Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Guca - not the only Serbian brand

Another Guča (alternative foreign transcriptions Gucha, Gucca, Goocha, Gutscha or even Gootzscha) festival is finished and we give you the recap here.
Officials say that the festival was visited by almost half of million visitors this year, more than ever. Tons of grilled meat, (pechenje, pljeskavice, cevapcici) hectolitres of alcoholic drinks (pivo, vino, rakija) and thousands of cubic metres of festivals speciality - sauerkraut (kiseli kupus) were devoured and hundreds of people still fell their ears buzzing because of loud trumpet music. Hundreds of thousands of EURos remain in pockets of entrepreneurs such as room and hotel owners, restaurant workers, musicians of all kinds. Dark numbers - one registered death case and several hundred drunk driving fines, probably dozen drunken fights and several dozens broken hearts.

This years Guča also brought an aftermath discussion started by criticism from Teofil Pancic about whether it's good to advertise the festival as Serbian brand, being that it doesn't actually always represent Serbians in a positive way.
I have to agree with one thing - that it is certainly not good to advertise it as the ONLY Serbian brand, and certainly not good to talk about it in a way that our prime minister did:

"Gucha represents in a best way what Serbia is today, what does its openness, belief in oneself, hospitality, party and music. Trumpet festival is a confirmation on our courage and joy both in good and bad times. It represents people's return to the roots, joy and meaning of life.
It speaks about who we are, what we are, our urges. We express our joy and sadness with trumpet, we are born with sounds of trumpet, and also buried with sounds of trumpet. Guca is Serbian brand, it's a value that can represent Serbia in the world.
Those that cant understand and love Guca, cant understand Serbia. If we are going to go in EU without our melodies and colors, than we wouldn't know who we are."

Now what is wrong with this speech, besides the fact that it's politically motivated (elections are coming) and completely unnecessary on one such festival? Well, it simply is a bit far from the truth.

You don't have to love trumpet and Guca to understand Serbia. You dont even have to know what Guca is to love Serbia. Because Guca is far from only thing that can represent Serbia, and that is exactly what the prime ministar is clumsily trying to make out of it.

Speeches like this one are dangerous because they give ultra natinalists more rights to claim this festival as their own and in a way 'kidnap' it from other people. That's why it is possible to see young men proudly wearing t-shirts with war criminals in the festival crowds, thank god only a handfull of them, but still one handfull too many.

Personaly i think that Guca is a good brand because it does represent "the life as it once was" but that's why i'm afraid that it doesn't fall into trap of being the ONLY thing Serbia can give. And hopefully the plans of making an international festival and letting the foreign bands compete together with Serbian ones stop the nationalistic aproach to the whole thing.
But also it seems as forbidding all kinds of political speeches is a must in the future.

Yet another festival is underway, Leskovacka rostiljada, or "Leskovac Grilliade", roughly and poorly translated to English by yours truly. If Guca is celebration of brass music, this must be celebration of food (not if you're vegetaerian and only if "food" translates as "meat" in your system of values). Held in a small town of Leskovac in Southern Serbia, it is an annual festival with more and more foreigners attending each year. Why? Well simply because they discovered that they can eat better, bigger and tastier Pljeskavica for one EUR than they could with Doner Kebab, Giros, Falafel or hamburger, for two or three times the amount of money in any other city in Europe. Clever, don't you think? Plus the party goes on deep into the night, but that is something that you should be getting used to in Serbian festivals.

Speaking of weird festivals I have to mention this one as well, but it seems i can't get to describe it no matter how hard i tried, so i'll just leave the address: http://www.ballscup.com/ Now think if we advertised that as the best or only Serbian brand? I can only imagine my conversation abroad: "Yes i am from Serbia. No, we don't all eat that."

15 Comments:

Blogger Bg anon said...

Good post and interesting points. I wonder what the average foreign visitor makes of this discussion we are having about Guca?

In my mind Guca oozes with potential. Why? Simply because the average Westerner is looking for something more, something different. They have attended all the festivals, much of those travelling youth are all politically correct as a matter of course. They find things to do with history (like Guca) romantic and feel - concerning their own countries that their 'roots' have long been cut. They like the idea of a traditional society.

