Siguran – Ekatarina Velika (EKV)

I remember when I first discovered EKV, it surprised me that music like this could exist, and that it could especially come from the balkan area!, because EKV was so different from anything that I had been exposed to up to that point and still are.

I found this excerpt from a post I made about them last year on a tumblr blog, from exactly one year ago. It is an accurate description of the band, so I’ll reuse it and let’s hear from 17 year old me from March 2014:

“This band… First, can I just say that this is my favorite band ever? Not going to lie, I am in love with them. Here is some brief info about them in order to understand the band better. Ekatarina Velika (abbreviated EKV) is named after Catherine the Great and falls in a more art rock, post punk, new wave genre of music from the 80s’. The band changed members often, but the 3 core members were Milan Mladenovic, Margita “Magi” Stefanovic, and Bojan Pecar. All three were such talented musicians and songwriters. Some of their lyrics are even studied in some schools in the Balkans. They all died at tragically young ages during and after the war due to cancer, drugs, etc. There is even a street named after the lead singer, Milan Mladenovic, in Croatia. Unlike a lot of music, they do not sing about love or romance much; their themes are often about the tougher aspects of life: Pain, addiction, tiredness, loneliness, death, society, greed. Now, do not get the impression that they are therefore a goth or emo band or something like that. They are not at all, they are simply really creative and real. When I feel frustrated or sad, about the rest of the world or myself even; I listen to some EKV to sort through my feelings and feel understood.”

🙂 They’re still my favorite band ever, by the way. I love my warning of “do not get the impression that they are a goth or emo band or something like that…they are simply really creative and real”, ahahahaha xD, how a year changes a person. I feel like now I’m more… sophisticated with my wording of things and interpretation. Like now I would comment on the melancholic tone of their music, coupled with the sheer emotional force of Milan Mladenovic’s voice. The themes and meaning of their lyrics are complicated often overlooked human emotion and states. They also use metaphors, imagery, and symbols in their lyrics, adding to the poetry of it. Overall, their music is powerful and engaging with a melancholic, subtle poetic meaning and sound. And they achieve all this using the standard band instruments such as guitar, bass, keyboard, and drums.

This song, “Siguran” (Secure) is from their 1991 album Dum Dum (Doom Doom). It is considered their darkest album and anti-war. This is around the time that ex-yu started descending into war and Milan Mladenovic’s health started declining as he had pancreatic cancer which he would eventually die from in 1994 at the age of 36. 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦  😥 😥

Even the album cover of Dum Dum reflects the dark despair and hopelessness at the impending doom-

Translating lyrics of Siguran:

Siguran sam  –  I am secure
ili samo mislim da sam siguran  –  Or I just think that I am secure
staklenim nogama  –  With glass legs
ovo je hod po tankoj zici  –  This is a walk along a thin wire*

Maskiran sam  –  I am masked
ili samo mislim da sam maskiran  –  Or I think I am masked
pod ovim bojama  –  Under these colors
govorim samo reci sto me kriju  –  I speak only words that hide me

Sastavicu krajeve  –  I’ll put the ends together
iscepane poruke  –  The torn messages
tragove pod prozorom  –  Traces under the window
i obale pod jastukom  –  And the coasts under the pillow
kao u snu, kao u snu  –  Like in a dream, like in a dream

Oprezan sam  –  I am alert
tvoje oci gledaju u moj dlan  –  Your eyes are looking in my palm
ti ne znas ko sam ja  –  You do not know who I am
ja ne znam ko bih mogao biti  –  I do not know who I could be

Pokusaj saznati  –  Try to find out,
ni iz cega sklopiti  –  out of nothing to put together
podigni zavesu  –  Lift the curtain
pokazi sve sto mislis da krijem  –  Show everything that you think I am hiding

Sastavicu krajeve  –  I’ll put the ends together
iscepane poruke  –  The torn messages
tragove pod prozorom  –  Traces under the window
i obale pod jastukom  –  And the shores under the pillow
kao u snu, kao u snu  –  Like in a dream, like in a dream  ❤

In this song, there is a theme of losing a sense of security. Doubting one self’s and one’s surroundings. “I am secure..Or I just think I am secure.” reflecting the loss of security because of the descent into war, especially because citizens in Yugoslavia did not expect this to ever happen, they thought they were secure. It completely surprised most of them. And after that, comes nervousness as with “glass legs”, feeling insecure and vulnerable, they must walk a “thin wire”, a guaranteed impending fall into the darkness awaits them. Then I interpret the “masked.. under these colors” as meaning masked under flags, under ethnicity and sides; where nobody can be their true self. The words they speak under such masks further hides them, even hides from themselves as they start depersonalizing and acting in ways they never thought they would. Nobody recognizes the humanity under the masks, they don’t see each other as humans but as others- masked others to be suspicious of. They become insecure, vulnerable, nervous, suspicious – afraid- losing their sense of security, and self, and reality. When is a person is afraid, anxious, they paralyze- they do not act like themselves, but act out of survival, such as attacking the “others” to defend and protect oneself..

