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Turbo-folk (in recent years referred to as pop-folk) is a musical genre of Serbian folk music with similar styles in Greece (Skyladiko), Bulgaria (Chalga), Romania (Manele) and Albania (Tallava). Having mainstream popularity in Serbia, and although closely associated with Serbian performers, the genre is widely popular in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Montenegro.



A local genre titled novokomponovana (newly composed) is a result of the urbanisation of folk music.[2][better source needed] During the 70s and 80s Serbian folk music started to use elements from Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian folk music, distancing from the original sound. And so many novokomponovana singers emerged: Šaban Šaulić, dubbed the 'King of Folk Music', Jašar Ahmedovski, Kemal Malovčić, Mitar Mirić, Nada Topčagić, Šeki Turković, Ipče Ahmedovski, Ljuba Aličić, Zorica Brunclik, Marinko Rokvić and others. Serbian folk scene was not homogeneous nor uniform. On one hand, following Western models, Vesna Zmijanac was creating a star-image, being sex-symbol, fashionista and gay icon as well. On the other hand, singers like Vera Matović, for example, have created folk subgenre, sort of rural folk, singing about works in field, domestic animals and themes from Serbian village. Louis was combining Serbian folk music with jazz. Their albums were sponsored and songs were broadcast on the Radio Television of Serbia, which led to domination of this genre.


The record in sales is held by Lepa Brena, who emerged in the 1980s. She has sold over 40 million records and held some of the biggest concerts on the Balkans, making her the most successful Serbian singer to date. Brena was also considered to be the symbol of former Yugoslavia, the country's unity and power, and after the breakup of the federation, of so called yugo-nostalgia. At the late stage of neo-folk she started using more influence from pop and oriental music, which led to the emergence of turbo folk.


Turbo-folk (a term coined by rock musician Rambo Amadeus) music emerged as a subculture during the Yugoslav wars, the breakup of Yugoslavia and regime of Slobodan Milošević. Turbo-folk used Serbian folk music and "novokomponovana" as the basis, and added influences from rock, pop and electronic dance music. Songs, which contained folk vocals, were primarily written by rock and pop composers such as Kornelije Kovač, Marina Tucaković and Aleksandar Futa Radulović and were usually followed with an MTV influenced music videos directed by Dejan Milićević and broadcast on RTV Palma and RTV Pink. Combination that was seen as distasteful and grotesque, but at the same time very popular with the people. Most of the tracks involved themes of love, mainly adultery and sex, then materialism, alcohol and vice. The last decade of 20th century witnessed birth and decay of various turbo-folk singers in Serbia, but most of them were at the peak of popularity during the 1990s and 2000s. However, the biggest star of the 90s was Dragana Mirković, who has sold more than 10 million records. She was seen as an innovator, bringing western show business tendencies and making them more appealing to Serbian people by keeping the folk sound. Svetlana Ceca Ražnatović acquired enormous popularity following her marriage to Željko Ražnatović Arkan, Serbian war criminal, as she became the pattern for others singers who aspired to be like her. On the other hand, the biggest male turbo-folk star is Aca Lukas, who next to his music has been known for his controversial lifestyle involving drug addictions and gambling problems. Both Lukas and Ceca were arrested for illegal gun possession during the operation Sablja.


In the 2000s turbo-folk featured even more pop music elements, abandoning traditional influences of ethnic or oriental motives of folk. With new changes, there comes the evolution of new genres, such as electronic. The single-person dominated scene was replaced by diverse performers who remained popular for at least a year. New music and its performers were labeled as pop-folk [performers]. First in line was Indira Radić who in 2002 recorded a duet with Alen Islamović, once a member of the famous Yugoslav rock band Bijelo dugme, titled 'Lopov' (Thief). A strange duo turbo-folk and rock star welcomed the birth of another kind of music, with less accordion and buzuki and more guitar, drums and bass. Although often containing cliché lyrics and melodies, the genre is recognised as more tasteful than turbofolk.