So Guca is a free pass for them. They dont have to apologise for getting drunk, standing up and singing in public and in fact its 'in the name' of a foriegn culture - much more 'cool' to promote a foreign culture than to try to promote your own these days.
Of course if you strip Guca down to its basics its just an excuse to get drunk, stuffed with food and listen to music but isnt everything an excuse for something after all...

I read recently that its the oldest trumpet festival in the world....

On the political point, well its typical that Kostunica would try to associate himself with Guca.

I dont think there is a danger that Guca will take over the Serbian image. In fact I think there is a greater danger that Serbia, ruled by those (as it will be) reformists are more likely to mistakenly downgrade Serbian traditional events - thinking it isnt the modern thing to do. Of course by doing this, these 'modern' politicians and their ilk show their lack of understanding that the West and its citizens are in a post modern stage of development.

Our Serbian (middle class) mainstream may be seeking modernisation, Europe and so on but the European mainstream have a different outlook now. They want it 'real' not sanitised.

Of course I may be wrong - in which case readers should feel free to comment.

The driving stats are good because the police were in action this year. Of course they were happy to be given the go-ahead to crack down - they must have made a lot of money.

7:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Teofil Pančić who says it is a chance for people to act like pigs which they can't do at home - looking at his photo it is clear the guy is acting as a pig most days.

He is fat, bloated and slovenly looking. He does have a pig looking face, besides being fat - his snout-like nose, his short wide chin, his long stringy hair (which could be worn in pig tails to complete the look), his eyes with bags and dark circles. He is also mean-looking. Someone needs to cover him up; he will scare the tourists.

9:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This years Guča also brought an aftermath discussion started by criticism from Teofil Pancic about whether it's good to advertise the festival as Serbian brand, being that it doesn't actually always represent Serbians in a positive way.

He said that people come to act like pigs that they can't be at home, yet his photo shows that he acts like a pig at home because he is quite fat and bloated, therefore much overeating. He has a pig face. His chin is short and wide, he has bags and circles under his eyes, a snout-like nose, and is slovenly looking with his long stringy hair. If he wore pigtails he'd complete the look. He is also mean-looking.

Someone needs to put a bag over that face of his or he will scare the tourists away.

9:13 pm  
Blogger Viktor said...

Anonymous,
You dont need to post twice just to let us know you ain't got nothing to say.

Bg anon,
I dont have anything against foreigners coming here to act like pigs and even look at Serbs as wild savages, even if it's not true. Hell, i sometimes think the same about other people when i go abroad, even in the west. It's good to be a pig sometimes. And it is clear that Teofil is making some unnecessary generalizations here about all foreigners taking home only 'savage Serbs' image with them.

But i am afraid that Kostunicas generalizations are far more dangerous because he is prime minister after all. He shouldn't be allowed to hold political speaches, and most certainly shouldn't be allowed to say such things.

Yes i agree that Guca should stay traditional, but not degrading and backwards, if you catch my point. And i'm afraid that the organizers are somehow letting this happen to it each year more and more. That's why i'm happy if they are really going to make it more international.
After all, trumpet is not only Serbian but world traditional instrument. It's only that we somehow decided to celebrate it first and that's a good thing.

11:08 pm  
Blogger Eric Gordy said...

If you're not satisfied with "Grilliade," maybe "Pljeskapalooza" might work?

6:56 pm  
Blogger Bg anon said...

I think that people like Teofil should not be understood literally. He is there to provide a critique and my belief is that Serbian society is richer for this diversity of opinion even if I dont agree with him on Guca. Sometimes he makes an accurate, incisive and cutting observation as well.

I've always thought that he more closely resembles an American Indian rathter than a pig but there you go...

On the finer points of how people behave at Guca I heard that the weekend crowd were the loudest. But you know this cant really be regulated, just as beered up people at the old Pheonix festival couldnt be either. How can organisers change this?

