As the last summer of 2010s is slowly coming to an end, I thought that it was a high time for a listicle celebrating songs from countries of ex-Yugoslavia that marked the past decade for me. I don’t want to claim that they are the best songs made in the past decade in the region, nor a fair representation of what is going on on the still vibrant music scene around former Yugoslav countries – but these are the ones that I most immediately associate with the 2010s and that I would definitely turn up the volume for if they came up on the radio.
The most defining trends of the last decade were the breaking of the previously rather hard divisions between the consciously “urbane” musical genres (indie-pop, rock and rap) and the more folksy, popular rhythms of turbofolk and Croatian coastal music, as well as the recent dominance of “balkanton” and trap artists, which have almost completely pushed turbofolk to the fringes. Interestingly though, traditional kafana music has seen a resurgence with a few new bona-fide hits, such as Pukni Zoro by Magnifico and Halid Bešlić’s fantastic new songs like Romanija or Miljacka (popularised by Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić).
The inter-regional musical has grown with all artists trying to appeal to the whole ex-YU market thanks to easier distribution via YouTube. Kosovo-based artists, like Era Istrefi followed their diaspora compatriots like Rita Ora, Dua Lipa and Bebe Rexha (whose family hails from North Macedonia) to global prominence – a rare success only previously briefly achieved by Marija Šerifović 2008 Eurovision winner Molitva.
So here is the list. If you want a more curated list of recent, mostly Serbian, indie-music I would suggest checking out the soundtrack to Jutro će promeniti sve (a TV show about urbane thirty-somethings in Belgrade), while for the popular stuff there is IDJ videos, the region’s main music TV channel.
Sevdah Baby ft. Shobaya – 3 Poljupca (2010)
Remix (and extrapolation) of a popular kafana song from 1985, with some great beats by Belgrade based DJ/producer Sevdah Baby.
Severina – Italiana (2012)
Throughout the decade,Split-born Croatian superstar Severina established regional dominance. Not only did she produce this super-catchy/ cheesy video across the whole of former Yugoslavia but also performed at Guča, Serbia’s hardcore trumpet festival (that was one of the better concerts I attended).
Lollobrigida – Ja se resetiram (2012)
Zagreb-based Lollobrigida is a art-pop band which rose in prominence du to its 2004 hit “Party”. Here, they are giving us the best “fuck you life” song ever written in the region.
Who See – Reggaeton Montenegro (2012)
One of the many hits of Kotor’s incredibly witty hip-hop duo, chosen here as it was a precursor to the dominance of reggaeton sound in regional music.
Saša Matić – Nađi Novu Ljubav (2013)
Old-school tear-jerker by one of Serbia‘s most famous crooners.
DJ Mlađa & Elitni Odredi feat. Nikolija – Alkohola Litar (2014)
The first collab of Serbian music’s power couple Relja and Nikolija, and a good representation of the eclectic nature of Serbian pop.
Krankšvester feat. Sajsi MC – Liz Tejlor (2014)
Witty collaboration between the controversial Osijek-based duo Krankšvester and Belgrade provocateur Sajsi MC on the topic of cunnilingus. Both Krankšvetser and Sajsi have made a lot of low-key hits throughout the decade, often with a slightly ironic slant.
Benjd – Seksi i kul (2015)
Benjd started off as a one-man ukulele indie band by Marko Radojković of Kišobran/Zaokret fame. This very heartfelt song about what it means to be sexy and cool in Belgrade is truly heavenly, especially given Marko‘s impassioned delivery.
Mimi Mercedez – Šta (2015)
Mimi Mercedez exploded onto Serbian music scene in late 2010s, however this early hit is still probably the best show of her edgy but playful aesthetic. If you liked this check out equally iconic Kleopatra and Ne možeš da sediš sa nama, which have introduced a lot of phrases into Belgrade slang.
Rasta – Kavali (2015)
Rasta is the godfather of reggaeton infused Serbian pop and this fine ditty about a needy rich girl shows the catchiness of the genre.
Halid Bešlić – Romanija (2015)
Sarajevo-based Bešlić delivers another instant classic after Miljacka, with two of his signature twists: mix of a beloved Sarajevo toponym (Romanija mountain) and a sense of nostalgia, this time for a far-away love and home.
VIS Limunada – Zbogom Ljubavi (2016)
Serbian answer to Pink Martini, VIS Limunada specialise in covers and songs reminiscent of the early Yugoslav pop. This original song, and a gorgeous video shot at Museum of Yugoslavia, show them at the top of their game.
Era Istrefi – Bonbon (2015)
Hailing from a musical family, Priština born and raised Era Istrefi made global hit with super catchy BonBon which led her to a WorldCup collab with Will Smith in 2018.
Maki Maus – Gadafi (2016)
Almost a self-parody of the money- and car-obsessed recent pop, Gadafi is catchy and silly, with lyrics even referencing the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Bojana Vunturišević – Kese Eitkete (2017)
The lead single from the critically acclaimed 2017 debut Daljine by Belgrade-based veteran singer of “Svi na Pod”, which is both immensely catchy and wonderfully poetic.
Nipplepeople – Frka (2017)
Trippy and sexy hit by the mysterious Zagreb-based electropop duo Nipplepeople.
Emina Jahović feat. Milica Todorović – Limunada (2017)
Folk-pop banger with delightfully breezy lyrics and vibe, by Novi Pazar’s Emina Jahović, one of Serbia’s greatest stars of younger generation. Jahović is also popular in Turkey, partly due to her marriage with Turkish singer Mustafa Sandal.
Vojko V – Ne može (2018)
Split-based Vojko V caught the region by storm last year with his critically beloved eponymous solo debut. The lead single, “Ne može” is a droll anthem dedicated to the (often futile) resistance Balkan males put up agains the challenges of daily life.
Kene Beri – Zmija (2019)
Kene Beri’s dry wit was first showcased on cult 2018 hit Majemi Pefkohori, but blossoms on “Zmija” (snake) which celebrates duplicity and dishonesty.
Senidah – Mišići (2019)
Ljubjana-born and raised, Senidah is the latest regional sensation riding on the increasing popularity of trap sound. Mišići is one of the greatest hits of 2019, in part thanks to the amazing video directed by fellow musician Kukla.