“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.

“AJDE JANO”

“Ajde Jano”
Serbian Traditional Folk Song
SONG INFO AND LYRICS

“Ajde Jano” is one of the most popular and beloved Serbian traditional folk songs. While its author and the exact time of its origin are not known, it is believed by some to have been created in the early 1900s, although according to other sources this was originally an older women’s wedding dance and song that originated at the town of Kosovska Mitrovica in the Serbian province of Kosovo i Metohija. Compared to many other Serbian traditional folk songs “Ajde Jano” might not be a very old song but it had nonetheless gained an enormous popularity and has become a staple song at various public events and gatherings such as traditional celebrations, weddings, folk music festivals etc.

The striking beauty of its melody and a characteristic sound of this song prompted numerous musicians and artists from all over the world to perform it live or to record their own arrangements. Even a simple search for “Ajde Jano” on YouTube would return a long list with dozens of different versions, revealing this song’s enormous potential for successful integration into different musical styles and situations. I would highlight just some interesting arrangements by various international artists:

  • Kroke Band, a Polish world music instrumental ensemble, recorded their own version of Ajde Jano on their album “Trio” in 1996
  • American world music recording artist Talitha MacKenzie recorded her own version of Ajde Jano on her album “Spiorad” released in 1996
  • English violinist Nigel Kennedy with the Kroke Band and Egyptian-British singer Natacha Atlas released Ajde Jano on the album “East Meets East” in 2003
  • Finnish accordionist Teija Niku and Grupa Balkan recorded Ajde Jano on her album “Finsko Pajdusko” in 2011
  • Italian jazz/world music musician Daniele Sepe released Ajde Jano on his album “Canzoniere Illustrato” in 2012
  • Polish singer Kayah released Ajde Jano on her album “Transoriental Orchestra” in 2013
  • Japanese band Japalkan recorded and performed their version of Ajde Jano on the “Küstendorf Film and Music Festival” in 2018

In the recent years a heated debate has developed concerning the song lyrics. While some alternate versions of the lyrics have been introduced recently, this debate centers on the question of authenticity of the most popular version (as shown below) and whether this is indeed the original text or rather a purposely altered version.

The following are these controversial lyrics that have been commonly accepted as a “default” version:

 

In Serbian Cyrillic alphabet:

‘Ајде Јано коло да играмо!
‘Ајде Јано, ‘ајде душо, коло да играмо,
‘Ајде Јано, ‘ајде душо, коло да играмо!

‘Ајде Јано коња да продамо!
‘Ајде Јано, ‘ајде душо, коња да продамо,
‘Ајде Јано, ‘ајде душо, коња да продамо!

Да продамо, само да играмо!
Да продамо, Јано душо, само да играмо,
Да продамо, Јано душо, само да играмо!

‘Ајде Јано кућу да продамо!
‘Ајде Јано, ‘ајде душо, кућу да продамо,
‘Ајде Јано, ‘ајде душо, кућу да продамо!

Да продамо само да играмо!
Да продамо, Јано душо, само да играмо,
Да продамо, Јано душо, само да играмо!

 

English translation:

C’mon Jana, let’s dance the kolo!
C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, let’s dance the kolo,
C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, let’s dance the kolo!

C’mon Jana, let’s sell the horse!
C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, let’s sell the horse,
C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, let’s sell the horse!

For to sell it, just to dance!
For to sell it, Jana honey, just to dance,
For to sell it, Jana honey, just to dance!

C’mon Jana, let’s sell the house!
C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, let’s sell the house,
C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, let’s sell the house!

For to sell it, just to dance!
For to sell it, Jana honey, just to dance,
For to sell it, Jana honey, just to dance!

– – – – – – –

The famous Serbian folk music singer Mara Djordjevich (1916-2003) praised for her characteristic, yet authentic vocal style, recorded her lovely rendition of “Ajde Jano” which was released in 1956 as a ‘Side B’ song on a 78RPM SP record for the Jugoton record label. 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 has been posthumously released in 2008 for PGP-RTS record label.