Then the chorus, expressing the desperate wish for everything to be whole and secure again, for the pieces to be back together again, for things to make sense, to be together and safe – “I’ll put the ends together..The torn messages.. Traces under the window”, the “coasts under the pillow” can symbolize the coasts of the dreamworld (“under the pillow” symbolizes the dreamworld, in other artists’ songs as well such as Bajaga’s “na druga strana jastuka” (on other side of the pillow), the coasts symbolize that in the distance, those sunny outlines out of reach, the unreachable coast of security that now only exists in the dreamworld. Yugoslavia was also known for its Adriatic coast, which fell apart as the countries split during the war. This notion of wishing for the unattainable that used to exist and remains in the unconscious is further reinforced by the key line “like in a dream”.

And this new gruesome reality of a war and falling into the darkness is like a dream because it doesn’t feel like it could be real, especially after feeling so secure in Yugoslavia and trusting those around you who now become “masked” or were they “masked” before even. It is a nightmare.

Then the alertness, “I am alert”, showing worry and anxiety. The eyes looking into the palm, somebody else reading your future, determining your future. Then “you don’t know who I am.. I don’t know who I could be” demonstrates being controlled by someone else even though they don’t know you, and you don’t know what can become of you either – what you’ll do or what your future will be, especially when controlled like this, by the conditions of the war and loss of security.

Then another stanza is “try to find out..out of nothing to put together..lift the me everything that you think I’m hiding” is addressing peoples’ suspicions towards each other and fears, asking “why are we suspicious of each other? why do we hate each other? what are we afraid of?” , asking “what do you think I’m hiding just because I’m serb or croatian or muslim?” It is asking for open communication to clear this up, to “put the ends together” and see where things went wrong.. because many Yugoslavians have no clue how it got to this or why the war occurred. It was a complete surprise. There really was no point to it, no reason. No good came out of it.

Later, all those deaths, everything, for nothing. The region is in shambles now. Corruption, Mental Illness (from war and distressing conditions), and High Unemployment and Poverty (Last year, I read it as 66% unemployment for youth, I still can’t get over that! That means every 2/3 young capable people are unemployed. And it’s true too. My cousins barely can find work, and when they have it, often they won’t be paid for 3 or more months because the companies have nothing to pay them with 😦 ) Because of this, there is much crime happening! Every time I watch their news, I hear of so many robberies and murders, of fathers having to teach their sons to steal and kill to survive. It is crazy and heart-breaking, and all of it because of a useless, stupid war motivated by the personal political and economic interests of rich, greedy politicians. Mass murders, people’s lives screwed up and destroyed, everything people worked for destroyed, displacement, pain, poverty – Please, no more wars!!!!!!

Well, this post started as a casual music post of my favorite band and one of my favorite songs by them and has now turned into a rant – because this war and its consequences are personal and painful to me as I’ve grown up watching my family suffer because of it.

A second interpretation of the song (and my initial one before I learned more about the album) was a person feeling personal insecurity about themselves, a person doubting themselves and feeling socially unsure. I think this is an equally valid meaning as it has the similar feelings of nervousness, loss of security, feeling masked, worry, not knowing who you are because there is no social outlet to discover yourself through, etc. Most people have something they lack security about, so this song can have multiple interpretations depending on the person, as many of EKV’s songs do. 🙂

Thanks for reading! Comments?

PS. The * in the lyrics next to “…thin wire” are because, I’m pretty sure that line “a walk on a thin wire” is a reference to the band Milan Mladenovic used to be part of as a teenager, Šarlo Akrobata (Charles the Acrobat) 😀 A really great band, by the way, we’ll probably look at that too. That would be ex-yu reggae-ish punk, so it will be interesting.. 😉


Udri Mujo – Lepa Brena

Oh my god, where do I even begin to talk about this woman? Lepa Brena was like…like.. the Madonna of the Balkans basically. Just the most popular.. huge sensation in the 80s’ in ex-Yugoslavia. Like I’ve heard stories of couples and marriages breaking up because of her. She was practically worshiped. There is like even a movie series made revolving around her and her songs, which is where this song and video is from. The movie series “Hajde da se volimo” is actually one of my favorites from my childhood, particularly the second movie filmed in Dubrovnik, Croatia. It featured a lot of comedians and music, so it was really fun.

Now, why was so much attention paid to her? Probably because she was something really different for that time period, a transition away from the traditional. For starters, she was much more scantily-clad and flirty than what they were used to. That could explain the male attention and breakups, as opposed to today where we see people dressed like that all the time so it’s not a big deal. Her songs were also more just for fun and entertainment, rather than heartfelt and meaningful. She would dance a lot as well, and there would be a lot of jokes in her songs and movies. She was overall very entertaining for them to watch, very modern and fun.

