CULTURE: GENERAL INFORMATION
According to 3rjewelry, Serbia is a country located in Europe. The cultural life of Serbia has always been subject, in past centuries, to an extraordinary intersection of influences, which have constituted its richness. While maintaining a strong Slavic and Orthodox identity, Serbia has undergone some influences of Turkish and Ottoman culture, and has hosted many different ethnic groups in its territory, in a peaceful intersection of cultures that at the end of the twentieth century seems to have been irremediably compromised. Not only the Milošević regime, aggressive nationalism and the decades-long events of conflicts, but also the role assumed by the country in world public opinion, which, rightly or wrongly, saw Serbia as the culprit of an incomprehensible inter-ethnic conflict situation by Western standards, everything has contributed to the severe isolation, which is only now fading, to the beginning of the 21st century, of Serbian culture on the international stage. The country’s university institutes are the product of decades of careful planning of national education: there are universities in Belgrade, in Novi Sad, in Niš. Cultural contacts with the realities of the Balkans have also resumed in Belgrade, albeit with some difficulty and hindered by the more nationalist fringes, as on the occasion of the Yugoslav Biennial of Young Artists, which since 2004 brings together the best of the artistic production of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, or the Belgrade Film Festival; in Novi Sad there is EXIT, the most popular music festival in the Balkans; in Guca, finally, every year the best brass groups, mostly Roma, gather for an overwhelming festival, the Dragacewski sabor. Finally, UNESCO has for decades now declared some of the country’s most beautiful natural sites as a World Heritage Site: the sites of Stari Ras and Sopočani, the Studenica monastery and the Dečani monastery (2004). In 2006 the site in Kosovo was also added which includes a complex of medieval monuments, among which the monastery of Péc stands out.
In Serbia, as far as polar music is concerned, the presence of magical beliefs survived which, mixed with the rites of Christianity, gave rise to songs and dances with symbolic meanings, often accompanied by the use of masks, such as the koleda, a winter ritual in which the struggle of light against darkness is represented, or the lazarice for spring festivals, the songs of the swing that are performed the day after Shrove Tuesday and recall the work songs, the kraljice songs for the summer solstice and the dodoles inspired by pagan rites. Even the ceremonial songs are influenced by the magical tradition (wedding songs, strizba, kravai, Slavic). § Serbian ecclesiastical music arose under Byzantine influence; the oldest known document is the Psaltikija, a collection of songs from the century. XV of S. Serbo, musician at the court of L. Branković in Smederevo. After a long stagnation due to the Turkish domination, in the nineteenth century cultured music regained vitality: J. Šlezinger (1784-1870) created a characteristic Serbian Singspiel which gave rise to studies and research on the local musical tradition, to which K. Stanković (1831-1865), considered the founder of the Serbian national school. From this will come composers such as S. Binički (1872-1942) author of the first Serbian national opera, In the morning (1903), P. Krstić (1877-1957), B. Joksimović (1868-1955), P. Stojanović (1877-1957). In 1920 the Opera Stabile was founded in Belgrade, in 1923 the Philharmonic and in 1937 the Academy of Music. Serbian folk music (narodna muzika) is still widely listened to, especially in its most recent and modernized version (novokomponovana narodna muzika). The more “urban” and less rural version of traditional music is however based on simple lyrics, mainly love songs, accompanied by accordion and clarinet; among the best known interpreters in Serbia we mention Šaban Šaulić (b. 1951). The so – called turbo-folk is the music that rose to prominence with the years of the civil war, and that combines an ethnic and traditional base of novokomponovana with elements of rock, house and garage. The turbo-folk, rhythmically rather aggressive and with increasingly explicit lyrics, has at times been used to convey a certain nationalist propaganda; the most popular interpreter is Svetlana ‘Czech’ Ražnatović (b. 1973). The best known rock group, since the eighties of the twentieth century, is Bajaga i Instruktori, a band with a remarkable musical experimentalism and with lyrical lyrics always at the height of excellent music. Also noteworthy is the popularity, especially in the S of the country, of Gypsy brass groups and Roma accordionists.