Nipon Elektronik – Bonton Baya

Listening to electronic music and reading about Japan’s recent help to Bosnia (with reconstructing centers for disabled children that were destroyed in the terrible flooding last year, so kind of them), reminded me of this quirky song from this obscure band from Sarajevo. “Nipon Elektronik” is from 1983 and Bonton Baya’s only album “Elpi” (LP). The whole album has a quirky, electronic, original sound to it, unlike anything I’ve heard from ex-yu before, particularly this song which seems to be their best known.

“Nipon” refers to Japan, as that’s what the Japanese sometimes call themselves. But then with elektronik, do they mean Japenese elektronic music or something else like Japanese electronic appliances or items? I am not exactly sure. I am guessing a lot of things were imported from Japan back then. I know some Bosnians like anime, but was it really that big a thing back then? I wonder what kind of relationship did Japan and ex-Yugoslavia have, for them to be mentioned in a song like this? Or Japan and Bosnia, especially now that Japan is helping Bosnia.

I googled Japan 1983 to see what was going on in Japan then in case there is any kind of connection. There was a major earthquake/tsunami and they had general elections. I also found this picture of a cool stereo shop in Japan in 1983, which I think is relevant here since, well, music. 🙂

japanstereoshop

Here are some of the lyrics translated. Note: I could not understand everything he said, there was some slurring and mixing of words with Japanese terms. So, where ever I put a … is what I did not understand.

Nipon elektronik napada – Nippon electronic is attacking

I Azija… – And Asia…

Samuraje… – Samurai’s …

Kamikaze lete sa istoka – Kamikaze are flying from the east

Svuda Japan – Everywhere Japan

Samo Japan – Only Japan

Svuda Japan – Everywhere Japan

Samo Japan – Only Japan

Hmm, sounds like an invasion. Perhaps a cultural invasion? Like in the case of a lot of things being imported in from Japan, if that was the case in Ex-Yu.. Or Japanese culture becoming popular? or perhaps it is just playing with historical references and World War II? But overall, a cool song with a quirky, offbeat beat. Fun to listen to with unusual lyrics. I might post about some of the other songs from the band’s album and explore them further in future posts. It’s interesting when cultures sing about other cultures. I wonder what the culture being sung about thinks. Bosnia and ex-Yu are never sung about in any English or Hispanic songs that I know, so I don’t know how I would quite react if my culture was being sung about, like Japan here. I mean, does the song sound offensive to any Japanese viewers I wonder? Tell me if so. Overall, comments and observations? Da li iko razume ostatak teksta? O.o 😛

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Kemal Monteno

Kemal Monteno is a legendary Bosnian singer, beloved across the whole region, with a successful career that spans decades. He died recently last month and the region is greatly grieving him. His voice and lyrics move my soul, so beautiful and touching. His music is so soft and poetic. It arouses this glowing dreamy imagery. This song in particular, especially when he sings it live like this. “Bacila je sve niz rijeku” (She threw everything down the river) was recorded much much earlier, but this is his live performance in 1997, a little after the Bosnian war. Maybe it’s just me, but I can feel the tender sadness from it all in his voice. Perhaps in this performance, Kemal is singing it with some emotion towards what happened in the war, as in the war “everything was thrown the river” essentially. This song has also been covered by other popular bands and artists such as Indexi, Crvena Jabuka, and Tose Proeski. We’ll certainly be looking at them in future posts, especially the latter two which I’m more familiar with.

As far as Kemal’s background, his mother was Bosniak and his father Italian. Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, was his hometown. It is also the hometown of my parents, and my favorite city in the world. I hope to visit it one day. Kemal Monteno is well-known for his song “Sarajevo, ljubavi moja” (Sarajevo, my love) which pays tribute to the city, great song. I think Kemal Monteno was one of the only singers to stay in Sarajevo during the siege and wartime. I could just imagine a scene of war, everything destroyed and burning, with “Sarajevo, ljubavi moja” playing softly in the background on an old radio. Matter of fact, let’s post that song as well.

Kemal Monteno ❤

I won’t be posting translations in this post because I posted two songs and this post was more for remembering and appreciating Kemal Monteno. However, if you would like translations, feel free to ask and I can put them in another post! 🙂

Život je nekad siv, nekad žut – Bajaga & Instruktori

I decided to post first about Bajaga (Ba-ya-ga) and his band (translates to Bayaga and the Instructors) because not only is this blog’s title a lyric from one of their songs, but I also consider him one of the most balanced, well-rounded musician from ex-yu. Creativity in his lyrics and sound, charisma in his appearance and personality, and a strong distinct voice. These qualities led him and his band to become highly successful and popular, with their songs still being played today. This video alone has 5 million views. Another distinct thing about Bajaga is the rich diversity in his music; none of his songs sound alike. Some are more rock, some are more pop, some are serious, some are playful, some are soft, others are energized, some are even more folk music-oriented, and then there is a tropical-sounding one like this one… O.o

This song, “Život je nekad siv, nekad žut” (“Life is sometimes gray, sometimes yellow”) is from their 1988 album “Prodavnica Tajni” (A Store of Secrets..or it could be The Store of Secrets.. we don’t have articles to differentiate that), a highly successful album, with its unique and slightly gloomier direction. Almost every song on that album became a hit and it sold more than 700,000 copies. With this album, and especially this song, I get a feeling like Bajaga and his mates wrote it after going through some romantic heartbreak. The lyrics and moodiness.. Let’s look at the lyrics, with my translations..

