Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Assessing Turbofolk Controversies: Popular Music between the Nation and the Balkans

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
The full text of this article is not currently available.

Brill’s MyBook program is exclusively available on BrillOnline Books and Journals. Students and scholars affiliated with an institution that has purchased a Brill E-Book on the BrillOnline platform automatically have access to the MyBook option for the title(s) acquired by the Library. Brill MyBook is a print-on-demand paperback copy which is sold at a favorably uniform low price.

Access this article

+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites
You must be logged in to use this functionality

image of Southeastern Europe

This article explores controversies provoked by the Serbian pop-folk musical style “turbofolk” which emerged in the 1990s. Turbofolk has been accused of being a lever of the Milošević regime – an inherently nationalist cultural phenomenon which developed due to the specific socio-political conditions of Serbia in the 1990s. In addition to criticism of turbofolk on the basis of nationalism and war-mongering, it is commonly claimed to be “trash,” “banal,” “pornographic,” “(semi-)rural,” “oriental” and “Balkan.” In order to better understand the socio-political dimensions of this phenomenon, I consider other Yugoslav musical styles which predate turbofolk and make reference to pop-folk musical controversies in other Balkan states to help inform upon the issues at stake with regard to turbofolk. I argue that rather than being understood as a singular phenomena specific to Serbia under Milošević, turbofolk can be understood as a Serbian manifestation of a Balkan-wide post-socialist trend. Balkan pop-folk styles can be understood as occupying a liminal space – an Ottoman cultural legacy – located between (and often in conflict with) the imagined political poles of liberal pro-European and conservative nationalist orientations. Understanding turbofolk as a value category imbued with symbolic meaning rather than a clear cut musical genre, I link discussions of it to the wider discourse of Balkanism. Turbofolk and other pop-folk styles are commonly imagined and articulated in terms of violence, eroticism, barbarity and otherness the Balkan stereotype promises. These pop-folk styles form a frame of reference often used as a discursive means of marginalisation or exclusion. An eastern “other” is represented locally by pop-folk performers due to oriental stylistics in their music and/or ethnic minority origins. For detractors, pop-folk styles pose a danger to the autochthonous national culture as well as the possibility of a “European” and cosmopolitan future. Correspondingly I demonstrate that such Balkan stereotypes are invoked and subverted by many turbofolk performers who positively mark alleged Balkan characteristics and negotiate and invert the meaning of “Balkan” in lyrical texts.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Southeast European Studies, University of Graz


Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

1. Aćimović, D. 2001. “Estradne zvezde o svojim vezama na visokom nivou: i političari su ljudi! [Showbiz stars about their affairs at the high level: politicians are people too!]” Ilustrovana politika2216, (July 7 th) Available online at: < > (last accessed 10th April 2012).
2. Archer R. ,(2012) “Western, eastern and modern: Balkan pop-folk music and (trans)nationalism” in Leccardi C. , et al. (eds.) 1989: Young people and social change after the fall of the Berlin Wall ( Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publishing):187-204.
3. Archer R. ,and Rácz K. , 2012. “ " Švercand the Šinobus: Small-scale smuggling in Vojvodina"” in Bruns B. ,and Miggelbrink J. (eds.) Subverting borders: Doing research on smuggling and small-scale trade ( Wiesbaden: VS Verlag): 5983.
4. Baker C. 2006. “ "The politics of performance: Transnationalism and its limits in former Yugoslav popular music, 1999–2004"” Ethnopolitics Vol 5( 3): 275293.
5. ——. 2007. “ "The concept of turbofolk in Croatia: inclusion/exclusion of national musical identity"” in Baker C. , et al. (eds.) Nation in formation: inclusion and exclusion in central and eastern Europe ( London: SSEES Occasional Papers, 2007): 139158.
6. ——. 2008. “ "When Seve met Bregović: Folklore, turbofolk and the boundaries of Croatian musical identity"” Nationalities Papers Vol 36( 4): 741764.
7. ——. 2010. Sounds of the borderland popular music, war and nationalism in Croatia since 1991 ( Aldershot: Ashgate).
8. B92. 2004. Sav Taj Folk[All that folk, documentary film]. B92 (Veran Matić, Chief Editor).
9. Bakić-Hayden M. 1995. “ "Nesting Orientalisms: The case of former Yugoslavia"” Slavic Review Vol 54( 1): 917931.
10. Beissinger M.H. 2008. “ "Muzică Orientală: Identity and popular culture in postcommunist Romania",” in Buchanan : 95142.
11. Bjelić D. ,and Savić O. (eds.) 2002. Balkan as metaphor: Between globalization and fragmentation ( Boston: MIT Press): 165190.
12. Brown K. 2001. “ "Beyond ethnicity: The politics of urban nostalgia in modern Macedonia",” Journal of Mediterranean Studies Vol 11( 2): 417442.
13. Buchanan D. A. 2002. “ "Soccer, popular music and national consciousness in post-state-socialist Bulgaria, 1994–1996",” in British Journal of Ethnomusicology Vol 11( 2): 127.
14. ——. 2008. (ed.) Balkan Popular Culture and the Ottoman Ecumene: Music, Image and Regional Political Discourse ( Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press).
15. ——. 2008. “ "Bulgarian ethnopop along the old Via Militaris: Ottomanism, orientalism, or Balkan cosmopolitanism?"in Buchanan D. (ed.): 225268.
16. Čolović I. 1984. " Divlja književnost(Nolit: Belgrade) 2007 “Why do we take pride in the Balkans?"” in Bulgarska Etnologija Vol 1( 9).
17. Cvitanović M. 2009. “ "(Re)konstrukcija balkanskih identiteta kroz popularnu glazbu [(Re)constructing Balkan identities through popular music]",” in Migracijske i etničke teme Vol 4: 317335.
18. Dimitrijević, B. 2002. “Globalni turbo-folk [Global turbo-folk]” NIN(June 20 th) Available online at: < > (last accessed April 10th 2012).
19. Dimova R . 2007. “ "BalkanBeats Berlin: Producing cosmopolitanism, consuming primitivism",” in Ethnologia Balkanica Vol 11: 221235.
20. Dragićević-Šešić M. 1994. Neofolk kultura Publika i njene zvezde[ Neofolk Culture and its stars](Sremski Karlovci, Novi Sad: Izdavačka knjižarnica Zorana Stojanovića).
21. Dragović-Soso J. 2002. “Saviours of the nation”: Serbia’s intellectual opposition and the revival of nationalism ( London: Hurst & Company).
22. Đurković M. 2004. “ "Ideološki i Politićki Sukobi oko Popularne Muzike u Srbiji [Ideological and political conflicts about popular music in Serbia]",” in Filozofija i DruštvoXXV: 271284.
23. E-Novine. 2010. “Srpska politika: Sve za Dodika, Dodika ni za šta: Vuk sa Cecom nešto ima…[Politics of Republika Srpska: All for Dodik, Dodik for nothing: Vuk with Ceca, there is something there],” in E-Novine(2 October) Online. Available at: < > (Accessed November 27 th, 2011)
24. Gellner E. 1997. Nationalism ( London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson).
25. Gligorijević, J. 2010. “Ekrem Jevrić Gospoda, zvezda Kanade i Amerike: Pas do pasa, beton do betona [Ekrem Jevrić gentleman, star of Canada and America: Dog to dogs, concrete to concrete],” in Vreme1021, (July 29 th, Kultura).
26. Gordy E. 1999. The culture of power in Serbia: Nationalism and the destruction of alternatives , ( University Park PA: Pennsylvania State University Press).
