2017-10-21
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How did it come about for Serbian chetnik folk songs to be recorded...

Back in the summer of 1976 my wife and I were listening to the Serbian radio program "Ravna Gora" in Toronto. Our attention was drawn to a song request for a Chetnik who was in hospital at the time. His friend wished him a quick recovery with "Sprem'te se Cetnici", a Chetnik song sung by Rasha Radenkovich.

(Chetnik songs were recorded in 1950's on 78 rpm records. These 78 rpm records were of poor quality that rumbled and produced scratchy sounds even when brand new. As records tended to break easily, the Chicago chapter of "Serbian Chetniks of Ravna Gora" transferred these 78s to 33 1/3 rpm vinyl records in order to prolong the availability of these recordings. Twenty or so years later, these records were difficult to find and those that existed in households were in poor condition after many years of usage.)

While listening to the song we were distracted by scratching and wavering sounds as if the record was oval in shape. The lyrics were barely understandable. At the end of the song my wife asked me about the poor sound quality of the recording. First I explained the technical aspects of record production and then I went on about problems of recording Serbian Patriotic music as I understood it.

Serbian communities throughout Diaspora have: churches, Sunday schools in Serbian language, picnic ground properties, meaningful and useful organizations, radio programs, Serbian newspapers, published books, etc. What are disappearing are recordings of Serbian patriotic music - recorded only in Diaspora. The reason is that professional singers, in communist Yugoslavia, did not dare sing or record Serbian patriotic folk songs, let alone Chetnik songs. Singing such songs was punishable by imprisonment, followed by a lifelong ostracism from society. Although these songs were not illegal in North America, there were other obstacles. The number of Serbian-North Americans was relatively small. Most breadwinners worked as manual labourers; since WWII disrupted the education of a whole displaced generation. The few that were able to continue education did not choose music as their field of study. The ones that performed Serbian music were self taught, few spoke fluent Serbian, and fewer were able to present songs in an acceptable Serbian folk style.


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