27.6.06

Festivale de Football Day 23: Serbia & Montenegro


Serbia & Montegro have the dubious honour of being the single worst team in the world cup this year, having gained exactly no points and being walloped six nil by an awesome looking Argentina. It was a close run thing, but they've avoided having the worst music in the world cup - although they do have a claim for most bizarre.

What does the term 'turbo-folk' bring to mind for you? When I heard the term first, I envisaged something like Gogol Bordello, a folk-punk band rollicking away on national language songs, generally having a whale of a time.
What I got was Rambo Amadeus. Remember when I said that oppression, discontent and trouble brought about the best music? Maybe I was a little hasty. Rambo Amadeus (aka Antonije Pušić) coined the term turbo-folk to describe his own music on his 1988 debut. Turbo-folk came to cover a whole variety of different performers, albeit none with Rambo's, um, unique sense of innovation. Tracks from his debut could contain snippets of anything from Sex'n'Drugs'n'Rock'n'Roll to Also Sprach Zarathustra, while the basis of the songs tended to coagulate around fairly overtly sexual lyrical themes, and a slightly horrific slap funk bass.

It's pretty hideous stuff, but formed the basis of what was to become the predominant sound of Serbia over the late eighties and nineties. As war raged around them, turbo-folk came to symbolise a moral decline as much as escapism from the troubles around, it's bawdy lyrics accompanied by leggy blondes stretched out on cars, a soundtrack to decadence if ever I heard one.

As his creation took over the Serbian airwaves, Rambo became involved in more political sentiments, famously lambasting a Belgrade for indulging in mindless fun while Tuzla and Dubrovnik were being bombed, in front of a live televised audience. His latter (post-war) material has seen him returning to the exhaustingly eclectic turbo-folk of his youth.
You can find tracks from Rambo's debut on MySpace, or check his website for newer downloads.
Rambo Amadeus - Komedija, Tragedija, Drama

Fortunately, it doesn't end there. Acts like Modern Quartet and Darkwood Dub are leading lights in Belgrade's renaissance into the hip destination it's becoming, and produce some excellent, folk-tinged electronica (folktronica? maybe Four Tet has kinsmen here...). I understand that there's been an underground punk scene for years, and this is the city flexing it's wings to take off into more exotic realms. Good on 'em, I say, especially if it moves people on from the frankly bizarre turbo-folk deal.

Darkwood Dub - Vrtlog Vira
Darkwood Dub - O Pustinji

Buy Serbian music/turbo-folk
Buy Rambo Amadeus/Darkwood Dub/Modern Quartet

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CIA Factbook: Serbia & Montenegro

PS: you must must must check out the Contrast Podcast this week. What are the odds on two Hullensian bands in a topic about cannibals?

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