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Serbian culture
Cinema · Literature · Epic poetry
Music (Rock · Turbo-folk · Hip hop) · Dances
Art · Religion · Sport · Dress · Kinship · Cuisine

The Music of the Serbs and Serbia presents a variety of traditional music, which is part of the wider Balkan tradition, with its own distinctive sound and characteristics.

Famous Serbian musicians include Goran Bregovic,



The documented musical history of the Serbs can be traced back to the medieval era. Church music was performed throughout Serbia by choirs or individual singers, led by a conductor. The songs performed at the time were derived from the Osmoglasnik, a collection of religious songs dedicated to Jesus. These songs were repeated over the course of eight weeks in a cyclical fashion. Composers from this era include Stefan Srbin, Isaija Srbin, and Nikola Srbin.

Aside from church music, the medieval era in Serbia included folk music, about which little is known, and court music. During the Nemanjic dynasty, musicians played an important role in the royal court, and were known as sviralnici, glumci and praskavnici. Other rulers known for the musical patronage included Stefan Dušan, Stefan Lazarević, and Đurađ Branković.

With the Ottoman Empire came instruments that would further flourish the Serbian music.

Medieval musical instruments included horns, trumpets, lutes, psalteries, drums and cymbals. Traditional folk instruments include gajde, kaval, dajre, diple, tamburitza, gusle, tapan (davul), sargija, ćemane (kemenche), zurla (zurna), and frula among others.

Classical music

Stevan Mokranjac

Stevan Mokranjac was an important Serbian composer and musicologist, considered one of the most important founders of modern Serbian music [1]. Born in 1856, Mokranjac taught music, collected Serbian folk songs and did the first scholarly research on Serbian music. He was also the director of the first Serbian School of Music and one of the founders of the Union of Singing Societies. His most famous works are the Song Wreaths.

Just prior to Mokranjac's era, a musician named Josip Slezinger came to Serbia and founded the Prince's Band, composing music for the band based on folk songs. Around the same time came the first choiral societies, which mostly sung in German or Italian. Later, the first Serbian language works for choirs were written by Kornelije Stanković (1831 - 1865). Other famous Classical Serbian composers include Stevan Hristić, Isidor Bajić, Stanislav Binički, and Josif Marinković.

The Serbian composers Petar Konjović, Stevan Hristić and Miloje Milojević, all born in the 1880s, were the most eminent composers of their generation. They maintained the national expression and modernized the romanticism into the direction of impressionism. The most known composers born around 1910 studied in Europe, mostly in Prague. Ljubica Marić, Stanojlo Rajicić, Milan Ristić took influence from Schoenberg, Hindemith and Haba, rejecting the "conservative" work of prior Serbian composers, seeing it as outdated and the wish for national expression was outside their interest[2].

Traditional music

Serbian Gusle

Traditional ethnic Serbian music (Serbian Etno) include various kinds of bagpipes, flutes, horns, trumpets, lutes, psalteries, drums and cymbals such as:

The genre encompasses both vocal and non-vocal (instrumental), the lyrics are about Serb folklore and Orthodox Christianity.

Filip Višnjić dubbed the "Serbian Homer" both for his blindness and poetic gift, was a guslar (gusle player) that lived 1767–1834.

With the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Yugoslavias, Serbian traditional music was less heard and paved away for new styles of music (commercial music) (novokomponovana muzika, newly-composed music). Ethnic Serb music is more similar to ethnic Macedonian and Bulgarian music because of the similar culture of the peoples (Orthodox Christian South Slavs) with use of the same instruments and melodies.

A good example of Serbian ethnic music (etno) was used in the 2004 Eurovision entry of Serbia "Lane Moje" by Željko Joksimović that finished 2nd. Željko Joksimović went on to compose the traditional styled Bosnian entry to Eurovision in 2006 performed by Hara Mata Hari that finished 3rd.

