Temptations, Western Influence & Turbo Folk

The interview begun with a brief revisit of the Yugoslavian history and addressing our own understanding as researchers, and considering our positionality. Jovana provided us an insight on the culture of Serbia through her own representation of the present:

“You know more, since those wars and end of communism and countries ‘made up’ there has been a mass difference; … you have your life plan so you travel and … Then we like to complain and not structure things… And definitely people become kind of lazy and – here (in the UK) you give the impression of trying and there wasn’t much passion for trying.”

Already this begun to ignite a further interest in the culture and lifestyle of Belgrade and how it had changed since the conflict. However, considering Jovana mentioned that she found her own culture as ‘lazy’, perhaps it is interesting to consider how technology and media has influenced this as it has become globally integrated within various lifestyles. Social media became a narrative for Jovana to recover details of the conflicts, as she gave us an insight on her own understanding of the representations other countries have illustrated of Serbia.

“For me, I … well, this media thing like facebook and different newspapers you can see young people who were born at war time or even years after, fighting and calling each other – for example Croatians against Serbians! Or… or Bosnians against Serbians – calling each other bad names…” The media clearly still matters though in a form to fuel conflict and representations that have been constructed on meta narratives previous to the war. Considering the temptations that the media faces, and the prosumers who create some of the content, to leave certain details out for a reason. This could be done unconsciously though it is still done for a reason. The media, for Serbia in particular, has conformed to a surveillance culture (Foucault) that enables young adults who have been told through politicians, families and mediated contexts to survey others from neighboring countries, such as Bosnia.

This alternatively relates into structuralism, the interview’s preliminary purpose was to understand Serbia’s culture before travelling to Belgrade, and as a change to the previously established Utopia, which Jovana suggested had now become so separate and divided. In terms of power, Engles (1880) points out that extreme revolutionists did not recognize any external authority of any kind whatsoever when considering Utopia Socialism of which he defined as: “an ideologically driven system that can provide hegemony and attempt to provide a solution to a perfect vision and a ‘new world’”.

Curran (2009) considers that the higher levels of news consumption contributes to a smaller ‘within-knowledge gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged’. Of which I found interesting to acknowledge during our interview with Jovana of media representations of their own celebrities and celebrity culture. Jovana introduced us to Turbo Folk inspired artist: Ceca, who’s husband fought in the war against Croatia though was killed in 2000. She was one of the highest paid female artists in Serbia and consequently inherited FK Obillic football club from her late husband, Arkan. Considering her media presence, as a female artist, she provides a sexualized response for young female Serbian followers of which they appear to look up to as a fashion icon.

Volcic (2010:104) describes Ceca as, “a version of comodified femininity based on the marketing of a promise of personal empowerment” however it must be noted that Ceca’s national identity of being originally a ‘Serb’ has been overridden, claims Volcic (2010) by her personal identity that has become, more recently, to conform to westernized values. Ceca and Turbo Folk’s image has become represented as western by conforming to ‘sexy’ and tightly dressed clothes that would be similar to established western pop music singers. The difference, perhaps, is that Ceca remain to be a female artist that has become empowered by triumphing over previous hardships. Sandvoss (2005:105) suggests that the media and cultural studies should focus upon the ‘multiple meanings to address “neutrosemic” texts’ which becomes an abstract understanding of boundaries that often become symbolic when represented to a global audience.

In terms of empowerment, Ceca has various values of wife and mother that illustrates her conforming to traditional and normative roles of a woman though arguably she is also conforming to modern (western) values as she is conforming to more than one value through her identity as successful artist and role model.

Volcic (2010) identifies Ceca as a local, “…and rose from local to national celebrity…” (2010:107) Of which conforms to one of the three temptations of the lure of the marginal. Fanon suggests that the voices of the local contain postcolonial identity and self-mutilations of the local voice. This may be one of the many reasons behind the respect and love for Ceca and fellow Turbo Folk artists, because of their recognition of the roots in which they originated from. Fanon continues to suggest that the local provides a space for this once oppressed voice and that it can be common for the discourse of the oppressed to still talk in the register of the oppressor and to consider themselves in that voice. Ceca’s power can be identified, not only by her visually noted beauty, established rural origins and (presently westernized) urban style but when her first recorded album was recorded in 1987 and exposed to fans, mainly situated in the Balkans. Resulting in Ceca’s national identity growing globally thus luring her to the value of the Cosmopolitan. When considering methods of research, Hannerz (1990) distinguishes the cosmopolitan from the tourist through state of mind, an interest for tolerance and for ‘otherness’. The cosmopolitan space is the most attractive to be situated in and viewed from. Here, Ceca can be identified as conforming to the cosmopolitan lure because she is a part of the local and has previously encountered the local which has shaped her knowledge and understanding of what the audience desires from her in Serbia, and surrounding Balkans.

As the interview progressed it became clearer that Jovana depended on the representations previously constructed and whom she was able to trust, though this appeared to vary from family members to mediated documentaries:

Adam Teighe: Did you say … obviously this is difficult for you because this is going back (historically) for you, but do you think people were happy before the war and before communism?

Jovana: Yes. Again, what I have seen from documentaries, and what I hear stories from older people and my parents that it was hard but communism tried to make everyone equal. But now, that gap between poor and rich is bigger. In that time we are all brothers –

Adam Teighe : Comrades…

Jovana: Er – I think people were happier, as people would have job and if you didn’t have job then you would get some help. Yes. Now you cannot count and that country is miserable and cannot survive …

In terms of representation of culture and globalisation of western values imposing upon once Yugoslavia combined countries, Curran & Seaton (1981:299) suggest that there is a “utopian projection”. A projection to the future when considering technologies and how we understand a culture when it is based upon a series of representation, of which for Jovana Serbia has become to a degree. Curran & Seaton (1981: 299-300) identify that; “information has been manipulated in different places for different purposes from broadcasting or telephones”. Which reminds us, as an external audience, that we have learnt or understood our representation of Serbia only by the information that has been predominantly exposed though we have not considered as highly the information that has been neglected because it is not as easily available.

Conclusively, Tarlac (2003) comments on the propaganda tool that Turbo Folk singers provide, to the ‘battlefield’ serving as a ‘motivational force for the military” (2003:107). Which can arguably provide the superiority of its kind in Serbia because of its respected ‘sound track’ to the conflict that was so intensely experienced, despite Ceca disliking the phrase ‘sound track’. It is interesting to consider the serious connotations Turbo Folk is recognised as being collaborated to because Volcic (2010) recognises that during early 1990’s the “turbo folk culture” were an important part to new commercial television stations such as TV Pink that tends to be ridiculed by Serbians for its name. Pink carries the connotation of immature and ‘laughable’. Though Volcic shapes this research understanding as this being the true birth of the celebrity status recognition for the Turbo Folk singers, such as Ceca, who reportedly became “celebrities of the culture of criminal acitvities combined with an aggressive embrace of the good life, mob style…” (2010:107). Ceca remains to be a highly respected idol for young adults in the Balkans, more so on a global scale now that she has become to adopt western influence considering her ‘sex appeal’ image.

Temptations, Western Influence & Turbo Folk

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