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35 2 Constructing Transnational Divas Gendered Productions of Balkan Turbo-folk Music Zala Volčič and Karmen Erjavec If you were wounded, I’d give you my blood If you were blind, I’d give you both of my eyes — Ceca, a Serbian singer, from song lyrics of “Kad bi Bio Ranjen” (If You Were Wounded) The same year in which former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was on trial for war crimes at The Hague, the wife of one of his former henchmen held a concert in the Serbian part of Bosnia—a country deeply scarred by the violence of the 1990s. Ceca, a Balkan superstar in her own right, a well-known Serbian nationalist, and by that time a widow, took the opportunity to showcase “turbofolk ” music along with her unique blend of performance and politics. In the wake of the global censure of Serbia, Ceca incited the crowd’s virulent opposition to the international court and its sense of victimization. As the crowd invoked her dead husband, Ceca responded, “Let’s sing! Let’s sing so they don’t send us all to The Hague.”1 For audiences in countries where politics is studiously dissociated from popular culture, this might have seemed a strange spectacle. All the elements of pop-kitsch glamour stood out—the skimpy dress stretched tightly across Ceca’s surgically enhanced curves, the pounding of overamplified music, and the audience of teenage girls enthralled by the sentimental love lyrics. However , this cultural energy was harnessed to a different kind of idol—the lingering patriarchal fantasy of a strong Balkan woman steeped in patriotic love of the homeland but willing to leave the sphere of the political to men. It is this image of contradictions that Ceca strategically cultivates in her concert—strong but lovelorn, powerful yet submissive, both politically charged and allegedly apolitical . Ceca has managed to claim regional success despite her close identification with some of the more controversial figures of Serb nationalism during the wars of the 1990s. In her public interviews, Ceca tends to portray both sides of this image, highlighting both aggressive ambition and submissive sex appeal. As she put it,“I am a very ambitious woman. Even when I was a child I knew that I was going to become the biggest star in the Balkans. . . . I’m happy that I’m earning the fruits of my effort and struggle. I like to show my femininity. And I also have very strong sex appeal.”2 36 Zala Volčič and Karmen Erjavec This chapter explores the trajectory of Ceca’s ascent as a pop icon despite her clearly nationalist identification and political commitments. Ceca is a locally positioned star who manages both to exploit and to disavow her political entanglements , including the fact that she was arrested (and later released uncharged) in connection with the assassination of former Serb prime minister Zoran Djindic. The disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s transformed what had once been a national culture into a transnational one and significantly altered the broader cultural and social scene of the region. Mediated forms of popular culture, including music, movies, and television, that had previously been organized by the guiding hand of the state were now being influenced and shaped by new forms of nationalisms driven by market forces. Especially after the wars and the subsequent fall of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, new cross-border cultural relations and practices emerged between the seven resulting states (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia , and Kosovo). In this new cultural scenario, turbo-folk music and Ceca, its iconic singer, stand out as illustrative of the new and emergent transnational ethos. Turbo-folk, a hybrid musical form comprising Balkan folk, the popular music of Serbian and Roma brass bands, Middle Eastern beats, and contemporary electro -pop-dance music, rose to popularity in the 1990s.3 It was around the same time that Serbia lost four wars, endured widespread poverty and violence, was bombed by NATO, and was threatened by international isolation. Turbo-folk music combines a militaristic Serbian nationalism with a kitschy aesthetic that features provocatively dressed female performers, pumped full of silicon, singing about death, love, passion, emotions, blood, and patriotic sacrifice.4 This genre has been directly linked to a wartime culture of violence, crime, nationalism, and war profiteering as it helped legitimize the ideal of a Greater Serbia as a hegemonic force in the region.5 In this light, it is perhaps ironic that after the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814744680
Related ISBN
9780814737309
MARC Record
OCLC
744354014
Pages
336
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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