August 2006

Tose is a twenty-something Macedonian pop singer who held a concert in Sarajevo when I lived there. Every morning walking on the streets, I saw this big poster feature a hip youngster holding out the popular orange soda Fanta bottle. I always thought the ad was ridiculous. One day, my roommate Ta. told me to go to the concert of a popular singer from Macedonia: “He’s young but he has a good voice.” I became slightly interested. If Ta. said so, it must be so. Ta. was a music major, one of those who had “weird” taste in music, despising stupid contemporary music and dig songs with hard-listening lyrics and melody. So for her to compliment Tose, he should be worth the praise.

I visited Ta. and family in the city Z. and listened to a duet by Tose and the Queen of Roma music from Macedonia, Esma Redzepova. She is a renowned gypsy musician/singer known not only for her music but also for her humanitarian; one of which is fostering some 50 boys. From a young age, I’ve always had this strange attraction to the Roma culture. So I paid more attention to Esma and her song, hoping to catch any melody or rhythm typical of Roma music. As dumb as I was about music, I could not tell which from which. In this duet “Magija”, according to Ta., played the most typical and famous Macedonian 7-beat rhythm, something like “123 12 12.” With much enthusiasm, she tapped her hands on her lap and table to demonstrate to me and teach me. “When you meet some Macedonians, show them this, and they willl be really impressed. It’s really famous.” I was able to remember and follow her lead only with one hand. I’m not musical inclined, so this the best I can explain to you. If you learn and know music, probably you can figure out what I’m talking about by listening to the song.

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Unlike Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic whose names mentioned often during one of those popcorn political interrogation I had for the Bosniaks, I never heard of the name Arkan. I don’t talk politics all the time; the girl wanted to have some fun. So I listened to Turbo folk. Yah, but don’t tell the Bosnians or they will make fun of my choice of music. And still I had trouble. I only listened to Turbo folk in private when there weren’t many kids or adults. You see, for many Bosniaks, Turbo folk associated with those Serbians who once raped, figuratively and literally, them. "You know why we hate Turbo folk?" One kid tried to explain to me. "The most famous Turbo folk singer was the wife of a Serb general who murdered us." Her name is Ceca, through her, I got his name from wiki page "Arkan." I’m not going to go into much details about his life since such information is everywhere on the internet. What I’m more interested in is how skewed and different human perception and interpretation can be. For many Serbians, this world recognized war criminal was consider a national hero who loved and defended his country. And the interesting this is they had the reason to. Watching the video clip, I had no doubt in my mind he inspired his followers, gained their supports for his ill-fated mission to defend his country whom he claimed he loved. Despite giving a harrangue in an undiplomatic and uncivilized style of speech, he surely showed a lot of charisma. I do believe this guy did truly love Serbia and Orthodox faith albeit in a twisted way. Listen to him carefully and you’ll hear "…all muslims are WILD DOGS. This is the war between us and the WILD DOG…" What a waste! These radical Serbians could have done a lot of good for instead of dragging their country’s name to the mud and ravaging neighboring ones at the same time. But what’s more utterly incomprehensible?  Arkan can not exist and flourish WITHOUT the support of the people, many of them actually. I don’t have to name names, you know whom I’m talking about.  To support such man, it’s say a lot about people’s characters.

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Fed up after somebody broke into my car and ripped my CD player system…for the second time, I decided to be musicless in the old red box called Toyota Corolla. A soundless car plus a gypsy-like existence for the next 2 years without regular access to American radio and TV had rendered me in a limbo state, hopelessly clueless about what new and what hot in the music industry.

Then I arrived in Sarajevo, getting jammed by its own music, I became even more clueless about the contemporary music industry.

A group of students from one of my 1st year classes gathered around a computer listening to a song. They told me it was James Blunt singing his #1 song “You’re beautiful.” “Do you like it?” They asked me. “No, I don’t like this kind of pop music.” I answered flat out not knowing who he was. The noises generated from sixteen loud teenagers and the horrible sound from the crap PC speakers masked the singer’s voice and the song’s melody. Besides, what kind of name is James Blunt. No artistic, no cool.

It was one of those regular, uneventful Saturday night as I usually stayed at home doing my typical musing about…uh… unimportant stuffs when I heard this heart-galling, melody stricken song from a voice I could not tell if it it was from a man or a woman. I asked my roommate who was getting ready for a night out, and all I heard was “James Un.”

It was 11 at night. Quiet as usual in the Kosevsko Brdo neighborhood, quiet enough for the daily chants from surrounding mosques to resound through, quiet enough I felt I could finally find my role in this universe if I listened deeply. But sometimes Kosevsko Brdo could be too quiet making me slightly edgy.