Balkanika, Balkanopolis, Dvig, Slobodan Trkulja, Belo Platno, Teodulija, Kulin Ban are known Serbian musical groups that use traditional Balkan musical instruments and musical tradition.

Kosovo i Metohija

The lyrics in the traditional Serbian songs of Kosovo are centuries old epic stories, lullabys, of the life of Serbs of Kosovo before (Battle of Kosovo (1389)) and during the Ottoman Empire conquest of Serbia when Serbs fought alongside fellow Christian nations against the Turks who would eventually conquer most of the Balkans, the Serbs became lower class citizens behind people of the Muslim faith (Turks, Albanians and Bosniaks). The songs . The traditional Kosovo Serb music has minor Greek influences because of the Serbian Orthodox significance in Kosovo ( as well as Serb songs from Kosovo were an inspiration for 12th song "Wreath" (sr. Руковет) by composer Stevan Mokranjac.


The Sevdalinka or sevdah (Turkish for "Love") genre of folk music is considered the national music of Bosnia & Herzegovina, thus of all citizens; Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats.



The Hungarian Serb musical group Vujicsics (Vujičići) of Szentendre and Pomaz, north of Budapest, maintain the Serbian folk music tradition in Hungary.

Serbian folk music

Today the Serbian folk music is both rural (Izvorna muzika) and urban (Starogradska muzika) and includes a two-beat dance called kolo, which is a circle dance with almost no movement above the waist, accompanied by instrumental music made most often with an accordion, but also with other instruments: frula (traditional kind of a recorder), tamburica, or harmonique. Modern accordionists include Mirko Kodić and Ljubiša Pavković. While someone plays the Tambura, the other person is keeping a good beat on the accordion. The Kolos usually last for about 5-13 minutes.

The Banat region in northern Serbia and western Romania (Timiş County) is a culture zone of Serbs and Romanians which can be seen in the culture (folk attire, dance, music) of the region.


Mile Kitić, Novokomponovana and turbo-folk singer well known in former Yugoslavia.

Novokomponovana can be seen as a result of the urbanization of folk music. In its early times, it had a professional approach to performance, uses accordion and clarinet and typically includes love songs or other simple lyrics (though there have long been royalist, anti-Communist and democratic lyrical themes persisting underground). Many of the genre's best performers also play forms imported from even further abroad. These include Šaban Šaulić, Toma Zdravković, Silvana Armenulic and Mile Kitic. At a later stage, the popular performers such as Vesna Zmijanac, Lepa Brena, Dragana Mirković were using more influences from pop music, oriental music, and other genres, which ultimatively led to explosion of turbo-folk.

Epic poetry

Monument to the soldiers of the Battle of Kosovo, 1389, depicting Filip Višnjić, a blind guslar.

Sung epic poetry has been an integral part of Serbs and Balkan music for centuries. In the highlands of Serbia and Montenegro, these long poems are typically accompanied on a one-string fiddle called the gusle, and concern themselves with subjects such as the life under the Ottoman occupation or various battles such as the Battle of Kosovo against the Turks.

Balkan brass

Brass bands (Serbian: оркестар, Orchestra) are extremely popular, especially in Central and south Serbia where it has it's origin. The music has it's tradition from the First Serbian Uprising led by Karageorge (Serbian revolution) when Serbs rebelled against the occupying Ottoman Empire and eventually liberating Serbia after 345 years (Serbian Despotate was conquered by June 20, 1459). The trumpet was used as a military instrument to wake and gather soldiers and announce battles, the trumpet took on the role of entertainment during downtime, as soldiers used it to transpose popular folk songs. When the war ended and the soldiers who returned to the rural life, the music entered civilian life and eventually became a music style, accompanying births, baptisms, weddings, Slavas (family patron saint day), farewell parties for those joining military service, state and church festivals, harvesting, reaping, and also departing this world. In 1831 the first official military band was formed by Prince Miloš. The performers each have their instrument of the Orchestra and are called Trubači (трубачи).

