“OJ GOLUBE, MOJ GOLUBE”

“Oj golube, moj golube”
Serbian Traditional Folk Song
SONG INFO AND LYRICS

At the first hearing “Oj golube, moj golube” (“Oh, pigeon, my pigeon” or “Ој, голубе, мој голубе”) might easily leave the listener with an impression of a beautiful, yet plain folk song. After all, its story involves some of the usual narrative elements such as birds, berries, forest and flowers. After a few more turns, an unsuspecting ear would eventually get familiar with the melody, pretty soon it would grow to like the entire song and finally memorize the lyrics. This sequence of events would describe a common “path of discovery” for most listeners, with a rewarding outcome indeed – a lovely, familiar song that will always bring pleasant feelings at every hearing and even lead them into singing along. Just like a treasured seashell would always bring back the memory of that special moment at the beach – a discovery of a great find.

Years might pass, but after numerous listenings one suddenly realizes that the seashell is still closed and the natural curiosity kicks in with the looming question: what is inside?

The surface is scratched and, when the shell opens, the hidden layers unfold to reveal an eye-opening story, with its true meaning finally unveiled. All the obvious elements magically transform into their true forms and the song itself turns into a glorious pearl.

This song is regarded as one of the most beautiful as well as the most erotic of all Serbian traditional folk songs. It belongs to the collection of traditional songs from the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija and it is a wedding song that would have been traditionally sung by the young women to the newlyweds on the day of their wedding. Its place of origin is the ancient city of Prizren (Призрен) – the capital city of several Serbian medieval tsars and kings, that was also mentioned in other epic poems as “Serbian Constantinople” (“Српски Цариград”). According to some sources, this was the favorite song of the Tsar Stefan Urosh IV Dushan, The Mighty (~1308 – 1355), the Emperor of the Serbs, Greeks and Bulgarians. It is also considered as one of the oldest known Serbian folk songs, and if the story about the Emperor Dushan is true, then it would place its time of origin in no later than the XIII or early XIV century.

In the medieval times a social order was based on deep religious beliefs, strong traditions and the conservative and puritan moral codes – much in contrast with science-driven and often pragmatic modern human societies. In such social circumstances openly showing the feelings of love and affection was not accepted and expressing such feelings to the loved one required some clever ways. This song is a perfect example for enclosing such hidden message with a layer of unsuspecting, simple folk narrative.

Original song lyrics in Serbian Cyrillic alphabet as performed by the folk singer Mara Djordjevic (1916-2003) praised for her characteristic, yet authentic vocal style:

Ој, голубе, мој голубе,
Ој, голубе, мој голубе,
Не падај ми на малине,
Горо зелена,
Не падај ми на малине,
Ружо румена.

Кад малине зреле буду,
Кад малине зреле буду,
И саме ће опадати,
Горо зелена,
И саме ће опадати,
Ружо румена.

Како слузе девојачке,
Како слузе девојачке,
Девојачке и момачке,
Горо зелена.
Девојачке и момачке,
Ружо румена.

My English translation:

Oh, pigeon, my pigeon,
Oh, pigeon, my pigeon,
Don’t fall on my raspberries,
Green forest,
Don’t fall on my raspberries,
Red rose.

When (the) raspberries become ripe,
When (the) raspberries become ripe,
They will fall by themselves,
Green forest,
They will fall by themselves,
Red rose.

Like the young girls’ tears,
Like the young girls’ tears,
Young girls’ and young lads’,
Green forest,
Young girls’ and young lads’,
Red rose.

Oj golube, moj golube” as performed by Mara Djordjevic, recorded in the 1950s and released in 2008 (for PGP-RTS record label) on the CD album “Mara Djordjevic – Songs from Kosovo and Metohija” featuring collection of her recordings of traditional folk songs from the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSYYmDrmTAg

An interesting detail in these lyrics is the spelling and pronunciation of the words како слузе” (or kako sluze”) which means “like tears”. “Sluze” is an archaic form, specific to the Serbian dialect as spoken in the province of Kosovo and Metohija. The sound “l” in this word became silent and eventually excluded altogether from the modern spelling and pronunciation of this word – “сузе” or “suze”. The same goes for the word “kako” which is pronounced in the modern language as “kao” where the second “k” became silent, although – in contrast to the word “sluze”, in some rare situation this word is still used in its archaic form.

The pigeon bird in this song represents a young man and the raspberries represent girl’s bust. While these metaphoric references become obvious with analyzing the song, some other are easily overlooked and so far I haven’t came across their explanation in other texts about this song. Namely, the “green forest” and the “red rose”. In this context the green color surely refers to the innocence and inexperience of youth. Finally, “green” coupled with “forest” brings to mind a picture of a lush, springtime woods and is thus a perfect depiction of a blooming youth.

The meaning of “rose” as an ultimate symbol of beauty and love is amplified by the color “red” signifying the infatuation, blushing and lovers’ excitement.

