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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 45 | volume VIII | November-December, 2005



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 45November-December, 2005

Singing Cities: Images of the City in Ex-Yu Popular Music

p. 1
Martin Pogačar

Gradovi daleki
    Koje želimo znati
    Gradovi od pjesme
    Gradovi daleki [1]

    Music and the city present an interesting subject for analysis. With regard to former Yugoslavia, popular music in general offers a very entertaining resource for understanding the everyday life in relation to political mythology. Songs about the city, in particular, seem to reflect the regime`s attempt to modernise and urbanise the country. In this essay, I will examine the morphology of the city that may be re/constructed from textual analysis of selected songs counterpoised against historical context might offer some insight into the mythscapes of former Yugoslavia. The selection of songs covers the period between late 1950s and late 1980s. This period saw the rise of the city in the light of post-World War II rebuilding enthusiasm and subsequent problematisation of the city concurrent with the collapse of the regime. The turning point seems to be Tito`s death, after which the rifts in the state`s edifice became strikingly apparent. Attempting to sketch the city as represented in the lyrics, I will focus particularily on the soundscapes of Ljubljana, but try to relate imagery to Beograd and Zagreb as well.
    The realm of music in former Yugoslavia, Mirjana Laušević maintains, allows for three expressive modes to be discerned: revolutionary songs, the work of cultural and artistic ensembles, and popular music. As far as popular music is concerned, its ‘many genres […] can be viewed as subcultural sounds and discussed separately’. But, what is important in this context is ‘their common feature: the capability of grouping people in categories other than national ones.’[2] Two genres, significantly formed through intensive borrowing from foreign, predominantly Western, forms of musical expression and essentially related to the city, offer interesting readings. One is the genre of popular song, that flourished predominantly throughout 1950s and until early 1970s. It includes the type of easy-listening music that fits the category of canzona, Schlager, popevka, jazz and musical.[3] It was mainly popularised through radio and festivals and later TV, thus made present and known throughout the country. The other one is the so called yugo rock, music that from the 1970s on played the role of one of the most prominent popular cultural frameworks. Peter Stankovič notes that ‘differences that existed on the level of aesthetics, did not prevent the feeling of being a part of a common yu-rock culture […] [what is more] yu-rock, divided into different genre manifestations, remained one of


1. Grupa 220, “Kule od riječi/Fortresses made of words”; [Distant cities/We`d like to know/Cities made of song/Distant cities].
2. Mirjana Laušević, “The Ilahiya and Bosnian Muslim Identity” in Mark Slobin (ed.), Retuning Culture, Musical Changes in Cental and Eastern Europe, (Duke University Press, Durham and London, 1996), pp. 117-135, p. 118-20.
3. Alenka Barber-Kersovan, “Tradition and Acculturation as Polarities of Slovenian Popular Music” in Simon Firth (ed.), World Music, Politics and Social Change: Papers from the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1989), p. 73– 89. p. 75.

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