In an era that has ended the past decade, rock was the music that reflected our time. It was forward-thinking, non-classical, innovative and open-minded, so it was the root of the alternative and the youth. But did rock’n’roll died and we can only dance on its grave now? Why turbo-folk music became popular and how did we go in that direction? And does that mean that we’re listening to meaningless music now? These are the questions we’re going to get through this article.
Rock was once the key to publicly express anger with the current regime, tell the public how we feel and a way to survive in this world. The meaning behind it was the power: if sad, you could drown your sorrow in it and if uprising, you had that revolutionary feeling about it. But how did we came from “I’m a dreamer, but I hope I’m not the only one” to “ti, ti ,ti, ti moja rožica” (lyrics from a song of the Slovenian turbo-folk band Modrijani, which translates to “you, you, you, you’re my flower”)?
Making of music and man’s creation of instruments go way back. The oldest bone whistle (the first instrument that we know today) was actually found here in Slovenia, in the cave Divje babe (eng. Wild Women). It dates back 60.000 to 50.000 years b.c. and was made by the neanderthal, who used it to pass time while hunting or for group gatherings.
That remained the purpose of music through the whole history: to gather, unite and to pass time while living. Just imagine life without music, can you?
Through time every nation developed its own rules and tradition in music – a way that will bond people who belong to the same tribe. That passed through generations and now almost every country has its folklore. It’s nothing wrong with that, this tradition should be is cherished and passed on as a memory of what we originated from: but it’s something wrong with transforming it into a populist commercial genre and becoming a mindless trend of the present.
Turbo-folk music has its roots in the culture of the south and central Europe; in countries like Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and also Check, Tirolska region (northern part of Italy and southern part of Austria) and Slovenia. It became what it is today since the Second World War and popularised events like weddings and country festivals. You can easily recognize it by its famous instrument diatonic accordion. The credits of making this music famous throughout the world (the song called Na Golici is actually the most played instrumental song in the world) goes to Slavko Avsenik and his ensemble.
But how did turbo-folk music became so welcomed and desired, that all the concerts are sold out?
It seems like its lyrics are so effortless and stupid while the melodies are stuck in your head as soon as you hear them. And how did we get to a point where lots and lots of people would trade this music for a Nick Cave concert and are so blind that they don’t even know that IDM music exist?
Another genre that fits into this turbo-folk categorization is Balkan music. Yes, that’s the type where people break glasses out of joy or anger; and where sweaty muscle man, that indulge themselves in a roll of a club security guard, bother women in tight short skirts, heels the size of Kilimanjaro, and hair that even Repunzle would be jealous of. Its quite often one looking like a normal human being would get into a fight with this strange testosterone men, by only looking them for a second. In this “clubs”, music is so loud that you can’t hear your friend even if he’s shouting in your ear and you feel like your brain cells are not going to survive a high pitched voice of a woman singer, that you’re worried is about to choke on her own words, which you can’t understand, even if you speak the language.
And of course again, it’s nothing wrong with cherishing your past and enjoying a night out with your old buddies, but why not try something new, something, that could brighten your horizon or expand your thoughts – or more importantly, not worry about being smacked by local mafia guys who practices a hobby of jumping on people’s heads just for fun.
I think the man who would agree with me right now is Theodor Adorno. Well, for the most part, I guess – you’ll see what I mean in a second. Adorno was a famous sociologist, a part of the Marxist Frankfurt academy, a very progressive school at the beginning of the 20th century. He was one of the first who sliced the enigma of the relationship between music and society: before, music was “just there”, somewhere in the middle, away from all the class affiliation conflicts, not having anything to do with the conception of reality.
But Adorno said: “Music is always the reflection of its time. Classical music is made to please the bourjois because it doesn’t bother them and does not make them question anything in their lives.”
He was a big fan of the atonal music because he thought that it makes you think differently. Something like this: the more music irritates you, the more it gives you perspective and makes you wonder (the irony here is that Adorno was a big critic of jazz). And yes, he was very strict in his thoughts and actually criticized all things that smelled like “popular culture”, but at its core, he had a point. Music should make you question everything and intrigue you to discover the unknown. Isn’t that exactly the beauty that was behind rock’n’roll?
Right now in Slovenia, we are witnessing the rise of turbo-folk music.
Music that was once a thing of a gathering is transforming into an indicator of stupidity, mindlessness and “drinking-is-all-i-have” behavior. Since the death of rock, it’s becoming more and more popular. But what concerns me the most is that even the youth don’t seem to mind it.
Weeks ago I visited my friend who lives at one of the biggest student dormitory residencies in Ljubljana (Rožna Dolina). As I walked from the bus station to the building, I heard a sound. And as I was getting closer, I realized, that what I hear is the sound of the accordion, loud clapping, and shouting. It was like I came to a village party, only a bond fire was missing. And don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing wrong with a bond fire party, it’s just that with youth being stuck only with what they know and don’t show the eager for discovering the new, just drinking as the accordions play its part, I think something here is not natural.
A couple of years back we’ve got a new student campus in Ljubljana: also a place for concerts. I was shocked to see that Modrijani sold out the place. It was a turning point for me: how can my generation listen to such crap? It’s like you haven’t really started and you’re already saying “I gave up”.
If you think about it, that’s exactly the opposite of what Adorno thought was the purpose of music. In a way, it was even expected of music like this becoming popular, because it was the easy way out. But I think the thing to do at this point is not just to criticize and make fun of the people who follow this trend but to seriously question ourselves what does this music tells us about the time we are living in and if we are okay with this becoming the future.