević scored a huge one in 2005 with “Sve je isto, samo njega nema” or “Everything’s the Same, Only He Is Gone” which remains one of the best examples of New Yugoslavism.
There’s the construction of the song: each stanza is in one of the ex-Yugoslav languages, often using regionalisms, slang, or exaggerated accents. And it’s about that constituent peoples, with cultural references and common stereotypes.
The Bosnian recalls how he was Valter and built a railroad in work actions but now democracy isn’t going too well. The Croat watches a famous soap opera and there’s a linden tree. The Montenegrin is lazy, wanting each day to be a non-working day except Fridays on which he wants to make preparations for the weekend, and he also wants Podgorica to be a country’s capital (at the time of the song’s release, Montenegro was a year away from independence). The Macedonian still keeps Tito’s picture on the wall. The Slovene sates his nostalgia by traveling to other former republics for coffee or to lay wreaths at Tito’s grave. The Serb complains his country no longer has the sea.
He in the chorus, “Everything is the same only he is gone” is of course Tito in a godlike pronoun. And, in an awesome Yugonostalgic music reference “Brega has put Bijelo Dugme back together,” meaning Goran Bregović, the main man of that legendary Yugoslav band, reunited them for yet another tour.
Then there’s the video. Dapčević portrays a newscaster wearing a different stereotype-evoking costume to match each nationality. During the chorus, she performs American Idol-style in front of a jury of military men with a backing band comprising women in Young Pioneer uniforms, altered to include mini skirts. Women in Young Pioneer uniforms in the background are one of the visual hallmarks of New Yugoslavism. It’s all a retro party up in here. Which is precisely the point.
Whereas in the West retro has primarily a cultural dimension, in former Yugoslavia, retro, indeed every look at the past, has a distinct political dimension. Retro’s references to the known past, Yugoslavia, point to there being no vision for the future in these lands.
According to Mitja Velikonja, retro is one of the passivization strategies neo-Yugoslavist music employs in order to steer away from controversial aspects of Yugoslav history and to neutralize opposition to it.
“Sve je isto…” exemplifies a number of these passivization strategies. Even as the song highlights important aspects of Yugoslavia, it distances itself from them by parodying them, by turning them into a caricature. The references actually serve to dismiss the past. The cosplay uses Yugoslav political symbols as mere aesthetics. And because retro is turned up to 11 on the parody dial, there’s no mistaking this is all just for fun.
“Sve je isto, samo njega nema” by Tijana Dapčević
Lyrics of “Sve je isto, samo njega nema”
Dobar dan poštovani gledaoci, / Good afternoon, dear viewers, pratite najnovije vesti. / you are watching the most recent news. Danas je u našem gradu održan veliki miting, / Today the big meeting is being held in our city, evo šta je zabeležio naš reporter / This is what our reporter has observed
(Bosna i Hercegovina / Bosnia and Herzegovina) E, sjećam se kad smo svi bili Valter / I remember the times when we all were Valter i mješali malter za Brčko-Banović prugu. / and when we were making concrete for the “Brčko-Banović” railroad Al’ sad kad i jaran može nosit’ brusalter / But now, when even a dude can wear bra vidim da nam ova demokratija / I see that this democracy baš i ne ide od ruku / Is not going well A, jesmo ba ispali papci svi od reda / And after all we all have become idiots
(Hrvatska / Croatia) Čujem u Beogradu / I hear in Belgrade se gleda Vila Marija / They watch Vila Maria Jedino ne kužim zakaj svi je zovu / The only thing I don’t understand why they all call her jastreb među ujkama. / A hawk among uncles A našu lipu svaki dan / And every day our linden tree za Evropu udaju. / Is married off to Europe A na svakoj žurci, ka da smo Turci, / and at every party, like we are Turkish ajme, narodnjaci furaju. / hey, folk singers roll
Sve je isto samo njega nema, / Everything is the same, only he is gone opet Dugme okupio Brega / Brega has put Dugme back together / Leto vrelo, zima puna snega / Summer is hot and winter is full of snow sve je isto samo njega nema / Everything is the same, only he is gone
(Crna Gora / Montenegro) A, što zna’ ja, a da znam podijelio bih / So, what if I could divide ovu moju državu na šest republika, / My own country to six republics ali tako da Podgorica bude glavni grad / But in such a way that Podgorica8 is the capital I da svaki dan bude neradni / And every day there would be a day off osim petka kad bi radili / Except for Friday, when we would work na pripremi odmora za vikend. / To get ready for the weekend.
(Makedonija / Macedonia) Site si go sakavme / We all loved him na krajot site plačevme / At the end we all cried Na sekoj dzid so sliki ušte po kafani / On every wall of the restaurant his portrait hangs nie si go čuvame / And we keep them safe Site se otkaža, / Everybody abandoned him a Skopje se sekavaše / And only Skopje remembers sega site drugi bi sakale da dojde / And now they all want him back e, više nema ke pričekame / Alas, we won’t ever see him again
(Slovenija / Slovenia) Nam je bilo v redu takrat in zdaj / Everything was good for us back then and now too nam je vedno u redu / Everything is always good for us. Za Novo leto pridemo v Beograd / For New Year’s we will go to Belgrade, gremo na sprehod v Hiše cvetja / To visit the House of Flowers popijemo kavico v Mercatorju / And drink a cup of coffee at the Mercator vsem je kakor da smo pri nas doma / Everything like at home e, tovariš stari bil si frajer in pol. / Hey, old comrade, you were cool
(Srbija / Serbia) A mogli smo do Tokija / And we could really go to Tokyo nos k’o u Pinokija / With our nose like Pinnochio Lagali nas tako svi do mile volje / Everybody used to lie us as much as it was possible al’ on lagao je najbolje / But he was the biggest liar
Pesme smo mu pevali, / We were singing songs for him iz Afrike ga čekali / We waited for him to return from Africa Imali smo more i šta bi da nam nije / We used to have a sea, and what would we do e, bar Ade Ciganlije. / without Ada Ciganlija
- Buy music by Tijana Dapčević here
PETER KORCHNAK: Maja Maksimović uses the next song to introduce the theme of yugonostalgia as “an omen of a better future” in her 2017 paper on the subject, “Unattainable past, unsatisfying present.”
