What's the video for Bijelo Dugme's Đurđevdan about?
February 1, 2011 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Bijelo Dugme's Đurđevdan - what's going on in the water ceremony?

A friend of mine introduced me to the r video for Djurdjevdan by Bijelo Dugme, and I am curious about three things in it.

First, is the ceremony shown realistic - is there someplace where I can see this, with the floating rafts and flaming things and people in the water? What culture has this ceremony? (the song is based on a Roma melody from Ederlezi but the lyrics describe a Slavic holiday, St. George's Day)

Second, what is the girl doing to her torso when the boy first sees her?

Third, what's with the chicken?

I'm wondering how much of this is pure symbolism or made up for the video, and how much is rooted in actual ceremonies or life in the area.
posted by zippy to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (oh, and the video briefly shows a topless young woman, so potentially NSFW)
posted by zippy at 2:41 PM on February 1, 2011

Best answer: I don't even know how to tackle this!

Bijelo Dugme was Goran Bregovic's band, which started nearly two decades before the end of Communism. They were pretty unquestionably the biggest Yugoslavian rock band ever and still remain popular, despite the fact that by "Western" standards the band was fairly behind the curve and doesn't sound very original today. We took what we could get, we didn't know any better!

Bregovic went on to great fame, as the composer of music for several films by Emir Kusturica, who is probably the best-known Yugoslav filmmaker - his films have won many awards, several have become classics and he (generally) receives exposure far beyond the republics of the former Yugoslavia.

Bregovic and Kusturica are great pals. They're also crazily opportunistic, to the point - for many - of great offense. Despite both having roots in my multi-ethnic home city of Sarajevo, these two were quick to flee to Serbia (though Bregovic also spent time in Paris) when the shit hit the fan, and to announce allegiance to the ideals of Slobodan Milosevic's highly nationalistic and oppressive regime. This was (and I'm not sure how to say it) beyond wacky, especially as Bregovic had both a Serb and Croat parent, and Kusturica was the child of Bosnian Muslims. The nationalism they share is of a particularly noxious variety - unfortunately, the intricacies of Yugoslav nationalist politics elude most non-Yugoslavs, and so they party on without the sort of international disdain that someone like Leni Riefenstahl received (though, ironically, Riefenstahl has a more supportable claim to being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong sponsor than either Bregovic or Kusturica do, in the sense that she didn't go to Germany seeking it.)

Kusturica is pretty honest, all things considered, about this. And unrepentant. (You can read more about this on Wikipedia.) Bregovic is less forward about it, and lies a lot more about it. (He talks about the multi-ethnicity in the background of his music, but generally won't hire Croat or Roma or Bosnian Muslim musicians - Serbs and other Orthodox Christians only.) Partially his mendacity, I suspect, is because much of his work is based on theft and he doersn't want much scrutiny. He regularly claims composition credit for music others wrote, often long before his birth. (I saw him in America and watched most older Americans look at each other stunned when he - and I'm not making this up - discussed how he wrote "Ya Ya" . . . a song Lee Dorsey had a big hit with in 1960, when Bregovic was 10 years old! He wasn't joking, either. (Eventually, he was forced by music publishers to change the writer's credit and start paying royalties, but he still maintains he wrote it.)

Similarly, many of Bregovic's other songs were stolen from Romani musicians without credit or royalties. Even more were stolen from "traditional" (in other words, unknown) melodies. Generally, you can put your name on these as a composer / arranger, but Bregovic claims sole and original authorship, even in cases where it's total bullshit (like songs written and recorded decades before his birth.)

But to answer your question, yes, St George's Day is a "Slavic." But this is misleading. It's a huge day of celebration for Roma in the former Yugoslavia, and is celebrated by nearly all Bosnian Muslims as well. I'm Bosnian Muslim. My family celebrated it - lots of food and good times . . . a feast day, which for us in the mountainous area of Sarajevo heralded the coming of spring.

I can see why the video would be confusing. That's because most of it is footage from the film "Time Of The Gypsies" and so it's a bit out of context. Your three specific questions:

1) St George's Day is Ederlezi. They're the same holiday, but what you see being celebrated is the Romani version. I suspect that the roots of this holiday go back to some old Hindu holy day - maybe Mahamaham or Holi, with a Spring / water / renewal theme. The ceremony is probably filmed with more cinematic flair than you'd see represented in real life. That said, I've never been to an Ederlezi celebration as such. I suspect this celebration (in real life) would be small, local and particular to the Romani community wherein it takes place. (Though I know the Roma to be among the most hospitable people on Earth, if approached with respect and an open heart, so you probably could see it if you went about it the right way.)

2) I think she's simply plucking hairs! Roma are, contrary to stereotype, exceedingly concerned about grooming, hygiene and cleanliness, and generally fastidious in personal care. (Of course, this is limited to one's resources. People bathe in the river when no other options exists.)

3) That's an affectation of the character who carries it. I haven't seen the film in ages, but I think it's meant to suggest his essential humility and vague "outsider" qualities.

As usual, Bregovic has stolen the tune and put in place less interesting lyrics, I assume so that he could grab more of the royalties for himself.

When many of Kusturica's films came out in the former Yugoslavia, they were widely loved. Ethnic strife was minimal, and though the Roma got more than their share of 'teasing' in these films, there was the feeling that we (all Yugoslavs) were all in it together, and that the way we laughed at these characters was okay, as we were really laughing at ourselves. Subsequent events have shown some of the general characterizations to have been pretty insensitive. Though I love the innocence with which these films appeared, today I see them as being pretty sad in terms of perpetuating stereotypes (Gypsies = thieves, more often than not) and conveying utterly false notions about Roma (the idea of "easy" sexuality, when Roma are among the most sexually conservative people on the planet.) Kusturica may not have really understood the extent that he was exploiting Roma (though Bregovic was, as his exploitation was overt and deliberate), but the fact that neither has really ever atoned for it, in light of increased knowledge of the subject, is rather sad.

That said, "Time Of The Gypsies" - like a Riefenstahl film - is worth seeing solely for its artistry. Just don't get any ideas about any of the sorts of people depicted in it, as they're bound to be false, or at least pretty close to it.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:06 PM on February 1, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Well commented Dee Xtrovert. If anyone wants to see the film, the whole thing is on YouTube and the relevant scene is in part three. There is also a good review of the film at RADOC.
posted by unliteral at 8:04 PM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Dee, I was wondering about the broader context of the film and music, thank you for talking about that.

And unliateral, thank you for the link to the film. The video's dream sequence is from ~ 5 minutes in on your link.
posted by zippy at 1:43 AM on February 2, 2011

« Older Is it okay to widen the f-hole of a violin?   |   Sterling Hayden Films Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.