While the lyrics above could be considered the original version several other versions exist with one of them performed by the folk singer Vasilija Radojcic (1936-2011):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXIo3F5_-hM

Lyrics as performed by the folk music singer Vasilija Radojcic:

Ој, голубе, мој голубе,
Ој, голубе, мој голубе,
Не падај ми на малине,
Горо зелена,
Малине су још зелене,
Туго голема.

Кад малине зреле буду,
Кад малине зреле буду,
И саме ће опадати,
Горо зелена,
И саме ће опадати,
Туго голема.

Као сузе девојачке,
Као сузе девојачке,
Девојачке и момачке,
Горо зелена.
Девојачке и момачке,
Туго голема.

The bold text in the lyrics above indicates the differences and deviations from the previous version:

– the new line “Малине су још зелене” means “the raspberries are still green” and with it a woman in return acknowledges her feelings along with the fact that their mutual feelings cannot be openly expressed;

– while the last lines of each verse in the previous lyrics read: “Red rose” (“Ружо румена”) here we have Great sadness” (“Туго голема”). Obviously, the woman here refers to her chosen lover as “her own sadness” and this apparently underscores both lovers’ longing for each other and great sadness they feel for not being able to express their feelings;

– this version is newer than the previous one as I believe that this recording was made at least a couple of decades later and at the time when commercial aspects of music began to play a more important role than before. Evidently, the archaic forms of some of the words, as explained above, have disappeared in order to make the song sound more in line with the modern language and to be accessible to a wider audience. This is a prime example of how the music and lyrics change over time and adapt to the contemporary language and performing styles.

Another version was recorded by the famed folk singer Ksenija Cicvaric (1929–1997):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98nD02tls_c

In her version, in addition to “Горо зелена” the woman also refers to her lover as “Водо студена” which means fresh water” and she also sings in the specific dialect of Serbian language as spoken in the Montenegro region, as evident in this line:

Као сузе ђевојачке”

instead of:

“Као сузе девојачке”.

 

Another versions of the lyrics include an additional verse placed after the first verse:

Малине су још зелене,
Малине су још зелене,
Још те нису за зобање,
Горо зелена,
Још те нису за зобање,
Ружо румена.

My English translation:

Raspberries are still green
Raspberries are still green,
They are not for eating yet,
Green forest,
They are not for eating yet,
Red rose.

 

Another more recent version was recorded by the The Teofilovic Brothers (“Теофиловићи”) on their CD album “Теофиловићи – Сабазорски ветрови” (“The Teofilovic Brothers – Winds of Dawn”) released in 2001 in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uIH0SlLOJ0

Their “a cappella” performance is particularly interesting because they have departed from the original melody and metric sequence and have transformed the song into an entirely different, unique folk vocal style.

A version of the song lyrics as performed by Теофиловићи:

Ој, голубе, мој голубе,
Не падај ми на малине.
Малине су још зелене,
Јоште нису за зобање.

Када малине зреле буду,
И саме ће опадати.
Ја ћу ти их накупити,
Тебе младог нахранити.

My English translation:

Oh, pigeon, my pigeon
Don’t fall on my raspberries,
Raspberries are still green
They are not for eating yet
When (the) raspberries become ripe,
They will fall by themselves,
I will pick them
And feed you (young)

With all these different versions and performing styles, as well as many others not included in this essay, we can see how one particular song not just evolves over time but also adapts easily to regional performing styles and dialects.

Eventually, the story of this song is about to become even more complicated as, after a more extensive research, the “original” text is uncovered, only to reveal that the song lyrics are apparently just variations of a short excerpt from a much larger folk poem. The complete text has been published in 1869 in the book titled Songs and customs of the Serbian people” (“Песме и обичаи укупног народа Србског”) by the XIX century historian, lawyer and writer Milos S. Milojevic (Милош С. Милојевић, 1840-1897).

Milojevic has been systematically ignored and his works purposely overlooked and excluded from scientific literature by the XX century communist regime in the former Yugoslavia, as his findings and views of the historic events didn’t fit in the communist totalitarian agenda. Unfortunately, this trend continued to this day as the quazy-democratic, crypto-communist intellectuals are, at the time of this writing, still holding a majority of key academic positions and in turn protecting their obsolete, scientifically invalidated and discarded views of history and archaeology.

Milojevic has embarked on a nearly impossible task of collecting the folk songs from all the lands where Serbian people lived. As he explained in the foreword to his book, he had sent more than 800 requests to teachers and other volunteers from various regions of the Balkan lands to collect the songs. However, due to many obstacles, only a handful of replies with materials were returned. Most of the materials that he had received were accompanied with notes and comments by the song collectors, some of which will prove to be crucial for this essay.

