Word music is a great thing, especially since all the music most of us are accustomed to tends to come from Western countries and is highly standardized and industrialized. At least for the sake of sampling as many opportunities as possible, it would be nice to get a bit of a taste of exotic music as often as you can. Of course, we shouldn’t be naïve and suppose that these songs and artists which are promoted under the label of “world music” don’t get their fair share of processing and commercial pimping. Just as in the case of traveling to areas advertised as exotic, each of these venues and product are only partly authentic and partly constructed as a typical tourist trap. But even with this processing and the inherent regular degree of falsehood (or exaggerated traits) inserted into it, world music is still different enough to what you’re used to that it’s worth giving it a shot.
Balkan music is one of the types of music which is a bit less mainstream than regular Western music most of us are probably used to hear (or at least the kind of music played in the majority of clubs or discos or pubs in the U.S or Western European countries), but still counts as “world music” even if it’s a tad mainstream itself. Therefore, I feel that it is the perfect starting point for a journey that taps a bit into the somewhat uncharted waters of mysterious world music. Not to mention that the Balkans are a land with hard partying people and their traditions, and there music tends to be more “carpe diem” like than music from other parts of the world. Not to drag this any further, after presenting a list of 5 cover songs that are better than the original, today we want to share with you this list of 5 Balkan songs that you should listen to.
1. Goran Bregovic – Jeremija
The Serbian artist and composer Goran bregovic is the most prominent figure in Balkan music, so the fact that this list starts with him is either a bad thing (because for those of you familiar with him he might be too well-known, thus making a boring start), or a good thing (precisely because he’s so visible in this musical area). Anyway, this song is less known compared to his other works, but it is a little treasure, because it manages to capture the Balkan spirit perfectly with its parting atmosphere. Nothing says “carpe diem” quite like a Serbian musical debauchery that starts with a shout for alcohol. The lyrics are also pretty funny if you make the effort to search for them and their translation, but that’s just about enough hinting on this matter.
2. Kayah and Goran Bregovic – Nie ma ciebe (Erdelezi)
Yes, it’s another Goran Bregovic song, but it will also be the last, although his music is so iconic and varied it would probably deserve a whole article dedicated solely to it. Anyway, the song Erdelezi is a very well-known song of his, actually being a rendition of a traditional Roma song from all over the Balkan countries. You can check out the original version too (only of Goran, without Kayah) if you want to have good grounds for a valid comparison, but the cover featuring the lovely Kayah is much more sensual-sounding (even though the theme of a song is a bit religious) and can fill you with warmth.
3. Phoenix – Iovano Iovanke
This song is a traditional song from Macedonia, which tells the story of teenagers that love each other but are not approved of by their parents, so they plan to run away together. It’s not so much of a party song, but more of a ballad. This take on it is sung by a really cool Romanian rock band called Phoenix.
4. Palya Bea – Tchiki Tchiki
This passionate song is about an intense infatuation with a girl, an infatuation that can make you set the world on fire just for her whim. The charismatic Hungarian singer who performs this is a highly educated and recognized music expert who specializes in various styles of world music from all over Eastern Europe.
5. Mahala rai banda – Mahalageasca
Finally, to return to a tune more typical of party-destined Balkan music, the Romanian-based band Mahala rai banda performs this mini-orchestra backed song. There are no lyrics, only a vibe that makes people dance. So let go, drink some Balkan spirit drinks and have at it!