I quote: “‘There was a land of champions, a land called Yugoslavia,’ declares a recent musical hit that resounds across the entire former Yugoslav federation. Indeed, for some of its former citizens, even more than 20 years after it disappeared from the map of Europe, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is perceived as an ideal place to live–a place of ‘champions.’ Despite awareness of Yugoslavia’s shortcomings, for these former Yugoslavs Yugoslavia represents a great country, respected around the globe: A place that knew how to take care of its people, satisfy their existential and social needs, and enable them to live in peace, solidarity, and unity.” End quote.
The author of that 2007 musical hit, the Slovenian artist Magnifico, covers the Animals hit “House of the Rising Sun” to create a magnificent paean to Yugoslavia. There’s rock, there’s Balkan brass and Mexican brass, Spaghetti Westerns arrangements… It’s both serious and playful.
An additional angle on the champions: a lot of people cite the successes of Yugoslavia’s sports teams, especially in basketball, handball, and water polo, as something important that was lost along with Yugoslavia.
“Land of Champions” by Magnifico (2007)
Lyrics of “Land of Champions”
There was a land A land of Champions A land called Yugoslavia And it’s been the ruin Of many a poor boys And God I know, I’m one
Oh, mother, tell your children Not to do what I have done I’ve lost my soul Oh, glory Alleluja Down in Yugoslavia
There was a land of champions Called Yugoslavia And it’s been the ruin Of many a poor boys [sic] And God, I know, I’m one
- Buy music by Magnifico here
PETER KORCHNAK: The next two songs have a lot in common despite a four-year gap between them. They’re both hip hop tracks; they both take the form of a letter to Tito; they both contain archival recordings of Tito; and they both concern themselves with the economy, war, and nationalism.
In the 2007 track “Dragi Tito,” or “Dear Tito,” the Tuzla-based rapper HZA is giving Tito an update on what’s happened since he died.
“Dear Tito, there is no more Yugoslavia, / mullahs, priests, hate screwed us over and thieves are now in power. / Streets don’t carry your name any more / nothing is like it was before / all of Europe is laughing at us.”
Like in so many of these songs, the story is less about what was great before and more about what is bad now. So less nostalgia for the past and more a comparative criticism of the present.
In addition to targeting the economic situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially corrupt privatization, HZA skewers ethnic nationalism: “Your body wasn’t even cold yet when they already made plans / to divide Yugoslavia and Yugoslavs into clans. / I didn’t know who was a Serb, who was a Muslim / they divided us like cattle, after all the years of being like one family.”
In the chorus, a Q&A: “Where are we now? In hell brother, that’s where we are, nowhere. / I heard how we were Pioneers and swore to listen to Tito above all else and how we exchanged brotherhood and unity for false ideals.”
“Dragi Tito” by HZA (2007)
Lyrics of “Dragi Tito”
Dragi Tito, nema više Juge, / Dear Tito, there is no more Yugoslavia jebaše nas hodže, popovi, / Mullahs, priests, hate, fucked us all mržnja, sad su nam na vlasti lopovi. / Hate, thieves are now in power Ne daju više ulicama tvoje ime / Streets don’t carry your name any more ništa nije ko prije, / Nothing is like it was before komplet Evropa nam se smije. / The entire Europe is laughing at us Totalno u kurcu i ekonomija, i standard, / We are completely fucked and the economy, the living standard a seljaci s planina svi se spustili u grad. / And the peasants from the mountains descended into the city Nema posla, nema para, nema bratstva i jedinstva, / No jobs, no money, no brotherhood and unity ova će djeca imat’ sranja od djetinjstva. / These kids will have a shitty childhood Nisi ni ohladio, a oni spremili su planove / Your body wasn’t even cold yet when they already made plans da podijele Jugu i Jugoslovene na klanove, / To divide Yugoslavia and Yugoslavs into clans da nas nabriju jedni na druge, / Have us point at each other sjebu ‘nol’ku zemlju, / Fuck up that great country bratstvo i jedinstvo bace u sjenu / Throw brotherhood and unity into the shadows pod svaku cijenu. / At any cost Više se ne zna kad predsjednik dođe u grad, / No one ever knows any more when a president arrives in a city ne baca niko cvijeće na njega, nema se kad. / No one ever throws flowers at a president, there is no time Ne jebe niko levate / No one gives a fuck about the new puppets jer nema penzije i plate, / Because there are no pensions and wages svi su otišli na živcima od četiri godine rata. / Everyone’s nerves are wrecked from four years of war Prvo na republike podijelili Jugu, / First they divided Yugoslavia into republics pa u scra majki poginulih unijeli tugu / Brought sadness and pain to the hearts of mothers of those killed i bol, rušili jedni drugima crkve i džamije, / Then destroyed each others churches and mosques isto k’o da ih nisu zajedno gradili ranije. / As if they hadn’t built them all together just a few years ago Mediji nas trovali, i nas i one tamo, / The media poisoned us, us and them bivši gosti Golog otoka došli na vlast sa planom, / Former guests of Goli Otok prison came to power with a plan svako je htjeo svoje nacionalne boje, / Everyone wanted their national colors a dobili smo svi po pički bolan, bolan. / But in the end we all got screwed, bro Čuo sam / I heard Za partije, vlade i kongrese, / Of parties, governments, and congresses za obroke, plate i regrese. / For meals, wages, and returns Đe smo sad? / Where are we now? U pizdi lijepe materine buraz, eto gdje smo, nikud stigli. / In hell bro, that’s where we are, nowhere Čuo sam / I heard Da mijenjali smo bratstvo i jedinstvo za polovne