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


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 various kinds of bagpipes, flutes, diple,tamburitza and gusle, tapan, lijerica, and zurle, 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 . 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.

Traditional music

Bisernica or Prim, a small tamburica
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.

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 very similar to ethnic Macedonian and Bulgarian music because of its use of the same instruments and melodies.

A good example of Serbian ethnic music was used in the 2004 Eurovision entry of Serbiamarker "Lane Moje" by Željko Joksimović.

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


The words in the traditional Serbian songs of Kosovo are metaphors for the suffering and pain of the Kosovo Serbs in slavery under the Turks. The traditional Kosovo Serb music has minor Greek influences as well as Serb songs from Kosovo were an inspiration for 12th song "Wreath" (sr. Руковет) by composer Stevan Mokranjac.

Serbian Krajina


The Vujicsics of Szentendremarker and Pomazmarker, north of Budapestmarker, maintain the Serbian tradition in Hungary.

Serbian folk music(Novokomponovana)

Today the Serbian folk music (Novokomponovana) is both rural 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 folk music in the Banat region is influenced by Vlach (Romanian) sounds and vice versa.

Epic poetry

Sung epic poetry has been an integral part of Serbs and Balkan music for centuries.In 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.In Croatia (Serbian Krajina), the poems are about the life and feeling of the Serbs under Austro-Hungarian rule and oppression.

Balkan brass

Brass bands are extremely popular, especially in southern and central Serbia. This brass-band tradition is a specifically Serbian one, born of a culture that has spent almost its entire existence either at war or in subjugation. The music began in 1804, when the trumpet first came to Serbia during the Karageorge uprising, in which a Serbian patriot known as Black George led a revolt against the Turkish occupation of 400 years. Though it was 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 war ended and they returned to their hometowns, the music entered civilian life. Eventually, Gypsies adopted the tradition, adding more complicated rhythms and melodies and creating two schools: the more subtle and melodic west Serbian bands and the more complex and danceable Gypsy-blooded South Serbian orchestras.

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. There is also a big festival in Gucamarker every year with at least 300.000 of visitors from all over the world.


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.


In the modern era, Serbia has been dominated by a succession of Yugoslavmarker states until recently becoming independent as a part of Serbia and Montenegro. There was Yugoslav popular music which was well-known in Serbia, and abroad, and later, in the chaos of the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, turbo-folk became popular.Ethnic Serbian emigrants have brought their musical traditions to countries like Canadamarker and the United Statesmarker. The Cleveland, Ohiomarker 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 Citymarker and the Grachanitsa ensemble from Boston, Massachusettsmarker.

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.

The era of turbo-folk took place during the war and crisis of 1990s. Turbo-folk used Serbian folk and novokomponovana 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 and Jelena Karleuša. Some musicians used their music to protest against Milošević during the 1990s, such as the Rimtutituki project.Famous nationalist artist is Baja Mali Knindža .

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 Belgrademarker'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 and artists, mostly from the suburbs of Belgrade: GRU, 187, C-Ya, Beogradski Sindikat, Elitni odredi,Struka, V.I.P

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.

Electronic, Industrial and Alternative Rock scene

According to multitag search [48610], the most popular serbian electronic artists today are Darkwood Dub, Injemarker, 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 Beogradmarker, 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

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