Sunday, April 16, 2006

Music blurs the lines that divide us

More evidence that music can cross even the bitterest divide:

Serb folk music strikes chord in postwar Croatia
By Zoran Radosavljevic

ZAGREB (Reuters) - People's arms go up in the air, their eyes close and their bodies start to sway to the deafening, hypnotic rhythms.

The music, known as "turbo-folk", is unmistakably Serbian but none of the ecstatic young Croats in the Sova (Owl) nightclub, who lip-sync the words of each song, seem to care.

Until recently, for most Croats Serbia was the enemy they fought in the 1991-95 independence war and all its products were shunned. Turbo-folk, synonymous with Serbia, was considered politically incorrect.

With its lyrics about unrequited love, adultery and revenge set to folk melodies, strong beats and synthesizers, turbo-folk started in the 1980s. It was generally ignored in urban areas, but became popular in rural parts of Serbia and Bosnia.

However, times are changing and turbo-folk -- blasted, or even ignored, by critics who say it has no musical value -- is conquering the very heart of the Croatian capital, where semi-secret folk clubs have mushroomed in the past year.

The Jutarnji List daily's rock critic describes it as "a mixture of mutated Balkan melodies, howling vocals, idiotic lyrics and sampled disco and house rhythms".

Not that that puts the fans off.

It reminds me of the way rap and hip-hop were once the exclusive territory of young black Americans, but that it very quickly became a multi-cultural phenomenon that began to define an entire generation of music. Even the rock, alternative, punk, and other genres of music being produced today have been influenced by hip-hop; it's unmistakeable. I always smile to myself whenever I'm with someone and they tell me something like, "I like just about any kind of music... except RAP, but that isn't music, now is it?" Ummm, well, actually, yes it is. And it's permeated everything you listen to, but you don't even know it, silly.

And that's not a bad thing.

Bad music gets made every day, but it isn't the style that defines its quality. There were scads of bad operas and symphonies written and performed hundreds of years ago, just as there are truly terrible songs being rocketed to Number One nowadays. The few truly quality examples of music will always rise to the top and stand the test of time.

I hope that Serbs and Croats eventually work out their differences (although I'm aware that they have a very long history of hatred)... and I daresay that those differences, if they're breached, will be breached by the very people who are smashing the barriers over here: the young.

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