ideale i ciljeve u tegli. / That we exchanged brotherhood and unity for false ideals. Đe smo sad? / Where are we now? Tu gdje smo i zaslužili jer se nismo digli. / We are where we deserve to be because we didn’t rise up Amerika, CIA, Rusi i Vatikan, / USA, CIA, Russians, and Vatican bili smo im trn u oku pa su sjebali tvoj plan. / We were a thorn in their eyes so they fucked up your plan Bili smo četvrta sila evropske armade, / We were the 4th strongest power in Europe lakše je vladat kad te raspu na komade. / But it is easier to divide and conquer Nisu tebe mogli nagovorit da nas jebu, / They couldn’t convince you to fuck us up pa su čekali dan kad umreš, pa onda po redu. / So they waited until the day you die, then one by one Našli razliku / They found differences za svaku republiku, / For each republic uveli u vlast mržnju i nacionalnu politiku, / Introduced hate and national politics into the government a mi stoka prije smo u čvor vezali zastave, / And us, sheep, who just yesterday waved flags together nismo ni sanjali da će ‘vaki da nas rastave. / Couldn’t even imagine that such people could divide us
Nisam znao ko je Srbin, ko Musliman / I didn’t know who was a Serb, who was a Muslim dok nam nisu pojasnili pa nam napravili zijan. / Until they clarified it and then created failure Đe’š to dijelit nas ko stoku poslije ovoliko godina, / How can you divide us, like cattle, after all these years a bili smo ko jedno, bili smo ko rodbina. / And we were like one, we were like family Sad svako u svom toru ima identitet / Now everyone has an identity within their own herd i jedemo govna – balkanski mentalitet. / And we are eating shit – Balkan mentality Dobili smo certifikate za cijelu naciju, / We got certifications for the entire nation to su cifre na papiru za privatizaciju, / Which are really numbers on paper for privatization posl’e otkupili za jedno 2-3 posto / Later used to buy national powerful companies for 2-3 percent of the price da kupe preduzeća, da se ponu bavit poslom. / And then start doing business as a private corporation Nikad se mi nećemo oporavit od rata, / We will never recover from the war niko neće priznat krivnju jer smo robovi inata. / No one will admit guilt because we are all slaves of pride Jebo Balkan, jebo brda i belaj, / Fuck Balkans, fuck mountains and hell temperament, nismo ba k’o ostali svijet. / Temperament, we are unlike the rest of the world Čuo sam / I heard Za partije, vlade i kongrese, / Of parties, governments, and congresses za obroke, plate i regrese. / For meals, wages, and returns Đe smo sad? / Where are we now? U pizdi lijepe materine buraz, eto gdje smo, nikud stigli / We are in hell, we never left Čuo sam / I heard Da mijenjali smo bratstvo i jedinstvo za polovne ideale i ciljeve u tegli / That we exchanged brotherhood and unity for false ideals. Đe smo sad? / Where are we now? Tu gdje smo i zaslužili jer se nismo digli / We are here where we deserve to be because we didn’t rise up. Čuo sam / I heard Kako su neki Sušic, Prosinečki i Piksi igrali zajedno u timu / How Sušić, Prosinečki, and Piksi once used to play on the same team. Đe smo sad? / Where are we now? Zna se brate ko će ispod mosta i u menzu, a ko u limuzinu. / Now we know who eats their meals under the bridge and in the canteen and who eats them in the limousine. Čuo sam / I heard Kako smo bili pioniri i zakleli se slušat Tita najviše na svijetu / How we were pioneers and swore to listen to Tito above all else. Đe smo sad? / Where are we now? Bruka brate, neću napustit Balkan, al ću da napustim planetu. / Shame brother, I don’t want to leave the Balkans, I want to leave the planet.
- Music by HZA isn’t available for sale, so buy his record label FM Jam’s merch
PETER KORCHNAK: In 2011, the Slovenian rapper Mirko penned his own missive to Tito titled “Druže stari,” or “Old Comrade.” Stari, or The Old One, was one of Tito’s nicknames. Mirko is writing to Tito because he has no one else to turn to.
Like HZA’s song, “Druže stari,” opens with Tito speaking. The quote here is, “We have spilled a sea of blood for brotherhood and unity of our peoples and we will not allow anyone to ruin this from outside or within.” The use of archival audio or video footage is a common technique that neo-Yugoslavist songs use to reference the past and establish the connection to it, even continuity with it. A decade after “Jugo 45,” Zabranjeno pušenje used an excerpt from Tito’s speech in the first track of their 2009 album “Muzej revolucije” or “Museum of the Revolution,” which too is a fine example of New Yugoslavism.
Anyway, Mirko first introduces himself: “Old comrade, I am a herald of the generation that came after you, the generation of mistakes, of the nation here and now. I grew up while your Yugoslavia was falling apart and experienced the system ending with wars.”
Like HZA, Mirko targets both rampant capitalism and nationalism. About the former he says, “No one listens to us, they only hear the rustling of currency,” and “Workers are in the mud, capitalism on the rise.”
The wars of dissolution he describes as the time when, “The singing of youth was replaced by the sound of rifles” and when “brothers slaughtered brothers.”
And like HZA, he also mentions the West having a hand in Yugoslavia’s disintegration and the role of the media therein. Again, a different story.
Finally, in the chorus Mirko too asks questions: “And now comrade tell me, there is no going back, so where are we going next? I don’t expect you to say anything, my ears are silent, maybe you know everything.”
Very interesting for me are Mirko’s examples of memory politics practices. “Half the nation destroys these monuments to you / others have secretly kept your pictures.” And “I put a wreath on your grave every year to remind them of your heroism and of your mistakes. And so that you can finally rest in peace with a five-pointed star.”
