I jumped on the turbo-folk bandwagon late in life. Should I have ever jumped on the bandwagon? Who knows. Let’s just say, Canada didn’t have a turbo-folk radio station that I could tune into on the way to school. It was not until I moved back to Belgrade that I developed a love-hate relationship for turbo-folk, like anyone else who ends up having to listen to it.
There is a slight history to turbo-folk, contrary to those that are not familiar with this genre and hate on it. Though turbo-folk started in the 1980’s, it’s true fan base reached pinnacle heights in the 90’s. Under war criminal and leader, Slobodan Milosevic, turbo-folk artists were funded by the mafia and the government – which essentially were the same thing. Under international scrutiny and sanctions, Milosevic had the perfect opportunity to reinforce his pro-war propaganda into mainstream media. Throw a couple hot girls on stage, load them with make-up and fake tits, give them some politically-fuelled lyrics and matchmake them with some war criminals. However, after Milosevic was taken down, the turbo-folk scene transitioned itself from being a symbol of the nineties to just being mediocre music.
Now, I skipped this whole part and got into turbo-folk in 2008, during a summer vacation on the Montenegrin coast. The water was baby water warm, the women still looked like models, and the men looked like they could plow you – physically, not much had changed. It was that summer that I had my first dose of turbo-folk. At that time, I wasn’t overly critical, as I couldn’t understand the lyrics anyways and was more focused on working with a beat that I could use as a way to grind my ass on passing boys.
However, ask me about turbo-folk today, and I have varying feelings about it, usually these feelings change depending on my level of sobriety. Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, I cannot stand turbo folk as I find it to be the slaughtering of traditional music mashed up with techno-pop bullshit. Friday to Sunday, between the hours of 11 pm to 4 am, it’s an emotional blend of history and contemporary melodies, shared through airways of smoke-filled basement clubs and outdoor cafes.
Turbo-folk is something us Balkans are the only people capable of understanding the appeal. Most friends visiting Serbia are left absolutely mystified by way people love this music so much. To help deal with this, here is a small intro for those poor souls coming to the Balkans to the wonders of the Turbo-folk.
Bato, Bato – Lepa Brena
Now, I’m not the expert in turbo-folk music, but I do know that Lepa Brena was the original lady to step onto the turbo-folk scene. Hands down one of the most famous turbo-folk singers in the former Yugoslavia. This woman was insane – performing over 350 concerts yearly. This past New Year’s Eve, I went to a party that only played Lepa Brena all night. I went home early. It was an overwhelming experience.
Sexy Biznismen – Goga Sekulic
“You are my sexy businessman”. No one in America thought of writing a song called Sexy Biznismen and for that, I salute Goga Sekulic.
Mami, Mami – Dara Bubamara
“Go home, you are a goose”. One of my favorite lines ever written by man. This was the first turbo-folk song I heard. I was stuck at a foam party on the beach. I slipped on the wooden flooring and found out how unhygienic foam parties actually are.
Ljepsa od noci – Sako i Dado Polumenta
Women don’t typically dance to music in Serbian clubs. I don’t know why this is a thing, however, after a couple of drinks, the club is unanimously singing the lyrics and waving napkins in the air. The napkins in the air with a head toss from side to side is about as wild as turbo-folk girls are gonna get.
Miso Moj – Ana Nikolic
The Balkans are like a teeter totter. The region is constantly going from high to low, and the same goes for their music. It’s either ballads or power hits. Nothing between. And these ballads, lemme tell ya, they get you. I realized this when I broke up with my Montenegrin boyfriend and found myself posting Serbian ballads on my Facebook as I cried in front of the computer – I didn’t speak Serbian.
Italiana – Severina
Croatian pop-folk singer, Severina, is currently one of the most popular and loved singers across the entire former Yugoslavia. Her music is pop folk. It’s not deep, it’s not life changing, but amazingly, her music has the ability to attract all countries from the former Yugoslavia to joyously sing along to one of her many hits. And she’s hot. That also helps.
This is one bad bitch. You can take this as a positive or negative attribute, but this woman married a war criminal, went to prison for possession of illegal weapons, spent a year on house arrest for embezzlement and made a hit record while locked up in her house. On top on that, she’s been dubbed as the “Mother of Serbia”. Even though she has a background as sketchy as a Catholic church, people love her.