The record label was something most of these musicians had in common, Grand Production (previously known as "Zabava miliona" or "ZAM") used to be the dominant production company which gathered almost every singing person in the country, after Južni Vetar had fallen apart. In 1998. the owners of Zam, Saša Popović and Lepa Brena have announced the rebranding of the company followed with the change of name, logo, exclusion of some singers and change of politics. Soon enough Grand took a monopoly over Serbian music industry, acquiring more media space with music festivals, magazines, but most importantly, TV shows like the popular singing competition Zvezde Granda, which they used to broadcast on TV Pink, now days Prva TV. Many popular singers of younger generation came to prominence through Zvezde Granda like Milica Todorović, Tanja Savić, Rada Manojlović, Milica Pavlović and Aleksandra Prijović. The label eventually lost its power on the market due to digitalisation.


Graffiti against Ceca turbofolk music in Imotski, Croatia: "Turn off all the 'Cecas'/Light up the candles/Vukovar will never/Be forgotten"

According to this persuasion, turbo folk and Serbian involvement in Bosnian and Croatian conflicts would become inextricably linked from then on.[3] This left-wing section of Serbian and Croatian society explicitly viewed turbo folk as vulgar, almost pornographic kitsch, glorifying crime, moral corruption and nationalist xenophobia. In addition to making a connection between turbofolk and "war profiteering, crime & weapons cult, rule of force and violence", in her book Smrtonosni sjaj (Deadly Splendor) Belgrade media theorist Ivana Kronja[4] refers to its look as "aggressive, sadistic and pornographically eroticised iconography".[5] Along the same lines, British culture theorist Alexei Monroe calls the phenomenon "porno-nationalism".[6] However, turbo-folk was equally popular amongst the South Slavic nations during the brutal wars of the 1990s, reflecting perhaps the common cultural sentiments of the warring sides.[5]

Anto Đapić (former mayor of Osijek, and national leader of the right-wing Croatian Party of Rights) has declared "as long as I am mayor, there will be no nightclub-singers [cajki] or turbofolk parades in a single municipal hall".[7]

The resilience of a turbo-folk culture and musical genre, often referred to as the "soundtrack to Serbia’s wars",[8] was and to a certain extent still is, actively promoted and exploited by commercial TV stations, most notably on Pink and Palma TV-channels, which devote significant amount of their broadcasting schedule to turbo-folk shows and music videos.

Others, however, feel that this neglects the specific social and political context that brought about turbo-folk, which was, they say, entirely different from the context of contemporary western popular culture. In their opinion, turbo-folk served as a dominant paradigm of the "militant nationalist" regime of Slobodan Milošević, "fully controlled by regime media managers".[9] John Fiske feels that during that period, turbo-folk and its close counterpart Serbian pop-dance had a monopoly of officially permitted popular culture, while, according to him, in contrast, Western mass media culture of the time provided a variety of music genre, youth styles, and consequently ideological positions.[10]


Some of the best-known regional pop-folk acts include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ An umbrella term covering Balkan; Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Bulgarian, Albanian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, Romanian, Greek, and Turkish music.
  2. ^ Warrander, Gail (2011). Kosovo. Bradt Guides. p. 41. ISBN 9781841623313.
  3. ^ "In These Times 25/07 -- Serbia's New New Wave". Inthesetimes.com. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  4. ^ "Film Criticism". Filmcriticism.allegheny.edu. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Komentari". Nspm.rs. Retrieved 23 April 2017.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Central Europe Review - Balkan Hardcore". Ce-revieww.org. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  7. ^ "Catherine Baker, "The concept of turbofolk in Croatia: inclusion/exclusion in the construction of national musical identity"" (PDF). Eprints.soton.ac.uk. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  8. ^ Gordana Andric (15 June 2011). "Turbo-folk Keeps Pace with New Rivals". Balkaninsight.com. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  9. ^ "Explore Taylor & Francis Online". Maney.co.uk. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  10. ^ John Fiske, Television Culture, February 1988, ISBN 0-415-03934-7


External links[edit]