Ajde Jano” by Mara Djordjevic:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWpXVnt02aQ

 

Another beautiful example for a traditional performance is a version recorded by a famous Serbian folk music singer Vasilija Radojchich (1936-2011).

Ajde Jano” by Vasilija Radojchich:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0E9e6NKNruM

In January 2013, a modern arrangement of “Ajde Jano” has been performed live at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York City by the Belgrade, Serbia based mixed choir Viva Vox.

Ajde Jano” by Viva Vox at UN General Assembly Hall:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_o0nCvTkqE

– – – – – – –

While the only person explicitly mentioned in the text is a woman named Jana (pronounced as: YAN-nah) the song actually centers on the person who is obviously leading the story. This unnamed man is determined to dance with Jana at any price and he is persistently inviting her to dance with him.

His affection becomes obvious just by looking at his offerings to Jana in return for a dance: a horse and a house! Anyone willing to part with two of the most valuable possessions in return for a dance or two would be considered out of their mind even in modern times and especially in the times this song was created in. Having this is mind, we can suspect that his affection towards Jana is not a consequence of a deep and pure love but rather of utter recklessness.

An easily overlooked fact in the text reveals that both the house and the horse are their common property, as the man repeatedly exclaims:

 

‘Ајде Јано, ‘ајде душо, коња да продамо!

C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, let’s sell the horse!

and:

‘Ајде Јано, ‘ајде душо, кућу да продамо!

C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, let’s sell the horse!

This clue reveals more details about their relationship. Since they share the ownership of both the horse and a house, it looks like they are a married couple that lives together.

Another concealed clue is the type of dance – Kolo. Kolo is a traditional circle-dance that involves several dancers. (Read more about “kolo” dance in my essay: Vodichanka kolo” – coming soon!)

This detail points to the wider context of this song. Kolo dance is an inseparable part of any traditional celebration or gathering, especially in the rural settings. Typically, these events include weddings, various “rites of passage” celebrations, religious holidays, sowings, harvests and many other traditional activities and occasions. At such large celebrations kolo dance often involves dozens of dancers, as it is customary for all attendees to join the dance.

Some contemporary examples include traditional annual fairgrounds festivals and folk music festivals such as the famed “Shabacki vashar” (City of Shabac Fairgrounds Festival – “Шабачки вашар”) or the world famous annual trumpet music festival Gucha Festival (“Гуча фестивал”) and many others.

– – – – – – –

While not related to this song, it’s worth mentioning that the most common traditional celebration, unique to Serbian people, is Slava (pronounced as: “Slah-vah” – in Serbian Cyrillic alphabet: “Слава”). It is a religious, ritual glorification of a family’s patron saint day. “Slava” doesn’t involve any dancing and it is not a large celebration but rather a private event for family members, relatives and close friends. Being a closed, private celebration, attendance at “Slava” feast for anyone other than the family members requires a special invitation, and being invited to one is a sign of deep respect and close friendship to the family.

Serbian writer Stevan Sremac (1855-1906) masterfully depicted one such typical “Slava feast” in his famous novel “Ivkova Slava” or “Ivko’s Feast” (in Serbian: “Ивкова слава”). The plot centers around a seemingly never-ending feast taking place over the course of three days, in the city of Nish (in Serbian: “Ниш”), near the end of the XIX century. A comedy movie Ivko’s Feast based on the novel was released in 2005.

– – – – – – –

As expected and so characteristic for the colorful and expressive people in the Helm region (also known as “Balkan peninsula”), such celebrations include loud music, dancing, singing, often with demonstrative gun and rifle firings, and above all eating and drinking or rather overeating and excessive drinking! Throwing an extravagant feast for those special occasions is a matter of prestige and a display of pride and social status. Most often such celebrations would start early in the day and extend throughout the night, while in some extreme but not too uncommon situations they would extend well into the next day and sometimes run continuously for several days.

