Monday, March 06, 2006

Turbofolklore: Moja Štikla

The implicit question throughout the Croatian media's coverage of Moja štikla: is the song 'Croatian folklore', or is it 'turbofolk'? (Although how do the two ideas end up as opposite poles in the first place? And what are the implications when they are?)

Severina and her composer Boris Novković made their justifications clear last week, stating in a string of interviews that the song was 'real Croatian folklore' (Novković) and included a variety of folk singing styles from Split and Zagora (Severina).

Folk musicians and ethnomusicologists - in other words, dealing with the authentic sort of folklore - are looking at it differently: or at least, the ones quoted in the newspapers are. A quick-off-the-draw 24 sata contacted the eminent Croatian musicologist Joško Ćaleta to quote him in Saturday's edition as saying:

'Moja štikla are bad quotes of our musical tradition uninventively lumped together according to a 'copy-paste' system, typical Bregović handiwork which ought not to be called Croatian ethno music.'

The same article quoted Jadranka Gračanin, an ex-member of the folklore ensemble Lado (which provided the backing vocalists for Novković's own Eurovision entry last year), as saying that the song could only be considered folklore in a 'pejorative context' and that the chorus reminded her of the Yugoslav newly-composed folk-music icon Lepa Brena.

With great respect for Ćaleta and Gračanin, whether Moja štikla is authentic folklore may not be the point in the context of an international media spectacle like Eurovision. Ruslana's Wild Dances, Eurovision winner in 2004 and possible inspiration for this song and many others, likely had as little to do with authentic Hutsul traditions as Seve and her štikla have with Lado's stock-in-trade.

Today's Jutarnji list has done the rounds of Croatia's folk musicians too, and emphasises similar themes, not least from Mojmir Novaković, the lead singer of the folk groups Legen and Kries. Says Novaković:

'Moja štikla is pure turbofolk. Severina's brought it into Croatia through the front door. Until now it was around, in some clubs, and it wasn't on screens, but now we can say that turbofolk has gripped Croatia officially as well. There's no question of classing it as ethno music [etnoglazbu] in any way whatsoever because it does not have the basic traditional elements of any Balkan ethno-culture. It's a big fake [lažnjak] and the people who did it know that's what it is. When I heard the song, I went back to my childhood and Severina reminded me of when Lepa Brena appeared with her song 'Mile voli disko'.'

JL readers also heard from Dunja Knebl, who like Novaković was instrumental in the authentic folk music movement emerging in the mid-1990s, and who pointed to the nature of the Croatian music scene in general as a precondition for Severina's popularity:

'Primary-school children now listen to turbofolk en masse because it is, unfortunately, omnipresent. Domestic ethno-musicians like Tamara Obrovac are excellently placed abroad [Obrovac was nominated for a BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music in 2004], while they're rarely heard on our radio stations.

'On the other hand, turbofolk is heard all over the place - in clubs, in cafés, on the radio. The average listener, who also decided about Severina's song, has no opportunity to hear quality music and have better taste.

The third folk musician in the article, Lidija Bajuk, once competed in Dora herself, unlike Novaković or Knebl.

'Although the song has elements of Croatian folklore, it definitely isn't because Severina isn't an authentic ethno-singer. The words of the song carry elements of musical tradition, like the expression zumba, so I'd call it, shall we say, pseudo-folklore, while in a wider sense it would still be turbofolk.'

On the other hand, as Knebl pointed out in today's piece: 'This is another good move by Severina, and the more we talk about it, the more publicity we give to her and that sort of music.'

Which Seve nacionale, of course, has known all along.


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