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February 24, 2008


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I remember that visit well. Come see our new house in rural Germany!

Belts made of dinars: that's a Balkan thing, and very old. (Might be Middle Eastern as well?) Rebecca West talks about it.

Turbofolk has no close NAmerican equivalent, but I guess southern rock is the closest. One problem: a lot of southern rock is actually pretty good.

Doug M.

Turbofolk has no close North American equivalent?

That's right. The various music genres in North America have absolutely never focused on skimpily-clad, big-breasted girls and glorification of flamboyant young gangsters with fixations on luxury watches, gold chains and firearms.


J. J.

But not affiliated with the dominant political group. In fact, W. Clinton famously denounced a hip-hop singer for her racially charged comments after the Rodney King riots [1], which proved his bona fides to Washington journalists everywhere.

The main reason _why_ not has to do with our bizarre 'culture war', which has to be the silliest thing in the world for someone outside the U.S. to watch. Even Canadians think it's hilarious, and they have Stockwell Day as Minister of Public Safety.

[1] no comment.

Doug wrote:

"rural Germany!"

I'm pleased you guys have a nice piece of real estate. I hope you get plenty of opportunities to enjoy it; walks, birdwatching, and so on.

But the phrase strikes me as odd. Rural Germany? This in a country where, if you'll excuse the expression, the towns are a kilotonne apart? What piece of critical information do I lack? :-)

@Carlos: I'm not so sure about the culture war part. But I agree with your general point: there's a huge difference between flamboyant gangster music from a minority subculture, and flamboyant gangster music by and for the majority. In how it worked within the greater culture, turbofolk was much more like country than like rap (though that's still not very close).

@Nich: we'll be in a village of ~1500 people in northern Bavaria, in a district that's pretty purely agricultural. Lots of beanfields and little patches of forest. Lots of hunting blinds. Almost no industry. Quiet. Most people who are living there grew up there.

(Why so quiet? It's hilly, the soil isn't great, and it's right next to what used to be the old _grenze_ between East and West Germany -- so for 40+ years it was a dead end. It's just south of the famous Fulda Gap, so there wasn't a huge military presence either.)

The nearest large town (Bad Neustadt, ~15,000 people) is about 20 minutes away. The nearest city (Schweinfurt, ~120,000) is about an hour away. The nearest large city (Frankfurt) is about two hours away.

It's not the outback, or even rural Wisconsin, but it's about as empty as western Germany gets.

Doug M.

Depends on where you draw the equations of majority and minority, of course.

One could, for example, conclude that the Serbs are the blacks of Europe, and after that, the comparison snaps immediately in the focus.


J. J.

Uh, Jussi? No.

Second sentence didn't register. Should read: "Uh, Jussi? No, black people are the black people of Europe."

Dude, I've lived in Serbia.

That just doesn't work.

Doug M.

Note that turbofolk is just as popular in Croatia as in Serbia -- different performers, exactly the same style.

Are the Croats the blacks of Europe? Um.

"I feel guilty for turbo-folk, just as Albert Einstein felt guilt over Hiroshima & Nagasaki." -- Rambo Amadeus

Doug M.

Doug, he takes the southern rock, and he mixes it with the hip-hop, and the punk rock. So it's completely different, see.

Props to you, Jussi, but he's got this sewn like Betsy Ross. Can't touch the boss. Not at all like turbo-never-heard-of-it-before-now, and would y'all really drop that before wikipedia?

Of course, I've liked this dude for some time now.

Then again, I'd really like this American experiment to succeed, so's that stays a quirk of me and my nieces, and not part of an ancient folk culture.

Doug, you weren't the first Western person to visit or live in Serbia, former Yugoslavia or the Balkans in general.

And since we're now pulling rank and relying on personal experiences, I must point out that sadly, you're not European. Nope, not even within the "broad tent" that you once postulated. Neither are you, Noel.

Historical attitudes and prejudices towards an average guest worker residing in, say, Sweden? Pretty much the same, never mind if he/she has hailed from Serbia, Croatia or Turkey.

Even the _colour_ hasn't mattered. The key element is that they've all been just equally "foreign", "alien" and coming from less developed countries and hence, in a different, lower category of humanity.


J. J.

This is not the discussion I was looking for.

I'm surprised no one has focused on the extremely weak point of JJ's analogy yet: if Serbs are the blacks of Europe, then conversely, blacks must be the Serbs of the United States. And it fails utterly in that direction: numerically, culturally, sociologically, politically.

I can think a more fruitful analogy, though still not a very precise one, using a different core-periphery argument. And I feel certain that the Cuban version of turbofolk, if and when it arrives, will make the original look chaste and circumspect.

Jussi, something is off.

"And I feel certain that the Cuban version of turbofolk, if and when it arrives, will make the original look chaste and circumspect."



Jussi: This European group is analagous to this American group.

Noel + Carlos + Doug: No, that's a bad analogy. They're not much alike at all.

Jussi: You don't get it because you're not European. Especially not you, Doug!

Um... okay.

N.B., it's possible that Serbs may be the blacks of /Finland/ -- although I doubt it; the difference between indigenous minorities and gastarbeitern is pretty huge.

But turbofolk is from Serbia proper, not the Serbian community abroad. Rap didn't originate in Africa.

Living in Serbia: I'll just say this -- I'm pretty sure I've listened to more turbofolk than you.

Look, we're a small group sample. Maybe we're wrong! Try this in some other forum and see who agrees.

Doug M.

Hey, having been labeled as a "European" on this forum once in the past, I seized the opportunity to embrace the definition and throw it right back where it had emanated from. As you may have also noticed by now, pulling rank is a guaranteed way to draw a reaction out of me.

As for this country, Serbs just don't register that much. And incidentally, there's really no substantial history of guest workers residing in Finland. Instead, Finland has been a country which has _provided_ some other European countries with labour.

You'll notice that I specifically picked Sweden as an example. In the eyes of the locals, Finns, Yugoslavs and Turks all used to be just as ganz unten.

Granted, as Carlos noted, the musical and ethnic analogy that I proposed doesn't work at all the other way. So, on that part, I'll concede.

... then again, the original proposal was one-sided to begin with, since the converse analogy deduced from the original proposal doesn't work, either. Would turbo-folk be European equivalent of southern rock, then? Um, no. Far from it.

Taking this further, a hypothetical proposal of Serbs as the European "southern whites" wouldn't work, either. In fact, it'd fail even more utterly in all those same respects already mentioned.

(And the analogy that Noel proposed when he corrected me does have its obvious flaws, but I'm not getting into those here. This is already off-topic.)

But anyhow. Since the initiator has already expressed his dissatisfaction at the direction that this discussion is going, I'll apologize and withdraw. Do continue.


J. J.

I was thinking more of the analogy: the United States : Yugoslavia, since we've had interesting discussions comparing the two nations before. The European analogy threw me for a loop, I suppose because I don't often think of Serbia (or any European nation) as part of a larger coherent Europe, other than geographically. I'd like to think this dates me.

There's an interesting core-periphery argument about popular music lurking at the edges of this discussion, Afrika Bambaataa mixing Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express. But it's been sidetracked.

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