Art serves as an eternal reflection of our human condition. It reflects our collective soul. Such instance can be observed best in the intriguing world of music, where genres that emerge reflect the lifestyle of a generation and of an era. Turbo-folk is also an example of this.
With absolutely no matter of what song is played, when the very first notes of a turbo-folk song hit the room, it’s as if the people who are present are starting to hit a state of ecstasy (yes, this is the case even for those who act too elite to listen to turbo-folk) and all of a sudden everyone is up and dancing. That is the moment when turbofolk ceases to be just any other genre in music and reflects something much more.
Turbo-folk is a musical genre which origin comes from the Balkans, and it known for its controversial content about different political and social question” said Etrit Adami, professor of trombe from Tirana.
While turbo-folk song lyrics are mainly about love, nostalgia, and celebration, it also includes endless expressions of nationalism, populistic opinion on social issues, insulting and sexist content.
“Turbo-folk songs are known for presenting sensual and attractive female figures. This has had an influence in the perception of the female figure among young people, which take the standard of the woman image presented in the music viodeo clips as a model for the beauty and attractiveness of women” said Mr. Adami.
An example about this can be a turbo-folk song in both Albanian and Macedonian culture where women are highly objectified through the male gaze. The same melody is used in both cultures, only with different sexist lyrics. Also, it is important to mention that in the Albanian videoclip of the song we see a group of young women dressed in bikini.
The Albanian song is called “Your dress, oh doll” (Sinan Hoxha dhe Seldi Qalliu “Kukulla” ) and the Macedonian “I will buy you a coat” (Саит и идоли банд “Ќе ти купам будна”). The Albanian song mentions that as a doll she moves the dress in such a good way, that drives him crazy, whereas in the Macedonian song we hear “Give it to me, I will buy you coat”.
In other words, in both version there are expressed gender stereotypes and the female, under the vail of alleged romanticizing, is shown only as an object of desire. In order to find out why turbo-folk is so popular, we discussed with the members of turbo-folk band “Dalgi“. The pianist Doncho Bujarovski said that the secret is in the rhythm. “Because of the rhythm. The rhythm is in the veins. For Albania, Macedonia, Greece etc”.
When asked “Would you agree that some texts contain sexist terminology?” Ilco Konstadinovski, the clarinetist of the band said “Yes. Its commercial stuff. Mostly they attract younger public.”
This seems to be true because turbofolk is not only listened but also created by youngsters as we randomly found the tiktokers Jovan Stoevski and Milica Gruber (Gruberka) in the center of Ohrid who said that they getting famous because of making this kind of music.
“The turbo folk is better.” It drives me better, much better than ballads by Zeljko Samardzic,” said Stoevski, who climbed to the top of the list of most popular hits with his last song. He believes that folk music should be heard much more in Ohrid.
As mentioned by the band the main reason why turbofolk is so famous is it’s catchy rhythm. Prof. Adami enhanced that the repetition on the rhythm have a hypnotic effect on the listeners, so the lyrics influence them in an unconscious way.
“Mainly it’s the same rhythm” say Elena Stavrevska and Natalija Ristevska two youngsters that we interviewed and asked their opinion about turbofolk. According to them turbofolk has a happy vibe and lasts going on and on, that’s why they like and listen to it and even play it in birthday parties, family cvelebrations and in the car, everywhere and always during the day.
However, the musicians say that the broadcasting should be restricted for particular lyrics that have problematic, questionable and insulring content. When asked should the songs with sexist and problematic lyrics be allowed to be broadcasted, the musicians say “no”.
“No, in Macedonia should be a law, not to allow them to transmit it.” Said Ilco Konstadinovski, the clarinetist of “Dalgi”.
But how can we protect the youth from this negative impact? The professor Adami enhanced that “media literacy is the most powerful tool to help them understand what they are exposed to and how to interpret the way these messages are transmitted from music and videoclips.”
Music and videoclips are an important part of media and as we live in the time of virtual world. Music is all around in the everyday life impacting us mostly unconsciously but as all sorts of media we must learn how to read it and develop our critical thinking abilities.