“Druže stari” by Mirko (2011)
Lyrics of “Druže stari”
Druže stari, glasnik sm generacije po teb, / Old comrade, I am the herald of the generation after you generacije kiks, nacije tle / A generation of mistakes, of the nation here and now odraščal v razpadu Jugoslavije tvoje, / I grew up in the disintegration of your Yugoslavia doživu konc sistema k nasledile so ga vojne. / I experienced the end of the system succeeded by wars. nimam se na koga obrnt pa pišem teb, / I have no one to turn to so I am writing to you, vse se obrnil, vem da tud ti na Dedinju obračaš se. / Everything has changed, I know that you are also turning around in Dedinje nihče nas ne posluša, slišjo le k dnar šuška, / No one listens to us, they only hear the rustling of currency petje Omladincev, tle zamenala je puška. / The singing of youth was replaced by a rifle. razpadla Juga, nacije so svojo pot šle, / Yugoslavia disintegrated, nations went their own way, šest republik, šest držav in kar je najhuje je: / Six republics, six countries and the worst part: CIA mela prste je vmes, poslala agente, / The CIA had its fingers in that, they sent agents, jebeš nočm jih oment / To fuck things up at night konc je bil krvav, brat bratu brate je klal, / The end was bloody, brothers slaughtered brothers Hrvat Srba, Srb Bosanca in obratno v grob je poslal / A Croat sent a Serb, a Serb a Bosnian and vice versa to the grave Slovenijo vodjo izdajalske vlade, / Treacherous governments led Slovenia raj lezejo v rit Švabom k da mel bi Hrvate za brate. / Paradise crawled up the ass of the Germans to have Croats for brothers čez Kolpo isto sranje, / Across the Kolpa the same shit da Evropa profitira od sovražtva, tu sploh ni vprašanje. / That Europe profits from hatred is not an issue at all Kosovo postalo je mednarodni problem, / Kosovo has become an international problem ker dovolu si preveč jim, to iskreno ti povem. / Because you allowed them too much, I tell you honestly bojkotiral jezik, državno upravo ignoriral / You boycotted the language, ignored the state administration goru je Beograd, amerikanci bombardiral / Belgrade burned, it was bombed by the Americans izdajalci hočjo spravo, spomenike, da jim damo / Traitors want reconciliation and monuments to be built for them ta prostor je že zdavnej zgubu Južno Slavo / This area has long since lost Yugoslavia
In zdej tovariš mi povej, / And now comrade tell me nazaj ne da se več, sm kam gremo naprej? / There is no going back, where are we going next? in kje smo zdej? ne prčakujem, da poveš, / And where are we now? I don’t expect you to say sm če usi so tihu, mogoče vsej ti veš. / My ears hear silence, maybe you know everything
Prevelike so razlike od kar je sistem padu, / There are too many differences since the system fell delavci v blatu, kapitalizem v razmahu / Workers in the mud, capitalism on the rise Ne zatiskam oči si k pišem ti na list, / I don’t close my eyes to write to you on a piece of paper vem da v socializmu biu si največji kapitalist. / I know that under socialism you were the greatest capitalist slb zgled druže, sm tule gledat je še slabš, / A weak example, here things are even worse otrok ni več na ulci, kje so kriki? Fak! / The child is no longer on the street, where are the screams? Fuck! valda sm jezn, ne se čudt, časi so drugi / We are angry, no wonder, times are different negativnost v medijih nas je zjebala vse skupi. / Negativity in the media fucked us all preveč glupi, da bi razumel / I’m too stupid to understand najbrž hočš vedt, če iskreno so ti pel. / You probably want to know if they honestly sang to you K umru si, vsi na ulcah so obstal / When you died everyone on the streets stopped država jokala, a vem, da eni so se smejal / The country cried, but I know some laughed pol naroda te sovraž rušjo ti spomenike / Half the nation destroys these monuments to you drugi na skrivaj obdržal so tvoje slike / Others have secretly kept your pictures Bil pr Jovanki, sicr ne vem, če te zanima / I went to see Jovanka, I don’t know if you’re interested ampak njena bajta razpada, ker za vzdrževanje nima. / But her bite weakens because it has no maintenance Spodn štuk je prazn, temačn k odpreš ga / The bottom floor is empty, dark to open it Ilija prav, da je v bolnci, da bajto čuva sestra. / Ilija is in the hospital, cared for by a nurse Ne vem, če te pogreša, ne vem, če pade v jok, / I don’t know if he misses you, I don’t know if he bursts into tears sm vsako leto ti prnese venec na grob. / I bring you a wreath on the grave every year Js položim ti ga s tem, da jih spomnem nate, / I lay it to remind them of you čez tvoja herojstva in čez tvoje napake / Of your heroism and your mistakes Da spet vidš brate na kul, v redu, / To see the guys again, okay in da končno s petokrako lahko počineš v miru. / And that you can finally rest in peace with a five-pointed star
PETER KORCHNAK: So far you’ve heard rock, pop, and hip hop. The next song offers the loudest proof that the music of New Yugoslavism spans genres.
Gužva u Bajt or G.U.B. describe themselves as “a punk band that follows drunk-punk ideals.” Though these Slovenes only aim to “enjoy life and things we love to do,” their 2009 song “Jugoslavija” offers commentary with political overtones. If a punk band singing praises to socialism sounds odd, punk bands did this in Yugoslav times as well, with covers of revolutionary songs.
One of the band members Vladimir told me in an email, “The song is about memories from the days when Yugoslavia was falling apart and Slovenia was becoming an independent country.”
It opens and closes with archival footage of a young soldier of the Yugoslav National Army at the outset of the Bosnian war; the clip in the middle is Slobodan Miloševič with a war-mongering speech.