27. ——. 2005. “ "Reflecting on the Culture of Power, ten years on"” Facta Universitatis, Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology, Vol 4( 1): 1119.
28. ——. n.d. On urban identity in the global Palanka: Perceptions of self among Belgrade rockers. Available online at: < > (last accessed November 27 th, 2011).
29. Grgić et al., October 2001. “Istok je Istočno [East is east],” in Nomad33.
30. Grujić, M. 2006. “Inclusiveness of the “turbo-folk” music scene in post-Socialist Serbia: Transgression of cultural boundaries or a new model of cultural exclusions?” Paper presented at Inclusion/Exclusion: 7 thInternational Postgraduate Conference on Central and Eastern Europe, UCL-SSEES, (February 16–18, 2006).
31. Hawksworth C. 2008. Zagreb: A cultural history ( Oxford: Oxford University Press).
32. Hofman A. 2010. “ " Kafanasingers: Popular music, gender and subjectivity in the cultural space of socialist Yugoslavia",” in Narodna umjetnost Vol 47( 1): 141161.
33. Hudson R. 2003. “ "Songs of seduction: popular music and Serbian nationalism",” in Patterns of Prejudice , Vol 37( 2): 157176.
34. Iordanova D. 2001. Cinema of flames: Balkan Film, culture and the media ( London: BFI Publishing).
35. J.L. 2008. “Dežulović: Stvorili smo čudovište, bez ikakve zle namjere [“Dežulović: We created a monster without any ill intent”] Slobodna Dalmacija(December 21 st).
36. Jansen S. 2001. “ "The streets of Belgrade. Urban space and protest identities in Serbia",” in Political Geography Vol 20: 3055.
37. ——. 2002. “Svakodnevni Orijetalizam: Doživljaj,Balkana’/,Evrope’ u Beogradu i Zagrebu [Everyday Orientalism: the experience of Balkan/Europe in Belgrade and Zagreb],” in Filozofija i Društvo Vol XVII: 3371.
38. ——. 2005. “ "Who’s afraid of white socks? Towards a critical understanding of post-Yugoslav urban self-perceptions",” in Ethnologia Balkanica Vol 9: 151167.
39. Jergović, M. 2004. “Sarajevski Marlboro: Silvana i Hanka [Sarajevo Marlboro: Silvana and Hanka],” BiH Dani390, Decemeber 3 rd.
40. Jovanović J. , 2005. “ "The Power of recently revitalised Serbian rural folk music in urban settings",” in Randall A.J. (ed.) Music, Power, and Politics ( London and New York: Routledge): 133142.
41. Judah T. 2009. “ "Good news from the Balkans: The Yugosphere is dead. Long live the Yugosphere".” LSE Papers on South Eastern Europe . ( London: Crowes Complete Print).
42. Kiossev A. 2002. “ "The dark intimacy: Maps, identities, acts of identification",” in Bjelić and Savić: 165190.
43. Kronja I. 2001. Smrtonosni sjaj: Masovna Psihologija i estetika turbo folka[ The fatal glow: Mass psychology and aesthetics of turbofolk]( Belgrade: Tehnokratia).
44. ——. 2004. “Turbo folk and dance music in 1990s "Serbia: Media, ideology, and the production of spectacle",” in The Anthropology of East Europe Review Vol 22( 1): 103114.
45. Kurkela V. 2008. "Bulgarian Chalgaon video: Oriental stereotypes, mafia exoticism, and politics",” in Buchanan: 143174.
46. Levy C. , 2002. “ "Who is the ‘other’ in the Balkans?: local ethnic music as a differentsource of identities in Bulgaria",” in Young R. (ed.) Music, popular culture, identities ( New York, Amsterdam: Rodopi): 215230.
47. Longinović T. , 2000. “ "Blood and song at the end of Yugoslavia",” in Radano R. ,and Bohlman P.V. (eds.), Music and the racial imagination ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press): 622643.
48. MacDonald D.B. 2002. Balkan holocausts? Serbian and Croatian victim-centred propaganda and the war in Yugoslavia ( Manchester: Manchester University Press).
49. Malešević M. 2003. “ "Are there nations on Planet Reebok? Local vs. global identity among young Serbs",” in Ethnologia Balkanica Vol 7: 181194.
50. Naumović S. 1996. “ "Identity creator in identity crisis: Reflections on the politics of Serbian ethnology",” in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures Vol 8( 2): 39128.
51. Norris D. 2009. Belgrade: A cultural history ( Oxford: Oxford University Press).
52. Nikolić T. , 2005. “ "Serbian sexual response: Gender and sexuality in Serbia during the 1990s",” in Štulhofer A. ,and Sandford T. (eds.), Sexuality and gender in Postcommunist Eastern Europe and Russia ( New York: Haworth Press): 125140.
53. Papić Ž. , 2002. “ "Europe after 1989: Ethnic wars, the Fascistization of civil society and body politics in Serbia",” in Griffin G. ,and Braidotti R. (eds.) Thinking differently: a reader in European women’s studies ( London and New York: Zed Books): 127144.