There I was cranking the haunted “Good bye my lover” to the max for hours.

You probably wonder why I included a post about a British pop singer in a blog about Sarajevo?

Before topping musical charts all over the world, James Blunt was a British army captain who stationed in Kosovo and spent a brief time in Bosnia. (In the beginning of the clip, he mentions being deployed to the Balkan) I guess this explains the impression of “soul” in his melody, voice, and lyrics. There is only a handful of singers/song-writers can legitimately brag about a life of “substance” as in JB’s case.

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The background song in this video is “Mostarska” written and composed by Dino Merlin. Scroll down to see the lyrics in Bosnian. I don’t have the English translation at the moment. When I complained to the sister of one of my roommate about the lack of Christmas spirit in Sarajevo, she said, “you should have been to Mostar. They celebrate Christmas there.” Mostar is the main administrative and tourist center, the unofficial center of Herzegovina, the southern region which makes up the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a beautiful city only 2:30 hours away by bus to the south west of Sarajevo. If Sarajevo is a city “of” the Bosniaks, then I guess the Bosnian Croats can claim Mostar “theirs”, just as Banja Luka “belongs” to the Bosnian Serbs. Mostar was named after its Old Bridge (Stari most) and the towers on its sides, “the bridge keepers” (natively: mostari). In 1993, this famous symbol of Mostar was destroyed by Croats-Bosnian Croat army’s bomshells during the fighting with their former ally, Bosniaks, for the control of the city. In recent time, Bosniaks and Croats have always been the city’s two main ethnic groups. After the war, the Bosnian Croats’ population exceeds that of the Bosniaks by only 1%. 1991 concensus (pre-war): Bosniak (34.65%), Croat (33.83%). 2003 concensus: Bosniaks (47.43%), Croat (48.29%). There is an invisible dividing line in the city separating the Croats who live mostly in the west and the Bosniaks, the east. At my roommate N.’s birthday party, I met a girl from Mostar. Not wanted to ask flat out “are you a muslim who really live in the east?” I covered: “Do you live in the east or west?” Oh, she was clever nonetheless because she saw right through me: “I live in Mostar. There is no east or west.” “But I mean, is your house from the east or the west side?” I insisted. She retorted “I live in Mostar” five more times for each of my “east-west side” interrogation before telling me her family lived in the east side. LOL My friend Vlatka and I were roaming the street of Mostar when we met two Japanese wanderers who wanted to see the bruce lee status. The guy was happy knowing Vlatka spoke Croatian and kept asking us to go see Bruce Lee together. “But he was taken down.” I said as I remembered reading an article about how people destroyed the status and took it down. At that time, I knew little about Bosnia. Thinking there were still bits and parts left of the once famous kungfu fighter, the hopeful Japanese guy, who was also a karate master, insisted to go anyway. So we walked further to the west side to the Spanish square where the poor dead Bruce Lee supposed to be. To our disappointment, he was not there. When asked a Bosniak from the east, we only got a simple answer “he was taken down.” But from a Croat on the west side, we got a bigger story: some Bosniak gangs vandalized the status bits by bits, broke his fingers, etc. Eventually, the city decided to pull it down. After the war, the status was erected as a symbol of solidarity, a protest against ethnic division. For an Asian dead man to be involved in the ongoing animosity between two white groups, it must be serious. Ouch! source: Mostarska Lyrics

idemo tugo niz rijeku dole dole sad rane manje bole jos mi je san bistar k’o dan jos je pjesmom dozivamne pitaj tugo sta me to tjera ili je ljubav, ili je vjera jednom ce sve ovo da mine ostace tople usne emineja cu biti sijed, ja cu biti star al’ bice vjecno mlad moj mostar ja cu biti sijed, ja cu biti star al’ zauvijek je mlad moj mostar kako si miso, kako si brate da li jos sretni do tebe svrate nedaj da suza zamuti rijeku cuvaj je bistru i daleku kako si vaha, imas li daha jos jedna tekma na tebe ceka gdje ti je emir, taj stari nemir i njega ceka zelena rijeka ja cu biti sijed, ja cu biti star al’ voljecu i tad moj mostar ja cu biti sijed, ja cu biti star al’ zauvijek je mlad moj mostar… Let us go, sorrow, down the river Wounds are hurting less down there My dream is still clear as day I still call her with a songDo not ask, sorrow, what keeps me going Is it love, or is it faith Once shall all of this go by Warm lips of Emina shall remainI shall be grey, I shall be old But my Mostar shall be forever young I shall be grey, I shall be old But my Mostar is forever youngHow are you, Mišo, how are you, brother Do the happy ones still drop by Do not let tears make the river murky Keep it clear and distant How are you, Vaha, do you have breath There is still one ball match left Where is Emir, that old restless one The green river is waiting for him too I shall be grey, I shall be old But even then I shall love my Mostar I shall be grey, I shall be old But my Mostar is forever young…

thanks my friend T. and her sister for the translation.

