It’s where Ferraris meet dance tracks meet the Serbian flag.
It was called ‘turbo-folk’ – but others called it ‘porno-nationalism.’ Fast cars and scantily-clad women provided the visuals, and the lyrics ran the Serbian gamut of adultery, love, revenge – and ‘mythomaniac kitsch.’ Said one popular song: “Days of freedom are coming straight/For our dear leader is great/Our song is loud and true/Radovan, we’re all with you.”
Svetlana Ražnatovic certainly helped. Already a popular singer, her relationship with Željko Ražnatovic Arkan was national news, and their 1995 marriage televised. Arkan was a celebrity in his own right – for different reasons. He was one of Serbia’s foremost paramilitary leaders: the UK’s Guardian called him ‘the underworld boss of Milosevic’s murder squat.’ He would be indicted for war crimes in 1997 – and gunned down in 2000. Concerts were dedicated to him.
International politicians hated it. It was decried on the left wing as emblematic of the region’s moral decline, an anthem of criminality – and sometimes even on the right, as being “too Turkish.” But the people loved it. One of Ražnatovic’s most popular songs included the line, ‘If you were wounded, I’d give you my blood‘ – it was a hit on both sides of the trenches.
Ten years later, Serbian turbo-folk clubs are still up and running. In Croatia.