Some things to keep in mind with my lyrics and translations. I did not include all the accent marks, because that would be difficult to type. But I kept the Ž’s because of how often that sound came up in this sound. Ž sounds like..like…like the s in leisure, listen to how Bajaga says it in the song. Also, if I put any of my translation in parenthesis’s (  ), that means I reworded the literal translation for it to grammatically make sense in English without losing any of the figurative meaning. And anything with an asterik * means it will be referred to at the end. Brackets [  ] indicate a kind of chorus that repeats later.

Život je nekad siv, nekad žut  –  Life is sometimes gray, sometimes yellow

Život je, ovaj put, za mene, zabrinut  – (Life is, worrisome, for me, this time)

[Ne brini, Žiko ti, Kažu svi  –  Don’t worry, Žiko* you, says everybody

Žile, nemoj brinuti  –  Žile*, do not worry

Bolujes od ljubavi, To se tesko podnesi.  –  You’re hurting from love, that is hard to endure.

Koliko je volim a nisam s njom  –  Oh how much I love her but I’m not with her

Bas i sada ja pricam o tom  –  Even and now I’m talking about that

Koliko je volim, ja najbolje znam  –  Oh how much I love her, I know it the best

I na kraju ces ostati sam  –  And in the end you’ll be left alone]

Tvoj život je nekad siv, nekad žut x2  –  Your life is sometime gray, sometime yellow. x2

Zivot je nekad žut, nekad siv  –  Life is sometime yellow, sometime gray

Život je kad si živ,  –  Life is when you’re alive

Život je za to kriv  –  (Life is, at fault, for that)

Tvoj život je nekad siv, nekad siv, nekad žut x2  –  Your life is sometime gray, sometimes gray, sometime yellow. x2

Zivot je nekad žut, nekad siv …  –  Life is sometime yellow, sometime gray

[bracketed chorus repeats]

Tvoj život je nekad siv, nekad siv, nekad žut x2  –  Your life is sometime gray, sometimes gray, sometime yellow. x2

Život je nekad žut, nekad siv …  –  Life is sometime yellow, sometime gray

Okay, so first to clear up the references *. Žiko and Žile are both nicknames of each other so it refers to the same person. When I first heard Žiko, it reminded me of a famous ex-yu comedian I grew up watching named Žiko and his family dynasty series. 😀 We’ll get to him in another post because he’s a huge ex-yu cultural icon. I wonder if Bajaga did that on purpose. It’s actually probably referring to Žika Milenkovic, a member of Bajaga’s band who co-wrote the music with him.

In the song, there seems to be an exchange of dialog with the switches of you, I, and then the rest of members responding in the background. Actually, this can even be a representation of the conversation a person has with themselves after a breakup, with the members in the background echoing  Žiko’s thoughts in response to himself. Then with the song title being life is sometimes gray, sometimes yellow; it’s like that message of sometimes there’s bad days and good days, up’s and down’s, so don’t worry mate that your heart was broken. :’D However, It also demonstrates the side of the heartbreak, saying how much he loved her and “Oh how much I love her, I know it the best” (meaning they can’t tell him anything because they don’t know his situation as much as he does).

I also found the lyric  “Life is when you’re alive. Life is, at fault, for that.” to be an interesting lyric. It can be interpreted as the heartbroken one saying, “life is when you’re alive, but I don’t feel alive, so this advice of pain in life is temporary does not apply to me, and it’s life’s fault for being like this and for making me lose her in the first place”. I also like the rhyme of “živ” (alive) and “kriv” (at fault) in it, and then it goes to further rhyme with siv (gray); nice rhyme schemes. Then I like the contrast between the mellow tune of the music yet the heartbroken worried lyrics, reflecting the contrast in the title. This follows the pattern of the contrasting titles of the rest of the songs in the album. Apparently, the group was on vacation in Thailand during their Soviet Union tour when they wrote this album. So the tropical vacation-sound could be influenced by their vacation in Thailand. If I can find pics of that…

We’ll explore more of the album and this band in future posts. Feel free to comment what you think; any interpretations or opinions about the band or the song or the lyrics, album, etc. Or even which songs or albums of theirs you want me to talk about in the future? What genre would we even classify this song as? Feel free to ask for clarifications as well about anything that I wrote.

O, i slobodno pišete na naš jezik, ne mora biti na engleski! Mozete i pitati za prevod o bilo cemu sto sam pisala ako ne razumete ili nije bilo jasno. ❤