For a punk song, the opening is paradoxical: “The night over Ljubljana is quiet and peaceful / A cloud covers the June sky / It’s quiet, only the wind is blowing / Memories of Yugoslavia.”
The final stanza testifies to how Vladimir’s generation saw the war: “The astonished faces of the children in the shelter / It’s full of laughter, fun, and games / We didn’t understand what was happening / Only that different flags were fluttering.”
The chorus punches it all up: “Goodbye Yugoslavia / Goodbye socialism / Brotherhood unity / This is capitalism.”
[COMMERCIAL INTERLUDE JINGLE]
PETER KORCHNAK: Speaking of capitalism.
Hi there, it’s me, Peter Korchnak, the creator, producer, and host of Remembering Yugoslavia, with a quick peek at the making of the podcast.
I interview people from Ljubljana to Skopje and beyond and spend a good amount of time and energy researching, writing, recording, and editing to bring you these stories and analysis two to four times a month.
It is your support that makes this reporting possible. Ensure I can cover the next important story and keep the memory of the country that no longer exists alive by supporting me on Patreon. Please go to Patreon.com/RememberingYugoslavia and become a supporter today.
Alright, back to the music.
[COMMERCIAL INTERLUDE JINGLE]
“Jugoslavija” by G.U.B.
Lyrics of “Jugoslavija”
Noč nad Ljubljano tiha in mirna / The night over Ljubljana is quiet and peaceful Oblak prekriva junijsko nebo / A cloud covers the June sky Tišina je povsod le veter piha / Silence is just the wind blowing everywhere Spomini na jugoslavijo / Memories of Yugoslavia
Dan je vroč zjeban vonj sopare / The day is the hot fucking smell of steam Tihi koraki med betonskimi zidovi / Silent footsteps between concrete walls Nad oblaki letijo kovinske ptice / Metal birds fly above the clouds
Zatrese se kot bi streljali s topovi / It shakes as if a cannot were shot
Pok nad Ljubljano sproži sirene / The bang over Ljubljana triggers sirens Nisem jokal sedem let mi je bilo / I didn’t cry for seven years I was Panični ljudje polni opreme / Panicked people full of equipment Nasmejana mladina zre v nebo / Smiling youth stares at the sky
Začudeni obrazi otrok v zakloniscu / The astonished faces of the children in the shelter We didn’t understand what was going on / Nismo razumeli kaj se dogaja Polno je smeha igre zabave / It’s full of laughter fun games Le to da plopotajo druge zastave / Only that different flags were fluttering
Adijo Jugoslavija / Goodbye Yugoslavia Adijo socializem / Goodbye socialism Bratstvo jedinstvo / Brotherhood unity To je kapitalizem / That is capitalism
- Buy music by G.U.B. here
PETER KORCHNAK: Roy de Roy, a Slovenian band based in Vienna has been described as “ambassadors of Polka Punk” who “sing about a paranoid society, the stupidity of nationalism, vain diasporas and the historiography of the Balkans.” In an interview for a Slovenian paper, the band’s singer once said what amounts to a manifesto of New Yugoslavism: “We never use the motif of ‘memory’ as an idealization of past times, but as a criticism of the present. Our nostalgia is not a longing for times as they were in the past, but for times as they could have been in the past.”
The title of Roy de Roy’s debut album, “Bohemian Bolsheviks,” is evocative in and of itself. The cover art of this 2011 release plays a major supporting role: on a red burst background is a stylized illustrated coat of arms constructed from a crossed guitar and trumpet, ears of barley, and a five-pointed star.
In the song “Titovka” the singer buys the eponymous cap from a street vendor in Sarajevo and wears it proudly even though people laugh at him. Titovka was a green side cap with a red star that the Partisans wore; a blue version was worn by Young Pioneers in Yugoslavia. When viewed from above, it has a very suggestive feminine shape. When someone, presumably his lover, takes the cap away, the singer says in the chorus, “You took my Titovka, give it back. Without Titovka I am alone.”
The archival clip in the middle of the song is the television announcement of Tito’s death. Thus immediately you can substitute Tito himself for the piece of headwear named after him.
“Titovka” by Roy de Roy (2011)
- Buy music by Roy de Roy here
PETER KORCHNAK: In 2012, another Bosnian rapper, Priki, made a splash with his video for the song “Yustalgija,” that’s why-you-stalgia. The song laments some of today’s realities and wishes for a better future but is essentially about love: “I believe in love as long as the sun is burning,” goes one line. And he sends some of that love to all the Yugonostalgics. But then the video adds another spin on it when it imagines what Yugoslavia may have looked like had the 90s wars never happened and the country never disintegrated.
Shot at the Petrova Gora monument, the first third of the video has Priki narrate how the alternate history went. The 90s wars never happened, the constituent republics resolved their conflicts peacefully, and continued living together in a common federation, progressing in a range of areas. Yugoslavia says NO to the EU’s invitation to join and to capitalism, and goes its own way.
The spomenik shots are interwoven with shots of fictional Yugoslavia of today. There’s the Yugoslavian National Theater, logos of Yugoslav brands across the urban landscapes, Tito statues on town squares…
The song’s chorus goes, “I wish everything will be ok with us / I wish the damn darkness will pass.”
I met Priki, or rather Haris Rahmanović last year in his hometown Bihać. Born in 1987, he hadn’t really experienced Yugoslavia as an adult. He was 5 years old when the war started and, he said, “war was a normal part of my childhood, I had nothing to compare life in wartime with.” After the war, he heard stories about life before the war and, he said, “all those stories built an image in my mind of Yugoslavia, when people weren’t going hungry, when they had jobs. And it all brought up questions of what could have happened if there had been no war, why we couldn’t have lived as we did back then. The song and the video is how I tried to answer those questions. It’s a very simple idea.” And yet, I noted, no one else came up with it.