The song collectors claimed that Milojevic’s idea was an almost futile effort and that, at best, they were able to record only a tiny fraction of all the folk songs. Namely, the most common complaint was that they had a very hard time trying to persuade the local women to sing. The main reason being that most of the songs were passed on by the local women and, because of the very strict and puritan moral codes of the day, they were extremely shy, ashamed and not willing to sing any of the songs in public or in front of other men, let alone sign to a stranger who would write the songs down. Luckily, all the efforts eventually paid off as several hundred folk songs have been preserved in his book.

The song collectors’ comments prompted me to conclude that the folk song we know today as “Oj golube, moj golube” is just an adaptation – a short, edited (or rather censored) version suitable for public performance, devoid of any direct erotic references. According to some of the song collectors’ comments any lines such as “a girl loves a guy” or “a guy loves a girl” were quickly skipped and only mentioned if overlooked by the singer. Undoubtedly, the XIX century definitions of “erotic” and “explicit” stand in stark contrast to today’s understanding of these terms.

The complete lyrics, as recorded in 1869 by Milos S. Milojevic, were sung by an unnamed local woman from the Prizren region, and their title was not specified indicating that the current song title is possibly a relatively recent designation. This song was a part of the so called “sitting songs” (“пијесме сијеђељачке”) which means that they were sung at smaller gatherings at which everybody was sitting and not at the larger celebrations which involved dancing (such as the traditional “kolo” dancing etc).

I have highlighted only the verses which appear to be the source for the “Oj golube, moj golube” song:

О језијеро сво зелијено,
Наоколо изкићено,
По сриједи позлаћено.
По позлати коло игра
Само коло ђевојачко.
Виш’ кола се соко вија.
Ђевојке га себи маме.
Што га оне себи маме,
То се соко више вија
И тада јим проговара:
Ој голубе мој голубе!
Кад малине зријеле буду
И саме ће опадати;
Као сузе ђевојачке,
Прву вечер у душеку,
На свилијену јаглучићу
На јастуку под јорганом.
Када но ми пиле моје
Њијежне груди непокрију.
Комарник је ваша коса
Да не падне на нас роса
На соколе тиће оштрије.”
Ђевојке му говориле:
“Наш соколе сиво перје
Наш соколе оштра тицо!
Јаријебицо ластовицо
Ластавицо витка тицо!
Када грожђе зpијело буде
И само ће опадати;
Као клијетве у јунака
Првог дана по састанку
Када виђу бијеле цуре
Бијеле цуре не удате
И ђевојке њевијенчате.
И кад буду прво вече
Прво вече по вијенчању
У мијеку душечићу
На свиљену јаглучићу
Јаглучићу јастучићу.
Бијелих руку разширијених.
Комарник је ваша коса
Да не падне на нас роса.”

In this poem the setting is a little bit different in that a group of girls is dancing a traditional “kolo” dance at a lake, while a falcon is circling above them. The girls are luring the falcon towards themselves with their dance, but the harder they try, the higher the falcon flies. In the midst of their competition, the falcon and the girls proceed to exchange their verses, which at that point obviously refer to the first night after the wedding.

Indeed, these complete song lyrics include some slight erotic references that would be absolutely unacceptable for public performing in the old times, especially in the rural areas. This explains why the women were unwilling to sing them openly, other than between themselves. However, compared to today’s explicit poetry, this song probably wouldn’t require any parental guiding or rating.

This only leaves us wondering about how many other folk songs around the world have their secret original editions.

– – – – – – –

In line with my goal of testing the adaptability of folk songs, I have tweaked this one quite a bit and placed it in an unusual musical context, with somewhat modified melody and ornamentation, along with extended and entirely new sections.

This song’s original metric sequence is very interesting as it is based on a mixed meter – it features a combination of several even and odd meters: 2/4, 3/4 and 5/8.

Here’s the original metric sequence:

||: 3/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 3/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 5/8 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 5/8 | 2/4 :||

and my extended metric sequence:

|| 3/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 3/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 5/8 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 2/4 | 5/8 | 2/4 | 5/8 | 2/4 ||

My solo piano version has been released on my second album “Under the Sacred Tree” which is available at my online store at:
https://koshanin.bandcamp.com/album/under-the-sacred-tree

Oj golube, moj golube” – solo piano by Koshanin:
https://koshanin.bandcamp.com/track/oj-golube-moj-golube

For the “432 Hz” enthusiasts, I have released an alternate edition album Under the Sacred Tree [432 Hz Edition]” with all tracks tuned to 432 Hertz instead of the standard 440 Hz tuning. This edition is available at my online store at:
https://koshanin.bandcamp.com/album/under-the-sacred-tree-432hz-edition

For the musically inclined and the piano players interested in learning to play this arrangement I would recommend the sheet music for this song which is included in my Under the Sacred Tree SONGBOOK”:
https://koshanin.bandcamp.com/merch/under-the-sacred-tree-songbook

 

Copyright 2019 Koshanin. All rights reserved. Any copying, reproduction, or use, in part or full, without prior consent of the author is prohibited.

Author: koshanin

A pianist and composer in a continuous search for beauty and simplicity in music.

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