The key ingredient here is the excess in eating and especially in drinking! Without any justifying or criticizing of these activities, it is obvious that more often than not participants become irresponsible or even incapacitated.

It is important to note here that in the old times only the privileged upper class citizens would have been able to afford such extravagant celebrations while the common people and peasants struggled in relative poverty.

If we suppose that the lyrics, as shown above, are indeed the original text for this song I could only argue that indeed the most likely context for this song is one of such extended celebrations in which participants desperately want to keep dancing and celebrating while been incapacitated due to the excess food and alcohol consumption. This would explain the insane decision making by our unnamed lead player.

However, we would have a hard time trying to find a single equivalent for such direct suggestive recklessness and a praise of careless irresponsibility in any other Serbian traditional folk song lyrics. While some folk songs treat certain situations around mischievous behavior, carelessness, laziness etc., a highly suggestive message and a direct praise implied in this song’s lyrics seem curiously inappropriate for the social context at the time of this song’s creation, even if it was created as recently as in the early XX Century. It is not very likely that a song with such lyrics would be accepted for a wide public use in a patriarchal and relatively conservative society that Serbia represented in the early XX Century, let alone any earlier period.

Some recent versions have been created for the lyrics, including the ones written by the famous Serbian musician Asim Sarvan, recorded under the title “Ајде Јано, кућу да не дамо” (“C’mon Jana, let’s not give the house”), recorded and released in 2008.

Sarvan’s lyrics are indeed consistent with the folk music context, and furthermore, he has introduced some new elements giving the lyrics a fresh, yet traditional sense:

“C’mon Jana, let’s not give the house” – by Asim Sarvan
(“Ајде Јано, кућу да не дамо” – Асим Сарван)

Ајде Јано, коло да играмо
Ајде Јано, ајде душо коло да играмо
Ајде Јано, ајде душо да се погледамо

Ајде Јано, песме да певамо
Ајде Јано, ајде душо, да их сачувамо
Ајде Јано, ајде душо благо да чувамо.

Ајде Јано, коња да седламо
Ајде Јано, ајде душо да се прошетамо
До Бистрице да идемо да се умијемо.

Ајде Јано, кућу да не дамо
Да не дамо, Јано душо, да је не продамо,
Кад продамо, Јано душо, како да играмо?
Кад продамо, Јано море, како да играмо?

Да не дамо, Јано душо, да је не продамо,
Кад продамо, Јано море, како да играмо?

 

Here’s my English translation:

C’mon Jana, let’s dance the kolo,
C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, let’s dance the kolo,
C’mon Jana, c’mon honey,
to look at each other.

C’mon Jana, let’s sing the songs,
C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, to save them,
C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, let’s save the treasure.

C’mon Jana, let’s saddle up the horse,
C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, to take a walk,
To Bistrica river, to splash our faces.

C’mon Jana, let’s not give the house,
Not to give it, Jana honey, nor to sell it,
If we sell it, Jana honey, how can we dance?
If we sell it, Jana dear, how can we dance?

Let’s not give it, Jana honey, let’s not sell it,
If we sell it, Jana dear, how can we dance?

(Translated by Koshanin)

Ајде Јано, кућу да не дамо” by “Asim Sarvan i prijatelji”
“Ajde Jana, let’s not give the house” by Asim Sarvan and Friends, released in 2008:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyN4FeeMqAA

Sarvan’s lyrics come as a result of a rejection by a growing number of people who are reacting negatively to the “default” lyrics for this song. A major reason for such negative sentiment to the lyrical content is its apparent contradiction and a defeatist, socially irresponsible message.

This opens the possibility that the lyrics have been intentionally changed or altered. While this idea might seem like a “conspiracy theory” many similar cases of altering or banning traditional folk song lyrics are well known. Given the brutal and totalitarian nature of the communist rulers in Yugoslavia after the Second World War and their desire to ultimately destroy local culture, tradition, religion and any national sentiment, this could very well be the case. After all, the banning of books, destruction of historic documents, abolition of freedom of speech and political and religious freedoms, mass imprisonments and executions quickly became communists’ favorite methods and are altogether well documented.