“Yustalgija” by Priki (2012)
Lyrics of “Yustalgija”
Gledam u nebo da vidim šta me čeka / I look up at the sky to see what awaits me al’ nema znakova samo tragovi Star Treka / But there are no signs, only traces of Star Trek nema lijeka za ljude što šire mržnju / There is no cure for people who spread hatred jer takvi iza sebe ostave priču tužnu / Because they leave behind sad stories
Izlazim napolje, želim istinu / I go out, I want the truth prije nego što vanzemaljci me prstom dodirnu / Before the aliens touch me with their finger za koju godinu bit će sve drugačije / In what year everything will be different drug, uništit će nas ovaj prokleti Facebook / Comrade, this damn Facebook will destroy us Youtube i Twitter, care / Youtube and Twitter, boss Šaljem brdo ljubavi za sve Jugonostalgičare / I send a mountain of love to all Yugonostalgics za sve uplakane majke i za oceve sa žuljevima / For all weeping mothers and for fathers with calluses za svu djecu koja su na krivim putevima / To all the children on the wrong path
Zagreb, Sarajevo i Beograd / Zagreb, Sarajevo and Belgrade za neki buduci pametan korak / For some future smart move koji neće biti gorak kao pelin / Which will not be as bitter as wormwood
nadam se da neću morati da se selim odavde jer / I hope I don’t have to move from here because
Želim da je sve OK sa nama / I want everything to be OK with us želim da prodje prokleta tama / I want the damn darkness to pass
Brz tempo života kolje nas / The fast pace of life is slaughtering us brza hrana kojoj ne odoljevaš / Fast food you can’t resist i proljevaš krv kao vodu za slobodu / And you shed blood like water for freedom i ne možeš dobiti posao / And you can’t get a job jer nisi u rodu sa vlasnikom firme / Because you are not related to the owner of the company
Odjednom pogresno je ime / Suddenly the name is wrong koje dala ti je mater iz ljubavne idile / Which your mother gave you out of a love idyll u gradu prodaju se kile, gdje gorile rješavaju sve probleme uz pomoć sile / Kilos are sold in the city, where gorillas solve all problems with force
A ja se pitam gdje tu pripadam / And I wonder where I belong jer naveće sanjam slobodu kao da je Amsterdam / Because in the evening I dream of freedom like in Amsterdam i nije da se žalim kad znam da može bolje / And it’s not that I complain when I know it can get better nadam se da nas nekad čuje onaj gore / I hope the one upstairs hears us sometimes Dočekujem zore kad skupe se problemi / I look forward to dawn when problems come together oni znaju bolje šta ima Remi / They know better what Remi has znam da bit će bolje, je l’ tako Marko / I know it will be better, right Marko vjerujem u ljubav sve dok sunce je žarko, i zato / I believe in love as long as the sun is bright, and that’s why
PETER KORCHNAK: Valter has already made an appearance today. Now he’s going to be the hero.
Valter was the code name of Vladimir Perić, a storied Yugoslav Partisan commander in occupied Sarajevo during World War Two. The 1972 film Valter Defends Sarajevo fictionalized Perić’s wartime activities and immemorialized Valter as an iconic figure. At the very end of this one of the most popular Yugoslav movies of all time a Nazi German commander points to Sarajevo’s vista and delivers the notorious line: “You see that city? That is Valter.”
By the way, Zabranjeno Pušenje’s debut album was titled “Das Ist Walter.” The first track on the 1984 LP was that final line in the film.
Valter, spelled with a W, is the protagonist of the 2013 song by Dubioza Kolektiv, a Bosnian band known for its scathing social criticism. In this eminently danceable tune; Dubioza first count the ways people in power are doing it wrong. They have “a mouth full of false ideals”, they have “no honor or honesty” and while “others go hungry” they “fill their pockets.”
But, “a storm is coming” they warn. “Enough of this drought / I’ll enjoy watching / Your dreams fall apart.” How is it going to happen? Well, my friends, “When we need him the most / Valter will come back / Valter is all around us / We are all Valter / When the time comes.” As a matter of course, theme music from Valter Defends Sarajevo gets a nod to underscore it all. And when the chorus repeats, over and over, “Valter will return / He’ll mess all of you up,” it’s on.
In the video, an elderly man dons a Superman costume, with a W instead of an S, and roams the city in search of food, even fighting other seniors for scraps at trash containers, while the band parties with champagne and chicks in a stretch limo. And so once again, the message of resistance is wrapped in the cape of party time.
“Walter” by Dubioza Kolektiv (2013)
Lyrics of “Walter”
Nit’ si zbunjen nit’ si lud / You’re not confused , nor insane Tebi ovo je normala / This is normal to you Puna usta lažnih ideala / Mouth full of false ideals
Zar si gluh, zar si slijep / Are you deaf, are you blind Misliš život ti je lijep / You think your life is fine Nemaš časti ni poštenja / No honor nor honesty Dok puniš svoj džep / While you’re filling your pocket
Al’ nećete na vlasti / But you won’t be in power Vječno biti / Forever Svi drugi su gladni / Everybody else is starving A vi ste siti / But you’re full
Sprema se oluja / A storm is coming Dosta bilo je suše / Enough of this drought Gledaću s merakom / I’ll enjoy watching Kako snovi vam se ruše / Your dreams falling apart
Stoj / Stop! Zar ne vidiš znak / Don’t you see the sign Znaj / Remember Može pojest’ te mrak / The darkness can consume you Stoj / Stop Sada gledaj na sat / Now look at your clock Otkucava / It’s striking Posljednji čas / The final minute
Sve se vraća i sve plaća / What goes around, comes around Pa bolje ti je priznaj / So you’d better admit Tvoje zadnje putovanje / Your last journey Biće zatvorski turizam / will be penitentiary tourism To je put u jednom pravcu / It’s a one way journey Više neću da te gledam / I won’t watch you anymore Odjebi iz fotelje / Get the fuck out of that chair Glasove ti ne dam / I won’t give you my vote
Ova zemlja nije djeljiva sa tri / This country can’t be divided to three I vaš nacionalizam / And your nationalism Nije moj patriotizam / Isn’t my patriotism Slušaj šta poručuje ti / Listen to what Branko Klubička / Branko Klubička is telling you
Vrijeme je da odeš / It’s time for you to go Ispao si pi-BEEP-BEEP / You’re nothing but a BLEEP
Tačno je 11 sati i 55 minuta / It’s exactly 11:55
Vratiće se Walter / Walter will return Jebaće vam mater / He’ll fuck you all up
Novo vrijeme novi ljudi / A new time, new people Okupator novi / A new occupier Motivi su im isti / Their motives are the same Pravim imenom ih zovi / Call them by their real names Izađi na ulicu / Go out to the streets Za sebe se izbori / Fight for yourself Vazduh treperi / The air is flickering K’o da nebo gori / Like the sky is burning
Za tvoja prava / For your rights Neće drugi da se bori / Others won’t fight Nema mjesta za strah / No room for fear Kad masa progovori / When the masses speak Za akciju smo spremni / We’re ready for action Waltera pozovi / Call Walter A on će da se stvori / And he’ll come Samo ovo izgovori / Just to say this
Walter / Valter Nema stajanja sad / No stopping now Walter / Valter Zauzmi grad / Take over the city
Walter / Valter Je tu oko nas / Is all around us Svi smo mi Walter / We are all Valter Kad kucne čas / When the time comes
Ovaj grad, ova zemlja / This city, this country Ima zajeban karakter / Has a fucked up mentality Najviše kad treba / When we need him the most Vratiće se Walter / Walter will come back
PETER KORCHNAK: The last two songs mark a turn in the music of New Yugoslavism. Here I’m going to rely on the analysis by Ana Petrov who has researched the interconnectedness of the discourses on love and Yugoslavia. If nostalgia is a manifestation of love for a homeland, Yugonostalgia is a special kind of it expressing love for Yugoslavia. And since it’s impossible to return home, the desire gets channeled into the remnants of Yugoslavia, including music.
Both songs are from 2015, they’re both named “Jugoslavija”, and in both Yugoslavia is a metaphor for lost love, for a relationship that’s as disintegrated as that country.
In the duet by Željko Vasić and Ana Bebić, the entire song is about the relationship. Yugoslavia is only used for comparison: “We used to be an example for others, but fatal destiny happened to us / Life is war and peace without any rules / Our love fell apart just like Yugoslavia.” The invisible, unspoken twist: Željko Vasić is a Serb, Ana Bebić a Croat. The video takes place in an elevator, where passengers include a range of fun-loving characters and, you guessed it, sexy Young Pioneer women.
“Jugoslavija” by Željko Vasić and Ana Bebić (2015)
Lyrics of “Jugoslavija”
Bili smo ti i ja, primjer drugima / You and I were an example to others A onda došla je losa sudbina / And then came a bad fate Život je rat i mir i nema pravila / Life is war and peace and there are no rules Ljubav se raspala ko Jugoslavija / Love fell apart like Yugoslavia
Hej noćas se javi, ja te čekam bez tebe dugi su mi dani / Hey call me tonight, I’m waiting for you, without you my days are long Hej hajde popust, jer kada vole, muškarci nisu tako čvrsti / Hey come on discount, because when they like it, men aren’t that tight Ko te miluje i ko ljubi te, neka odmah sad grom ga ubije / Who caresses you and who loves you, let the lightning kill him right now
Hej noćas te tražim tebe nema, a ja budna ko na straži / Hey, I’m looking for you tonight, and I’m awake like a guard Od jutra do mraka, čekam da mi opet pokucaš na vrata / From morning to night, I’m waiting for you to knock on my door again Ko te miluje i ko ljubi te, neka odmah sad grom ga ubije / Who caresses you and who loves you, let the lightning kill her right now
PETER KORCHNAK: “Jugoslavija” by the Serbian band Amadeus is a great deal more referential. It opens with Yugoslavia’s anthem and pipes that evoke Yugoslav shepherd rock, and its tune and arrangements are a throwback to 80s hair bands. But here, too, the country is a metaphor for love: “Our love was strong and beautiful like old Yugoslavia.” In addition, the ex’s eyes are as blue as the Adriatic and her soul is like Macedonia; and the chorus references the unofficial Yugoslav anthem “From Vardar to Triglav,” this podcast’s outro song. “Sarajevo, Zagreb, even Belgrade isn’t asleep / We are not together anymore and the whole city is talking about that / Everyone from Vardar to Triglav should know we are together no more…”
The video, shot in a hangar, adds a few additional elements of New Yugoslavism: archival footage, Young Pioneer salutes, and a Tito quote about togetherness at the end. And yes, there are pyrotechnics.
“Jugoslavija” by Amadeus (2015)
Lyrics of “Jugoslavija”
Još te ima u meni, da li sam ja u tebi, ko to zna / You are still you in me, am I still in you, who knows dok ja budan još sanjam tvoje oči u boji Jadrana / While awake I still dream of your eyes in the color of the Adriatic naša je velika ljubav, k’o Rusija bila / Our love was as big as Russia jaka i lepa k’o stara Jugoslavija / Strong and beautiful as old Yugoslavia
Sarajevo, Zagreb, ne spava ni Beograd / Sarajevo, Zagreb, even Belgrade is not asleep nismo više zajedno sad priča ceo grad / We are no longer together and the whole city is talking about that od Vardara pa do Triglava nek znaju svi / From Vardar to Triglav, may everyone know
ravno mi do Kosova sa kim si sada ti / My path to Kosovo is straight, with whom you are now
Tvoja ramena gola vrede kao milion rubalja / Your bare shoulders are worth a million rubies dok ja jurim po gradu, punom opasnih noćnih vukova / Whe I run around the city, full of dangerous Night Wolves bogovi mole se tebi, ti sve si im bila / Gods pray to you, you were everything to them dušu si imala kao Makedonija / Your soul was Macedonia.