54. Pennanen R.P. 2008. “ "Lost in scales: Balkan folk music research and the Ottoman legacy",” Muzikologija Vol 8, 127147.
55. Prnjak, H. 2008. “Bratstvo i Jedinstvo u Pjesmi i Veselju [Brotherhood and unity in song and happiness]” H-Alter(Zagreb, November 4 th) Available online at < > (Last Accessed November 27 th, 2011).
56. R.J. 2007. “Umro Nino!” Press(Belgrade, October 19 th). Available online at: < > (Accessed October 2 nd, 2011).
57. R.S. 2004. “Skadnal u Brčkom! Lepa Brena i Boba. Živojinović položili cveće na spomenik “žrtvama srpskih fašista” [Scandal in Brčko! Lepa Brena and Boba Živojinović lay flowers on the monument “to victims of Serbian fascists”],” Dnevni Kurir(Stars, August 21–22). Available online at < > (Last Accessed April 9th 2012).
58. Ramet S. (ed.) 1994. Rocking the state: Rock music and politics in Eastern Europe and Russia ( Boulder: University of Colorado Press).
59. Rasmussen Lj . V. 1995. “ "From source to commodity: newly-composed folk music of Yugoslavia",” in Popular Music Vol 14( 2): 241256.
60. ——. 1996. “ "The southern wind of change: Style and the politics of identity in prewar Yugoslavia",” in Slobin M. (ed.) Returning culture: Musical changes in Central and Eastern Europe ( Durham and London: Duke University Press): 99116.
61. ——. 2002. Newly composed folk music of Yugoslavia ( New York and London: Routledge).
62. ——. 2008. “ "Bosnian and Serbian popular music in the 1990s: Divergent paths, conflicting meanings, and shared sentiments",” in Buchanan: 57–94.
63. Rice T. 2002. “ "Bulgaria or Chalgaria: The attenuation of Bulgarian nationalism in a mass-mediated popular music",” in Yearbook for Traditional Music Vol 34: 2546.
64. S.C. 2009. “Lepa Brena: Nisam ni Hrvatica ni Srpkinja, ja sam Jugoslavenka! [Lepa Brena: I am neither Croatian nor Serbian, I am Yugoslavian!],”, 2 March). Available online at < > (Accessed 5 March 2009).
65. Simić M. 2007. “ "EXIT u Evropu: popularna muzika i politike identiteta u savremenoj Srbiji [Exit to Europe: Popular Music and Identity Politics in Contemporary Serbia]",” in Kultura Vol 116-117: 98122.
66. ——. 2009. Exit to Europe: state, travel, popular music andnormal lifein a Serbian townPh.D. dissertation, University of Manchester.
67. Spaić, T. 2005. “Feeding on incidents: Hate speech in the Serbian press” Media Online.baAvailable online at: < > (Last accessed November 27 th, 2011).
68. Stokes M. 1992 The Arabesk debate: music and musicians in modern Turkey ( Oxford: Clarendon Press).
69. Sugarman J.C. 2008. “ "The Criminals of Albanian music: Albanian commercial folk music and issues of identity since 1990",” in Buchanan: 269308.
70. Thompson M. 1999. Forging war: The media in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina . ( Luton: University of Luton Press).
71. Todorova M. 1997. Imagining the Balkans ( Oxford: Oxford University Press).
72. Velikonja M. , 2002. “ "Ex-home: ‘Balkan culture’ in Slovenia after 1991",” in Törnquist-Plewa B. ,and Resic S. (eds.) The Balkans in focus – Cultural boundaries in Europe ( Lund: Nordic Academic Press): 189207.
73. Volčič Z. 2005. “ "The notion of ‘the West’ in the Serbian national imagery",” in European Journal of Cultural Studies Vol 8: 155175.
74. Volčič Z. ,and Erjavec K. 2010. “ "The Paradox of Ceca and the turbo-folk audience",” in Popular Communication Vol 8( 1): 103119.
75. Živković, M. 1998. “Too much character, too little kultur: Serbian Jeremiads 1994–1995,” in Balkanologie2. Available online at < > (last accessed April 10th 2012).
76. Aca Lukas – Balkan Express
77. Ceca and Rade Šerbedžija – Neću protiv druga svog
78. Danijel Đokić – Balkan u mojim venama
79. Đani – Balkanac
80. Elena Gheoghe – The Balkan Girls
81. Funky G – Kafanu na Balkanu
82. Indira Radić – Rodni kraj
83. Ivan Gavrilović – 200 na sat
84. Lepa Brena – Čačak, Čačak
85. Luna – Balkanac
86. Mašinka Lukić – Apolo 9
87. Milan Stanković – Ovo je Balkan
88. Mile Kitić and Đogani – Nema više cile mile
89. Neda Ukraden – Na Balkanu
90. Rade Jorović – Moje selo lepše od Pariza
91. Riblja Čorba – Ej moj druže zagrebački
92. Seka Aleksić – Balkan
93. Selma Bajrami – Žena sa Balkana
94. Slađana Ristić - Mafijaš
95. Stoja - Evropa
96. *all songs are available via (as of November 2011)

Article metrics loading...



Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to ToC alert
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    Southeastern Europe — Recommend this title to your library
  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation