Written by: Milica Bokšan

Serbian music is an indispensable part of almost every gathering or celebration in Serbia.

As the party goes on, you can often hear the genres change, so there’s something for everyone.

If you’re in a public place, get your headphones ready; if you’re at home, it’s enough to turn your speakers up.

Let’s start with Serbian music!

Serbian Music: Folk Music and Turbo-Folk Music

Serbian folk music is translated as srpska narodna muzika.

If you ever find yourself at a big Serbian celebration, there’s a high probability that at least a few hours will be dedicated to this genre.

It usually starts with some lighter songs like pop ballads followed by rock songs.

In the last couple of hours of the party, you can hear folk and pop-folk (better known as turbo-folk genre) tracks.

Serbian folk songs are usually about love and almost always refer to it sadly or nostalgically.

If you find yourself at a Serbian celebration, you’ll notice that, when these songs start, the Serbs spread their hands in ecstasy, touch their chest, and always look as if each song deeply touches them.

serbian music balkan music girl dance

You may also feel a similar delirium if you listen to these songs with translation. 😀

Some of the most famous Serbian folk singers are:

Serbian turbo-folk music, which is often called “newly composed music,” resembles folk music.

It has a faster rhythm and lyrics that can’t always be called poetic.

Some of those songs may sound vulgar. For a long time, it was popular for people to say they don’t listen to turbo folk, even though they know almost all the lyrics.

Also, many Serbian singers who sing turbo folk songs are among the most successful music performers. This probably speaks volumes about the true popularity of this genre.

Some of the most popular turbo-folk singers are:

Fun fact: Interestingly, some of the biggest folk and turbo folk hits were written by rock musicians.

For example, Bajaga wrote the lyrics for the song Da budemo noćas zajedno (= To Be Together Tonight) for folk singer Šaban Šaulić.

The frontman of the band Piloti, Kiki Lesendrić, wrote the lyrics for the song Romale, Romali for pop-folk singer Ana Nikolić.

Turbo-folk is very popular when it comes to Balkan music.

Most turbo-folk performers come from Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, and Romania.

It’s not rare for certain songs to be sung in several languages.

Serbian Pop Music

Back in the 1920s, the American singer Josephine Baker performed in Serbia.

Serbia was quite open to the influences of music from the Balkans but also music from the West.

Pop music in Serbia gained great popularity during the 1950s and 1960s. At that time, singers Lola Novaković and Đorđe Marjanović were very popular.

They performed so-called šlageri, catchy light songs with very sentimental lyrics.

Some of the most popular are Devojko mala (= Young Girl) and Zvižduk u osam (= Whistle At Eight).

The singer Zdravko Čolić was also very popular. He was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, music stars of the former Yugoslavia.

His popularity is not waning even today.

Just a few years ago, almost without any ads, he held as many as 6 concerts in the Belgrade Arena (capacity of about 20,000 people) within two months.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a new wave of pop music appeared, marked by the groups Zana and Tap 011 and singer Bebi Dol.

About ten years later, some of the Serbian singers that became popular were:

Željko Joksimović and Marija Šerifović also performed at the Eurovision Song Contest.

In 2007, Marija Šerifović won this competition with the song Molitva (= A Prayer). So far, this is the only time that Serbia has won at Eurovision.

serbian music eurovision marija serifovic
Source: Wikipedia

In Serbia today, large outdoor parties are often organized where songs from earlier decades are played. What’s interesting is that their organization came about by chance.

At first, there were Instagram pages with nostalgic posts for those born in the 1990s and 2000s.

Seeing that their followers had a great interest in music from that time, the page’s founders started organizing parties, and they became more and more popular every year.

Some of the favorite singers among younger generations are also:

Some of their songs are a mixture of pop music and other genres, which is how new directions, such as pop-folk, were born.

Milica Pavlović, Milica Todorović, Katarina Grujić, Milan Stanković, and others also sing pop-folk.

Serbian Rock Music

When talking about Serbian rock as a genre, the first thing that comes to mind is ex-yu rock.

These were bands made up of musicians from the republics of the former Yugoslavia.

They were mainly composed of musicians and singers from Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

When it comes to exclusively Serbian rock, the most popular bands of the 1970s were:

In the 80s, pop-rock musicians such as Đorđe Balašević and the group Bajaga i instruktori appeared.

There was also a slightly different, so-called “alternative rock” scene with slightly different tones. The main representatives of the alternative rock scene were:

But it would be wrong to think that people in Serbia only listened to Serbian bands.

The songs from Azra, Prljavo kazalište, Crvena jabuka, Plavi orkestar, Bijelo Dugme, and many other rock and pop rock bands from the former Yugoslavia were and are still extremely popular.

Wikipedia has put together an awesome list of the 100 most popular Serbian rock songs.

All these bands got a lot of attention from audiences. Their songs’ rhythms, lyrics, and the kind of appearance these musicians had were very interesting at that time.

They were rebellious, had long hair, and were dressed in leather jackets and trousers.

There are a lot of young rock bands today, but none have reached the level of popularity of the mentioned bands.

Some of the bands we mentioned, such as Crvena jabuka, Bajaga i instruktori, Riblja čorba, and others, continue to perform and excite many generations.

Many tribute bands sing the songs of these artists and regularly fill clubs throughout Serbia and the region!

serbian music balkan music concert

Serbian Jazz Music

The beginning of jazz music in Serbia was marked by the group Studentski Micky Jazz back in the twenties of the last century.

Some of the first Serbian composers of jazz music were Mladen Guteša and Duško Gojković.

One of the most popular jazz and blues singers in Serbia is certainly Šaban Bajramović, also known as The King of Roma Music.

Thanks to his talent and exceptional voice, Time Magazine ranked him among the 10 best blues singers in the world.

Although jazz as a genre is not massively popular in Serbian music like the other mentioned genres, the jazz scene in Serbia is very strong and has more than successfully existed for decades.

The international jazz festival Nishville has been held in Niš since 1995.

Thanks to its significance, The Guardian included it in the top 10 jazz festivals in the world.

Today, it is considered one of the best ways to promote Balkan music and culture.

This festival is accompanied by various art workshops that are held during the festival itself.

Serbian Hip-hop and Trap Music

Serbian hip-hop became popular in the 1980s and 1990s.

Some of the first Serbian rappers were Gru, Marčelo, and the groups Bad Copy and Beogradski sindikat.

Sometime after them, mainstream bands like Elitni odredi and singers Rasta, Coby and Gazda Paja became famous. Their songs are extremely popular among the younger audience.

A more commercial sound characterizes them. Also, these artists often collaborate with many other singers, such as Ana Nikolić and Nataša Bekvalac, and singers of the younger generation, such as Breskvica, Voyage, and many others.

However, if you like hip-hop songs with lyrics that are literally stories told in verses, listen to Beogradski sindikat and Marčelo.

The music genre that is the most popular among the Serbian younger generation (Gen Z) is somewhere between trap music, pop, and folk music. These singers are usually represented by the production house Generacija Zed. Such singers are:

  • Voyage
  • Breskvica
  • Relja Torinno
  • Popovska
  • Zera
  • Popov
  • Nucci
  • Henny

Let’s Sum up!

Okay, obviously, you can listen to and dance to Serbian music.

But did you know that you can start learning cases and tenses using Serbian song lyrics?

Learning is much easier when you know how to use all the available resources.

But if your goal is to improve your Serbian language knowledge even more, you can start with Serbian classes online!