I would say Lepa Brena was very influential, even in today’s Balkan music scene. It seems like she was the first female star to dress and dance like that, attracting popularity for being entertaining on top of having good vocals, so after her many more female stars were able to emerge like Ceca and Dragana Mirkovic. She also seemed to be one of the first turbo-folk artists, or at least influential in it emerging later. Turbo-folk being music with folk and pop elements, and quasi-meaningful lyrics. A lot of people would consider slightly trashy, but fun. P.S The comedian I mentioned in my very first post, Žika, is featured in this video (except in this video/song, he is Mujo, pronounced Moo-yo) 🙂 He has a few funny parts. Big cultural icon.

Ok, so now the lyrics of this song, I will translate them for fun. ^_^ Anything in { } is reworded to make grammatically sense, while keeping the meaning. And asterisked items will  be explained at the end.

Udri, udri, udri Mujo  –  Hit it, hit it, hit it, Mujo (Moo-yo)

udri Mujo u tarabe  –  {Hit the fencing, Muyo!}

Ni poljubac nije vise  –  {Not even a kiss is}

kao nekad dzabe  –  {free like some time ago} x2

Kazi, mala, u sta treba  –  Tell, mala*, in what {I need to hit}

udaracu sve do neba  –  I’ll hit everything to the sky

kazi mala, matere ti  –  Tell, mala*, {I swear on your mother}* (LOL!)

ja cu vazda udarati  –  I will always hit!

Udri, udri, udri Mujo  –  Hit it, hit it, hit it, Mujo!

udri Mujo u šargije – Hit, Mujo, in the šargije*  (it’s a kind of instrument, I’ll explain)

Zivot bolan kao nekad  –  Life is not painful like some time ago

nije vise nije  –  It’s not, it’s not anymore x2

Kazi, mala, u sta treba  –  Tell, mala*, in what {I need to hit}

udaracu sve do neba  –  I’ll hit everything up to the sky

kazi, mala, nema mučke  –  Tell, mala*, there’s not {a problem}

udaracu oberučke  –  I’ll hit with both hands!

Udri, udri, udri Mujo  –  Hit it, hit it, hit it, Muyo! udri Mujo u tepsiju  –  {Hit the pan, Mujo!}

Ja u srcu tebe cuvam  –  {I keep you in my heart}

Bosanskog deliju  –  My Bosnian delija* x2

Slusaj, mala, frke nema  –  Listen, mala*, {there’s not a problem}

s’ tobom je prava sema  –  With you it’s a real {fun}

slusaj, mala, matere ti  –  Listen, mala*, {I swear on your mother} (LOL! again)

ja cu vazda udarati joj  –  I will always hit, jojjjj*!

Udri, Mujo  –  Hit it, Muyo!

joj, joj, hocu, bona –  jojj, jojj, I will, bona*

kazi u sta treba udarati jos  –  {Tell what else I need to hit more!}

Haha, I love how he hits himself in the head with the pan at the end! 😀 lol! Funny lyrics, and what I also like is that there are a lot of fun cultural elements to explain in it, a lot of slang used. So first, Mujo (haha Moo-yo or Muy-o) is a comedic Bosnian name. I think it’s important to note that Lepa Brena was from Bosnia out of all the Yugoslav republics, so this song is a good example of the Bosnian dialect and its humor. 🙂 And I’m from Bosnia, so this has a lot of the common slang I use too! 😀 Ok so, some of the things:

  • mala – Mala is like, it’s like “shorty” that’s used in the U.S. It means “small girl”, but is often used to refer to any girl, like “shorty, what’s up?” – “mala, šta ima?” That kind of deal. 😛 lol!
  • matere ti – Haha, this phrase, it’s like saying “I swear..” and so it’s common over there to say “I swear on your mother”.
  • šargije –  That is that instrument Zika/Mujo is holding in the video. A common bosnian instrument. It’s like a lute I suppose. Something cultural remaining from medieval times, perhaps. The sound it makes is still heard in a lot of music, especially the folk and even turbo-folk.
  • delija- Pronounced deli-ya. It’s a word coming from Turkish actually. Bosnian has a lot of those words, influenced by the 500 years of Ottoman rule over the area in the past. Delija is like a brave, strong guy. 🙂
  • bona – A slang word for girl, mostly used in Bosnian. It also has a male counterpart, bolan. It’s usually used humorously. 😀
  • joj! – Pronounced like yoy. It’s like an exclamation of frustration usually, but can also be used humorously 😀 like an exclamation of humorous frustration!
  • The tepsija (pan) is also an important cultural symbol because it’s used to make pita/burek, an important Bosnian food 🙂

I hope you liked it. 🙂 Any comments/feedback? Also, a debate question… There is a lot of debate over female singers like Lepa Brena or even more so, a lot of the modern ones we see, getting more attention and popularity for their looks and dance moves, rather than quality of voice and songs. And that this leads to a devaluation of music or spreading superficial values and many singers with amazing vocals getting overlooked because of looks. What do you all think about this? Is it a problem/cause for concern or not? Is it unfair? Is it hurting our culture and society?

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 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. ❤