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I’ve made some progress with this blog’s traffic. It is surprising that I no longer live in Sarajevo and have stopped updating the blog for such a long time. Honestly, I wanted to end the blog.

But forget about stopping the blog for now; it’s here to stay. I now have new objectives:

  1. My traffic to increase to 500 unique users per day.
  2. 100 subscribers to my feed.
  3. More comments

All should be accomplished by the end of the year 2006.

So far I have only a few ideas of what to do. If you give me good suggestions/recommendations and they worked, I will:

  1. Get you whatever info you wish to know about Sarajevo, provided that you are a clueless, bewilder soul who are not from Sarajevo. Duh!
  2. If you happens to travel to any place near where I live, I’ll be your free tour guide for the day. (I change where I live every now and then,) If we happen to meet while I’m traveling, thus know nothing about where I am, I will buy you a free drink: beer, coffee, tea, or whichever cheap but good drink you can think of.
  3. A thank-you note of course.

Kemal Monteno (born 1948 in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina) is popular Bosniansinger-songwriter. He was born to a Bosnian mother and Italian father. He recorded his first song "Lidija" in 1967 and has enjoyed a prosperous career in the former Yugoslavia.

One of his most popular songs is Sarajevo Love of Mine (Sarajevo ljubavi moja).

source from wikipedia

this song featured in the movie "Grbavica"

Sarajevo ljubavi moja
Zajedno smo rasli grade ja i ti,
isto plavo nebo poklonilo nam stih,
ispod Trebevica sanjali smo sne,
ko ce brze rasti ko ce ljepsi biti.
Ti si bio velik a rodio se ja
s Igmana uz osmijeh slao si mi san
djecak koji raste zavolio te tad
ostao je ovde vezan za svoj grad.
Bilo gdje da krenem o tebi sanjam
putevi me svi tebi vode,
cekam s nekom ceznjom na svijetla tvoja
Sarajevo ljubavi moja,
Pjesme svoje imas i ja ih pjevam
zelim da ti kazem sta sanjam
radosti su moje i sreca tvoja
Sarajevo ljubavi moja.
Kada prodju zime i dodje lijepi maj
djevojke su ljepse ljubavi im daj
setaliste tamno uzdasima zri
neke oci plave neke rijeci njezne.
Sad je djecak covjek i zima pokri brijeg
park i kosa bijeli al otici ce snijeg
proljece i mladost ispunice tad
Sarajevo moje jedini moj grad.
Sarajevo, love of mine
We grew up together city, you and me
the same blue sky gave us rhymes
under Trebevic we dreamt dreams
who will grow faster who will be nicer
You were great, and I was born
From Igman with a smile you sent me my dreams
A boy growing up fell in love with you then
He stayed here, connected to his city
Wherever I turn, I dream of you
All roads lead me to you
I wait with some longing for your lights
Sarajevo love of mine
You have your songs, and I sing them
I want to tell you what I dream
The pleasures are mine and happiness yours
Sarajevo love of mine
When the cold passes and fine May comes
The girls are nicer, give them love
Walk the walkways with sighs in the dark
Some blue eyes, some tender words
Now the boy is a man and the winter covers the mounatin
The park and hair is grey, but the snow will go away
Spring and youth will then fill
my Sarajevo, my only city

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Comments from the original video poster

EL MUDJAHIDIN contains original video footage of persons belonging to this squad and fighting on the side of the so called Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina. An army which Muslims (Another-words Bosnian politicians) introduce to the world as the ONLY army fighting for the unity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the good of all ethnic backgrounds residing there, and presenting their people (Bosnian Muslims) as the ONLY constitutional people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, judge for yourselves how true these claims are……..

You are also able to view a huge presence of Mudjahedins from Islamic countries belonging to Al’ Qaide who, as is well known, committed atrocious war crimes against Serbs and other non Islamic people in BiH. Keep in mind that those Mudjahedins were and STILL are protected by the Bosnian (Muslim) political leaders.

When I watch or post a video, I always make sure that I know who is the original poster: Bosniak, Serb, Bosnian-Serb, Croat or Bosnian-Croat. This make a huge difference. These people tend to inteprete the war differently.

While watching this video, keep in mind the following:

1. The city are not flooded with the new wave of fundamental Muslims (as a friend of mine joked, “we are the only fundamentalists in our family,” to explain why they wore head scarves and others did not). Bosnia is not a Muslim country despite Muslims occupy slightly less than half the population.