- Buy music by Amadeus here
PETER KORCHNAK: The turn I alluded to has to do with business. Commercialization of Yugonostalgia has a long history by now, as anyone who has seen a souvenir stand in the past two decades can testify. The songs “Jugoslavija” capitalize on that trend, as it were. They target Yugonostalgics with their titles and references and stereotypes. But then they both shift direction to deliver mere love songs. As a metaphor for love, Yugoslavia is used here as a pure marketing tool, to attract eardrums and eyeballs of those who care about it. Ana Petrov calls this “a love scam.”
The implication being, once nostalgia becomes commodified, its political potential diminishes. Indeed, in recent years, Yugoslav-era music has lost some of its subversive edge. Martin Pogačar again:
MARTIN POGAČAR: For one thing, I would say that if we look at Yugonostalgia as a movement—it’s gone.
PETER KORCHNAK: Though Yugoslav-era music, rock in particular, continues to evoke that disappeared country to many, I’d say it has become a much less controversial part of the soundscape. As years go by, Yugonostalgia’s 20-year-long tour nears its farewell show and Yugoslavia’s dangers fade out.
In fact, many popular acts, from Lepa Brena on down, have repositioned themselves as Yugoslav, express affinity to Yugoslavia, or reference that country positively. Indeed, writes Ana Petrov, “the farther the post-Yugoslav space goes from the end of Yugoslavia, the more the Yugoslav culture is being used and repacked for further commercial exploitation.”
Don’t get me wrong, the songs of New Yugoslavism do get play time, such as when Dubioza Kolektiv played “Walter” during one their online Quarantine Shows or Tijana Dapčević performed, “Sve je isto…” remotely online with a band.
You can hear this corona jam of “Sve je isto…” in the extended version of this episode available to Patreon supporters.
But other than Lepa Brena’s 2017 song “Zar je važno da l’ se peva ili pjeva,” which arguably falls in the love scam category anyway, I’ve found no examples of New Yugoslavism made after 2015.
So what to make of New Yugoslavism?
On the personal level, I’d attribute the music of New Yugoslavism to the artists, most of whom were born in the 70s and 80s, dealing with their middle age. It is at that life stage that we look back on our past, not without some nostalgic longing, evaluate the present, and critically look to the future to decide how we want to spend the rest of our lives, perhaps remixing some of that past into the new version of our selves.
On the macro level, Mitja Velikonja somewhat disappointingly concludes, “this music has limited political and cultural reach.”
The main contribution of this music is “by questioning and counterbalancing Yugophobic discourses” by means of “parodic glorification of the former socialist Yugoslavia.” The music raises and at the same time lightens a delicate topic. Parody, after all, is a form of resistance against something in that it lampoons it. On top of that, the party-party tone of many of these songs has a therapeutic, cathartic impact.
From another angle, this music juxtaposes life in Yugoslavia, where we had so much in common, with nationalism, which separates people. Togetherness versus otherness, so to speak. By presenting a positive image of Yugoslavia it rehabilitates it, albeit in a musealized, retro form, and presents it as a historical, already realized alternative to today. Indeed, though the music may be politically harmless, it does raise the question of what ifs.
Let the great Mitja Velikonja have the final word on New Yugoslavism: “It points to the real, although miserably failed alternative, so that we can become aware of those alternatives that are available today.”
PETER KORCHNAK: That’s all for this episode of Remembering Yugoslavia, thank you for listening and rocking out. Find additional information, videos and lyrics to all the songs played as well as a bunch of others, and the transcript of this episode, at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.
Thanks to all the musicians and their record labels who so generously granted their permission for their songs to be featured. Special thanks to Ivana Beronja and Maja Pupovac.
I am Peter Korchňak.
Additional Songs of New Yugoslavism
“Brigita (Z Ulice Maršala Tita)” by Mi2 (1998)
“Muzej Revolucije” by Zabranjeno Pušenje (2009)
“Lew’s Yugoslavia” by Roy de Roy (2011)
“Druže Stari” by Karne (2012)
“Yugo” by Rock Partyzani (2013)
“Vučiji rep” by PUF feat. Otac Makarije (2017)
Sources and Resources
Sources quoted or specifically used in this episode are in bold.
- Baković, Ivica. “(Jugo)Nostalgija kroz naočale popularne kulture.” Filološke studije No. 2, 2008
- Hadžić, Fatima and Amra Toska. “Transformations of popular music after the dissolution of socialist Yugoslavia: the ‘post-Dayton’ alternative music scene in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” In: Music in Society. The collection of papers, 9th International Symposium Music in Society, Sarajevo, October 23–26, 2014
- Nostalgia, Loss and Creativity in South-East Europe: Political and Cultural Representations of the Past. This Is a Country for You”: Yugonostalgia and Antinationalism in the Rock-Music Culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” In:
- Petrov, Ana. “Yugonostalgia in the market: Popular music and consumerism in post-Yugoslav space.” Muzikološki Zbornik Vol. 53 No. 1 (2017): 203-215
- Petrov, Ana. “Yugonostalgia as a Kind of Love: Politics of Emotional Reconciliations through Yugoslav Popular Music.” Humanities Vol. 7 No. 4 (2018): 119
- Velikonja, Mitja. Rock’n’retro: Novi jugoslavizem v sodobni slovenski popularni glasbi / Rock’n’Retro: New Yugoslavism in Contemporary Popular Music in Slovenia. Translated from the Slovenian by Olga Vuković. Ljubljana: Založba Sophia, 2013