 

An American world music recording artist Talitha MacKenzie recorded her own version on her album “Spiorad” released in 1996 for the “Shanachie Entertainment” record label. MacKenzie wrote new lyrics, based on the original structure and introduced an anti-war context.

Ajde Jano” by Talitha MacKenzie, from the album “Spiorad” released in 1996:
http://youtu.be/RrfiMtnahsY

The production, recording and performance are outstanding and the pacifist nature of the lyrics is surely a noble idea and a positive, encouraging direction within the larger context. On the other hand, the history of the Balkan lands, continuous fighting for a bare survival and striving for independence throughout the ages have taught the locals that arms cannot be set aside that easily.

Not unlike in the other parts of the world, the people of the Balkan lands had to constantly remain vigilant to recurring attacks and attempts to conquer their lands and freedom by foreign invaders. This goes back to the ancient times of the expanding Roman Empire, the invasions of the Avars and the Huns, to the historically recent invasions of Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and beyond. After all, virtually all armed conflicts of the XX century in Balkan lands have been more or less induced or outright caused by the actions of powerful foreign geopolitical players. Sadly, even in our times we are witnessing similar attempts in the form of economic pressures and other modern forms of warfare.

 

I would propose another scenario for a new, duet version of the lyrics. Perhaps this could be a “call and response” type of song that would feature the alternating male and female sections, where Jana would reply to her man by dismissing his foolish behavior.

The man would sing the “default” part of the lyrics:

C’mon Jana, c’mon honey, let’s sell the horse/house!

In Serbian:

‘Ајде Јано, ‘ајде душо, коња/кућу да продамо!

To which the woman would reply:

No, my dear, let’s not sell the horse/house!
No, my dear, no, my soul, let’s not sell the horse/house,
No, my dear, no, my soul, let’s not sell the horse/house!

Let’s not sell it, let’s just dance!
Let’s not sell it, my honey, let’s just dance,
Let’s not sell it, c’mon honey, let’s just dance!

In Serbian:

‘Немој драги, кућу/коња да продамо!
‘Немој драги, немој душо, кућу/коња да продамо,
‘Немој драги, немој душо, кућу/коња да продамо!

Да не дамо, само да играмо!
Да не дамо, моја душо, само да играмо,
Да не дамо, ајде душо, само да играмо!

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the lyrical content, this song features some beautiful folk music motifs and it is set to a 7/8 meter – one of the most common meters in the folk music of the Balkan region. (Read more about “Odd Meters” in my 6-part essay series here)

 

My own solo piano version of “Ajde Jano” was released in 2011 on my first CD album “Over Seven Seas” and is available at my online music store:

https://koshanin.bandcamp.com/album/over-seven-seas

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 “Over Seven Seas SONGBOOK”:

https://koshanin.bandcamp.com/merch/over-seven-seas-songbook

 

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

“SHTO MI JE MERAK POLJAK DA BIDNEM”

“Shto mi je merak poljak da bidnem”
Traditional Folk Song
SONG INFO & LYRICS

“Shto mi je merak poljak da bidnem” is a well known and very popular traditional folk song, admired throughout the former Yugoslavia. It is a staple song in both Macedonian and Serbian folk music repertoires. A few versions of the lyrical content exist today, with some of them involving a different text, while most versions differ only slightly, with minor variations based on the actual dialects of different regions in which the song was traditionally performed.