Roma have adopted the tradition and enhanced the music, and today most of the best performers are Roma.

The best known Serbian Brass musicians are; Fejat Sejdić, Bakija Bakić and Boban Marković and are also the biggest names in the world of modern brass band bandleaders. The biggest trumpet event in the world; Guča trumpet festival[3] is a 5-day annual festival with 300 000 visitors.


Cocek is a musical genre and belly dance that emerged in the Balkans during the early 19th century. Čoček originated from Ottoman military bands, which at that time were scattered across the region, mostly throughout Bulgaria, Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia and Romania. That led to the eventual segmentation and wide range of ethnic sub-styles in čoček. The Serbian Cocek is more popular in south Serbia and differs slightly to Bulgarian Cocek, which has more oriental sound.

The Sa-Sa dance and music is popular among Serbian folk musicians.

Pop-folk and Turbofolk

In the modern era, Serbia has been dominated by a succession of Yugoslav states until recently becoming independent as a part of Serbia and Montenegro. The Yugoslav era popular music had many top ethnic Serb singers and musical groups dominating the scene, In the chaos of the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, turbo-folk became popular.

The era of turbo-folk took place during the war and crisis of 1990s. Turbo-folk used Serbian folk and novokomponovana folk as the basis, and adding influences from rock and roll, soul, house and UK garage. Turbo-folk is aggressive and swift, and includes popular performers like Ceca (Dubbed Turbo-folk queen) and Jelena Karleuša. Some musicians used their music to protest against Milošević during the 1990s, such as the Rimtutituki project.

Many turbo-folk singers refer their music as Pop-folk.

Popular music

There are many rock bands that exist since 1970s and 1980s. The first formidable Yugoslav rock bands were Smak, Time, YU-Grupa and Korni-Grupa. The "Golden age" of Yugoslav rock music occurred during 1980s when Belgrade's New Wave music bands, such as Idoli, Šarlo Akrobata and Električni orgazam, Disciplina Kičme, Ekatarina Velika,Oktobar 1864 and Partibrejkers, drew new frontiers in musical expression. Their music is listened to mainly by the young urban population. Today, the most famous mainstream performers include Riblja čorba, Bajaga i Instruktori and Van Gogh, while Rambo Amadeus and Darkwood Dub are the most prominent musicians of the "alternative" scene.

Pop music has been catching up with the popularity of folk in recent years. During the 90's, the majority of success achieved only pop band Tap 011 but today, situation is very different - there are much more successful pop artists. Newer artists that perform this kind of music include: Negative, Vlado Georgiev, Aleksandra Radović, Nataša Bekvalac, Ana Stanić, Ana Mašulović, Jelena Tomašević, Night Shift, and Željko Joksimović who was runner-up in the Eurovision Song Contest 2004, along with old star Đorđe Balašević. Marija Šerifović won the Eurovision Song Contest 2007; Serbia was the host of the 2008 contest.

There are also numerous hip-hop bands, artists and producers, mostly from the suburbs of Belgrade: GRU, 187, C-Ya, Beogradski Sindikat, Elitni odredi, Struka, V.I.P.

Ethnic Serbian emigrants have brought their musical traditions to countries like Canada and the United States. The Cleveland, Ohio area of the US has a large Serbian population, and a Serbian rock scene. Other manifestations of emigrant Serbian music include the Kolo ensemble from Canada, the Rastko ensemble from New York City and the Grachanitsa ensemble from Boston, Massachusetts.


The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which Serbia was a part of, was not an Eastern Bloc country, but a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and as such, it was far more opened to western influences comparing to the other socialist states (the West to some extent even supported Yugoslavia as a "buffer zone" to the Warsaw Pact). The western-influenced pop and rock music was socially accepted, the Yugoslav rock scene was well developed and covered in the media, which included numerous magazines, radio and TV shows. With the breakout of Yugoslav wars, former Yugoslav rock scene ceased to exist. During the 1990s popularity of rock music declined in Serbia, and although several major mainstream acts managed to sustain their popularity, an underground and independent music scene developed. The 2000s saw the revival of the mainstream scene.

