balkan bar

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imageproduction between exoticism, global mainstream and diaspora




Almir Bazdar
Slobodan Karamanic
Asmir Sabic
Manuela Unverdorben
Crossing Munich 2009
Rathausgalerie München

The term Balkan, geographically fictional, is connected to a whole set of diverse associations, most of them negative: political chaos, break up into smaller and often hostile states, war... Since the 1990s there seems to be a more positive image based on the Hype of Balkan music. Our work shows that these positive connotations are also based on essentialism, the romantic longing for authenticity, exotism and old stereotypes. This image production in Europe is mainly based on movies (Kusturica), art (In Search for Balkania, Blood and Honey, ...) and music (Bucovina Club, etc.).
Within this set of cultural production, music for sure has an extraordinary position, easy to access, emotional, global. This project analyses two phenomena of transnational, hybrid music productions and their inscriptions: Balkanstyle/ GypsyGroove (folk music => electronic, western music) and Turbo Folk (electronic, western music => folk music). Racist terms like “Zigeuner” are euphemistically renamed into “gypsy” or small bands playing at Balkanstyle Parties are presented as “authentic gypsy musicians”. The “oriental character of the Balkans” is opposed to rational and boring Europe. Balkan music is promising emotions, passion, anarchy, good-feeling and excessive dancing. With a few exceptions, all producers talk about their migrant background
or Balkanian roots; the love for Balkan music grows in the Diaspora. Musicians from the region only get attention if they stick to the label Balkan, other urban music production (“šlageri”, “kantautori”, Rock or Electro) hardly play any part. Looking at turbo folk, there are a lot of other phenomena of the transnational connections between production and consumption to discover. The Serbian turbo folk production for example uses patterns well-known in global mainstream (to fetishise – mainly the female – body, attributes of wealth, etc.). Even turbo folk seems to be rooted in a local context, most of its consumers live outside the place of production, in neighbouring countries or global Diaspora. “Turbo-folk is the only contribution to globalization from the ex-Yugoslav territories” (Rastko Mocnik).
As well as the term Balkan, the BalkanBar is no concrete place, but an imaginative, a cliché. The bar is the meeting point of identity and product, a place where patterns of consumption, as music taste, become visible (juke-box, DJ). The bar is an exchange place for information, a place to cultivate social networks.

Catalogue: Crossing Munich (ISBN 13 978-3889601087)