The opposite can not be more true. When I was there during my first few months, I could not help for being confused seeing Caucasian European in colorful and fashionable dresses, women in thick make-up, revealing clothing and neat hair-cut, clean-shaven men flooded many pubs, bars, and coffee bars within downtown area. There are no street signs praising Allah or Muhammad. Zealous Bosniaks did not flood the street to shout “Allah is great” (*) either and staged violent protests over the Danish cartoons and burned down buildings and threatens to kill either. The only obvious signs signaling that I was now in a Muslim-dominated part were mosques dotting everywhere in the city.

I worked in, probably, one of the the most religious (Muslim) secondary school (*) in the country. However, there are only four teachers who wore the scarves and less than 5% students wearing the scarves.

2. The video’ commentator mentioned that only after the war there were signs of women wearing scarves. But he should also add that prior to the war, Yugoslavia was united as one country under Socialism-Communism. Tito was known and referred by both terms: Socialist and Communist, mostly by the latter. In pure communist countries, religion is deemed as poison. Communist governments do everything in their powers to destroy religious practices. Though Tito tolerated religions–to what extent, I don’t know–since he was not strictly a Communist, he did not encourage them either, since he was also a Communist who was in an alliance with Stalin. When I asked a colleague why her mother did not wear a scarf, I was told that her mother lived during Tito’s Communism and was not allowed to wear one.

So the more correct and less biased version is not Mudjahedins bring radical Islam to Bosnia , thus encouraging women to wear the scarves, it can be that they wanted to wear head scarves but were not allowed before. Now, being independent from central, iron-fist rule, they run the country whichever way they see fit.

3. But the deeper reason lies on the struggle for bruise identities. There are two ways to explain why some one is a nationalist.

  • He/she is a naturally nationalist.
  • He/she becomes a nationalist or turns to nationalisms because of rage, sadness, anger, joy, etc.

The last bulleted item applies in Bosnia. One of my roommate, a total liberal European with mixed Serb-Muslim blood, defines herself as a Muslim because she was raised by her mom who is a Muslim. She wishes to practice more of the Muslim traditions when she gets older: fast during the Ramadan month, pray five times a day, stop drinking. I asked and was surprised by answers not expected from a non-religious, party girl who resembled Barbie: “What should I do? They killed us just because we believe in Allah. Now we have to believe in him.”


The return of radical Islam might not be exclusively an external factor brought from abroad by the “terrorist” Mudjahedins , rather it is an internal factor.

4. Given the much media coverage of those terrorist groups from the Middle East, radical right-wing Islam extremists who send volunteers to fight for Islamic causes, this video might present to the world Bosnia and its Bosniak/Muslims in a negative way for their association with the claimed terrorists.

Ethic is something got thrown out the windows during war time. Sarajevo was under siege by Serbian forces for almost four years with little help from the EU and NATO. Needless to say, it was under EU and NATO’s protection that the massacre happened in Srebrenica. So should the Bosniaks carry the scarlet “E” for Ethics on their heads and wait to get slaughtered away or seek and accept whichever help they can get, abeit it was from “terrorist” groups.

It is also helpful to note that Bosnia has three main religious/nationality groups. Unlike in other countries, religion and nationality tightly group: Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats, and Muslim Bosniaks. As we walked to the Tunnel museum near Butmir airport –the only safe place where Bosniaks can get aid from the outside–one of the students said, “what if fighting happens again, of course Serbia will protect the Serbs (Bosnian-Serbs), Croatia protects the Croats (Bosnian-Croats), then who will protect us (Bosnian Muslims)?”

“Turkey, perhaps.” I mused, “or Iran.”

Here is what the Bosniaks should do:

a. Make an alliance with one of the other ethnic groups, Serb or Croat. But they’d been there, done that ad later betrayed by the Croats who sided with Bosnian Serbs and Serbia hoping to get a slice of Bosnia.

b. Seek help from Western Europe. Well, they did, but then there was the massacre while being protected by EU and NATO.

c. Wait for help from the US. It did happen although a little bit late. However, USA is world-wide known and blamed for their meddling in other people’s affairs, for their arrogant role as the world’s police. American might hesitate the next time around. Given that Bosnia has no oil, USA might be even more hesitant. I read one article from “The Economist” which rumored the possibility of USA’s return to isolationism.

d. Seek and accept help from those who are more than willing to help, that is the zealous, radical, right-wing “Muslim brothers” from the Middle-East. Everybody knows these guys/gals do anything for Islamic causes. So even the war in Bosnia might not be a religious war, helping the Muslims was all they care or know about.

So many options.

(*) I saw a wall graffiti “Allah je jeden …”. But that was about it.

(*) The secondary school system is secular. I just happened to work in a non-secular one.