Heavy metal

As well as having a large mainstream music scene, there is also a large heavy metal scene of all genres in Serbia. To this day, it has the largest metal scene out of any of the nations in the former Yugoslavia. Many of these bands often incorporate Serbian and Slavic folklore into their music. Along with Finland, Serbia has one of the largest "pagan metal" scenes in Europe[citation needed].


Serbian hip hop first started in the early 1980s, with the birth of b-boy crews. The first Serbian Hip Hop record release was the Degout EP by The Master Scratch Band, which was released by Jugoton in 1984. But the Hip Hop Scene in Serbia was not open and popularized until the Demo of the Badvajzer (Budweiser) crew who became extremely popular in 1987.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, bands such as Green Kool Posse, Who Is The Best and Robin Hood came into being all together starting the first Hip Hop scene in Serbia and Ex Yugoslavia.

The music spread slowly until 1995, until Da li imaš pravo? by Gru was released, marking the beginning of the first wave of Serbian hip hop, which reached its peak in 1997-98, when many new groups started to break out from the underground: Ding Dong, Voodoo Popeye, Full Moon, Straight Jackin, Sunshine, Bad Copy, Belgrade Ghetto, CYA, 187. Monteniggers, from Montenegro (at the time in a union with Serbia), were another popular rap group. Just as the scene was taking off, the flood of new talent slowed to a trickle, probably due to the economic effects of the Kosovo War of 1999, which resulted in only a few hip hop albums released in 1999-2001.

In 2002 the silence was shown to be temporary with the founding of the Bassivity label, which made Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian hip hop widely available in record stores. Their first release, V.I.P. - Ekipa Stigla, was one of the two albums which marked the beginning of the second wave of Serbian hip hop. The other was BSSST...Tišinčina by the Belgrade group Beogradski sindikat. The same group also released the highly controversial political single Govedina in late 2002, which greatly aided the popularisation of hip hop in Serbia. In 2003 Marčelo's debut album De Facto, also released on the Bassivity label, came out to both public and critical acclaim, and he was branded as the voice of a new generation.

Since than, Bassivity Music has released a couple more records before their transformation to a production company in 2007. Beogradski sindikat have followed up their debut with 2005's Svi zajedno, having founded their own label, Prohibicija, due to their dissatisfaction with Automatik Records. Despite the success of his debut album, Marčelo was unable to settle his differences with Bassivity label, and at the end of 2005, appropriately marking the end of the second wave, released his second album Puzzle Shock! (Multimedia Records).

Electronic, Industrial and Alternative Rock scene

According to multitag search [1], the most popular Serbian electronic artists today are Darkwood Dub, Inje, Klopka za Pionira, Essence of Night, dreDDup, Youth A.D. and Surreal Eternity.

There were many artists who experimented with the industrial music style in old Yugoslavia (like Sat Stoicizmo, Laibach, Borghesia). Serbian scene was always more underground and non conventional. Most important acts are: Autopsia, Pure, Katarza, VIVIsect, Overdose, DreDDup, C.I.H., Presovane Glave, Pamba, Youth A.D., Dichotomy Engine, Klopka za Pionira, Third I, Figurative Theatre, Syphil and Alone.

Other electronic music genres like synth pop and plain electronic beats were associated mostly to 80's acts like Beograd, Max & Intro, Oskarova fobija, Oliver Mandić, Lazar Ristovski and Šizike. Today's synth pop, electronic scene can be heard and associated with these projects: Margita je mrtva, Sixth June and Supernaut.

See also


  • Burton, Kim. "Balkan Beats". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 273-276. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

External links

Simple English

The Music of Serbia has a mix of traditional music, which is part of the bigger Balkan tradition.

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