Two Moments in Identity Update: 1964
Someone, somewhere said that as soon as a genre or a movement gets a name, it is the best indication that something even newer already exists. The seminal moment usually ends up marking the culmination of the subject as previously known. A long brew, sitting on top of many, and finally spilling over. Here are two such moments that concluded cultural periods and announced new alliances. In no way related, they are yet part of the same story. One takes us back to 1964, the other to 1994.
Rassmussen, in Popular Music:
There is a shared view among insiders that the release of the recording ‘Od izvora dva putica’ ([There are] ‘Two paths leading from the water spring’) by Serbian female singer Lepa Lukic in 1964, marked the beginning of the ‘market history’ of Yugoslav novokomponovana narodna muzika (newly-composed folk music; henceforth NCFM). The song’s lyrics depict a young woman in a rustic village whose love is thwarted when her lover moves to the city. The music evokes a motif typical of the Central-Serbian region of Sumadija: a tuneful melody, steady 2/4 rhythm, and a caressing quality in the narration. The title of the song is highly symbolic of the divergence of Yugoslav folk music into a continuing narodna muzika (folk; literally, ‘people’s’ music) and an emerging pop stream.
The single sold 260,000 copies (Lukovic 1989, p. 207). The importance of the song’s commercial success was twofold: it introduced into the folk music realm the notions of both the hit and the star singer, until then perceived as measures of success accorded only to pop music.
The irony of the title such as newly composed folk music is lost to most native speakers as the concept is deeply ingrained in the language of music ex-Yugoslavs use. The arrival of Turbo Folk in 19080s is yet another story. But for all the irony of NCFM, it has always fulfilled its intended role as a reconciliation of the new Yugoslav modernity, that of a small, agrarian Eastern monarchy in rapid urbanization. Pop music comes as close as anything does to reflecting group identity transformations in real time. It is very easily understood how NCFM is a direct response to the shock and disorientation of massive social engineering efforts, internal migrations, and the rural-urban dynamic that will come to dominate and ultimately doom the Balkan federation.
In a way, NCFM is a perfectly reasonable and in part successful response to the differently timed development tracks, the mother of all Balkan problems. Until the market finally overwhelmed and confirmed, the regional culture in those years, mid 1960s, had a bit of a genuine East Coast elitism problem. After the wholesome 1950s, the chasm between what the Big Culture was producing and the actual lives lived grew large and uncomfortable. This kind of vacuum never gets to exist for too long. NCFM came to offer the logical compromise.
After Lepa Lukic sold a quarter of a million records in a country less than 10 million strong, after she appeared on the cover of Radio & TV review smoking a cigarette in a Loretta Lynn type of dress and hair while wearing traditional foot gear opanci, and after filming a promo video for the single in Paris of all places – after all that – things started to seem inevitable, as they always do in retrospect. Popular Music:
The song heralded folk music’s commercial potential, which was fully realised some fifteen years later  when record sales reached 900,000 copies per album.
Fast forward to 1994.
Entry filed under: collective branding.