The lyrics for this love-themed song revolve around a field guard who is expressing his admiration for a girl named Bozhana (Божана) who is harvesting the field. The mere fact that the narrator’s role is an armed guard gives us an insight into the social circumstances of the times of this song’s origins. Due to the volatile political situation in the wider region and a generally unstable environment with a perpetual risk of sudden outbreaks of conflicts, uprisings or even wars, workers performing any activities on the farms or in the fields were commonly accompanied by the armed members of their families or village. Normally, at least one or more armed members would be tasked with safeguarding the rest of the villagers who were ploughing, planting, sowing, weeding, harvesting etc. In some regions this practice was necessary because of the constant threats of attacks by thieves, outlaws or by the hostile neighboring clans. Unfortunately, such threats and attacks are still part of daily life for Serbian people living in constant fear in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija. If you are interested in helping to provide a humanitarian assistance to people in need please consider donating to the International Not-For-Profit Humanitarian Organization “28. Jun” which is providing humanitarian, medical and disaster relief to the Western Balkans.

The lyrics shown below are a traditional version in the distinctive southern dialect of the Serbian language, as performed in the Vranje region in Southern Serbia. A beloved Serbian folk music singer Stanisha Stoshich (Станиша Стошић, 1946-2008) immortalized this song with his soulful voice and an expressive and heartwarming performance:

 

“Shto mi je merak poljak da bidnem” – Stanisha Stoshich:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d73euJucfU8

 

Song lyrics in Serbian Cyrillic alphabet:

Што ми је Мерак пољак да биднем”

Што ми је мерак
пољак да биднем, мори, Божано.
Што ми је мерак
пољак да биднем, мори, Божано.

Пољак да биднем
на твоју њиву, мори, Божано.
Пољак да биднем
на твоју њиву, мори, Божано.

Ти да ми жњејеш,
ја да ти појем, мори, Божано.
Ти да ми жњејеш,
ја да ти појем, мори, Божано.

Песме да појем,
пушке да фрљам, мори, Божано.
Ем да ти појем,
пушке да фрљам, мори, Божано.

 

 

Before I get to the actual translation of the lyrics I would need to clarify the meaning of a few specific words for which the non-native speakers would have a hard time finding a translation or for which no translation is currently available in any of the online dictionaries.

The word “мерак” or “merak” (pronounced as: “meh-rakh”) is originally an Arabic word, borrowed and incorporated in Turkish language, and later introduced into Serbian, Macedonian, Bulgarian and other languages during the Ottoman Empire’s rule of the Helm lands (also known as the Balkan region). The meaning of this word is:

– satisfaction, enjoyment, good feeling; ¹
– passion, craving, wish, will for something; ¹
– melancholy as a consequence of an excessive craving, passion or longing for something. ¹
– a wish, will (for something) ²

Although the translations above describe the primary meaning and its possible variations, the majority of the native speakers feel as if English language does not have a specific term to accurately describe a deep and strong feeling which this word denotes.

The word “пољак” or “poljak” (pronounced as: “po-lyak”) is an archaic word in the Serbian language which is very rarely, if ever, used in contemporary language. Today, its homonym word “Пољак” or “Poljak” (identically spelled but capitalized) is used to describe a man of Polish descent, while its original meaning was:

– field guard ²
– farm guard or guardian

In the old times it described a person that was designated as an armed guard safeguarding the farm and the workers, usually his fellow villagers.

The word “мори” or “mori” (pronounced as: “moh-ree”), also often written as “море” or “more” (pronounced as: “moh-reh”) and not to be confused with its homonym meaning “sea”, is frequently used in contemporary communication. Although virtually all native speakers are using this word on a daily basis, most of them wouldn’t be able to explain its exact meaning. Indeed, this word is not a specific term but rather an exclamation, with an aim of either an encouragement or a rebuke.² Since I couldn’t find a perfectly fitting translation for the given context, I just used a generic exclamation “oh” in its place.

Another word that needs an explanation is “фрљам” or “frljam” (pronounced as: “fr-lyam”) which appears in the last verse. The infinitive form of this verb is “фрљати” or “frljati” which means:

– to throw something from afar; ¹
– to throw; ²
– to throw (something at somebody), to shoot; ³

While the primary meaning of this word is “to throw (something)” – obviously, in this situation, given the firearm involved in the story, its less common meaning “to shoot” or “to fire (a rifle etc.)” would be more appropriate.

Another peculiar word in the last verse is “ем” or “em” (pronounced as a letter “M” or hem”).

This word is of Persian (Farsi) language origin ¹, it found its way to Serbian via the Turkish language and it is widely used in colloquial communication. It is a conjunction used as a function word to indicate connection or addition especially of items within the same class or type…” 4 and its meaning is:

– and, besides; ¹
– (as a connector) and … and ²

Disclaimer: I am by no means a professional translator and this is simply my attempt to create a simple translation into English language, only for the purpose of making this song somewhat more accessible to the non-native listeners and to help them understand the general context and the broad meaning of the lyrics.

“Shto mi je merak poljak da bidnem” – English translation by Koshanin:

 

How I’d love to be a guardian”

How I would love
to be a guardian, oh, Bozhana.
How I would love
to be a guardian, oh, Bozhana
.

To be a guardian
of your field, oh, Bozhana.
To be a guardian
of your field, oh, Bozhana.


For you to harvest for me,
for me to sing to you, oh, Bozhana.
For you to harvest for me,
for me to sing to you, oh, Bozhana.


To sing the songs,
to fire the rifle, oh, Bozhana.
And songs to sing,
rifles to fire, oh, Bozhana.

It is quite obvious from the explanations above that the Turkish language had a tremendous impact on local languages, including Bulgarian, Greek, Macedonian, Serbian and others. While the several centuries long rule of the invading Ottoman Empire is largely and rightfully regarded by locals as oppressive, negative and regressive, a large body of Turkish words and expressions still remained in use to this day. However, in the last few decades we are witnessing a sharp decline in usage of these borrowed words, partly due to the natural reintroduction of the local words and partly due to the enormous global influence of the English language, with its many modern or previously nonexistent terms. A large portion of these new additions to the local languages relate to modern technologies (such as computers, electronics etc), however a vast number of foreign words is unreasonably replacing the existing local words of identical meaning. This is definitely not an encouraging trend and according to the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) there are currently several hundred endangered and nearly extinct languages around the world today. If we add to this the problem of endangered animal, plant and especially the marine life species – one can’t help but wonder what are we doing to ourselves, our cultures and our planet?

On my album “Under the Sacred Tree” I have recorded my own solo piano arrangement of this song, which differs greatly from the traditional context. Many new elements were added, such as the altered melody, extended melodic lines, reharmonized song structure, additional instrumental sections, unorthodox ornamental elements and more. Basically, the only element of the traditional arrangement that was retained is the song’s original meter – the time signature of 7/8, although I have changed its rhythmic feel as well.

An alternate ‘432 Hertz tuning’ edition of Shto mi je merak poljak da bidnem” from the album “Under the Sacred Tree [432Hz Edition]” was released in 2018. This album also features other traditional folk songs as well as my original compositions and it is available as a CD album or as a Digital Download at my online music store at: www.koshanin.bandcamp.com

Shto mi je merak poljak da bidnem [432Hz Edition]” by Koshanin:
http://koshanin.bandcamp.com/track/to-mi-je-merak-poljak-da-bidnem-432hz-edition

 

– – – – – – –

References and quotations:

1. “Turcizmi u srpskohrvatskom jeziku” – Abdulah Škaljić – “Svjetlost” Izdavačko preduzeće – Sarajevo, 1965.

2. “РЕЧНИК савременог српског књиженог језика с језичким саветником” – Др Милош С. Московљевић – Гутенбергова галаксија – Београд, 2000.

3. “Територијално раслојена лексика у књижевном делу Драгослава Михаиловића“ – Докторска дисертација – Тања Ј. Танасковић Универзитет у Крагујевцу, ФилолошкоУметнички факултет – Крагујевац, 2018.

4. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

 

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