Yeah for sure if safety is in question then there should be intervention but one cant dictate how people behave at festivals - they will consume vast amounts of alcohol, take drugs, people will even die upon occasion. Thats life. If you dont like the risk then you stay home. Same is true for those who are worried about being killed crossing the street.

And as you imply Viktor Serbia doesnt have the monopoly on drinking culture the Germans or British are well known for it. You saw the way people behave on your travels. Are we in Serbia (a bit complexed about not being quite European enough) to try to sanitise Guca? I dont think we should - until there is a problem that is. And then we act swiftly and thoughtfully - or we should :)

Kostunica making political speeches - well it happens all the time I'm sorry to say. Should it happen? No. If Tadic was PM he would also likely visit Guca although his speech wouldnt invoke the ancient spirits of nationhood as Kostunica seems to enjoy.

What I'd like to see is Cedomir Jovanovic at Guca or Kostunica at Exit. Now that would be something!

8:38 pm  
Blogger Eric Gordy said...

A lot of the time Teofil Pančić writes some good and clever and perceptive critique. But he also writes a lot, and some of it slides into caricature. This would be an example. Probably no reasonable person is shocked or surprised that a lot of folks drink and party at festivals. It's a big part of the reason that anyone goes, rather than just to sit back and appreciate the music. So the behavior itself is no big deal. It seems more like the objection is to who (he thinks) is drinking and partying. This is usually the case when it seems like there are conflicts between musical cultures: the conflict is not between types of music, but between audiences.

9:03 pm  
Blogger Seesaw said...

Very good post and good points. The prime minister used Guča for his political campaign, that is clear. I thinkt it is good for Serbia to have both Guča and Exit Festival!!!

9:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always thought that he more closely resembles an American Indian

The real Indian-looking Serb is Gojko Mitic, who was the star of several East German Indian films. He also features in articles today about nostalgia for the days before Germany reunited. Many people in East Germany apparently are not too happy with how things are going since the reunification, and those seemed better times for them, or his films remind them of their childhood and youth.

http://gornostay.home.att.net/jablonsky/a554a.jpg

http://www.preisvergleich.org/pimages/Ein-Leben-als-Indianer-Hommage-an-Gojko-Mitic_92__9829078_20.jpg

4:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really LIKE the Serbian Gypsy brass music, and would probably love to go to Guća, but I think I'd want a body guard from this description, and I'm educated enough to know that this isn't the only place for a good time in Serbia, or even the only possible place to experience Serbian culture.
I too am discomforted by the war criminal stuff, and really the speech about it was wierdness.
I too don't see how a dislike of this music means a dislike of Serbia, or things Serbian. That is a trivialization of issues, that any sensible person ought to see right through, it's like saying you have to love bagpipes to be a Scot, and probably plenty of Scots HATE bagpipes, or to love the bullfights to be a Spaniard, when it's known plenty of Spaniards would like to ban that spectacle forever.
I think bg anon, you make a good point about the cut roots of the youth that travel to different places. That is a real bad thing about modernization, it throws out all traditions, instead of people sorting for themselves which tradition is worth keeping and what might be better forgotten.
Western culture is in a sort of lock step. That isn't enforced by law but by peers.
There are Western cultures that are artificially vital in exile, like Irish culture. It's very easy to go to any large American city and find Irish music, but in Ireland it's damn near impossible. City people in Ireland listen to English and American rock or to American Country Western music. Irish music is uncool except in militant circles. I often wondered what the end of the conflict in Northern Ireland would do to Irish music.
Katja of Yakima Gulag Literary Gazett

2:56 am  
Blogger ggia said...

I like that you as a Serb you are criticizing the extreme nationalistic/racist character of the Guca festival.

I visited Guca festival this summer and I didn't like the extreme nationalistic character..

I also posted some pictures of nationalistic t-shirts sold on the street in my blog at the post:


Guča/Serbia 2007: Balkan Brass Band Music Festival
.

4:36 pm  
Anonymous trbtx said...

Ballscup looks a little tamer than Guca :-) Regarding the www.ballscup.com site itself: a whois search at www.internic.net points to www.enomcorporate.com. It looks like a thinly disguised advertising site, funded by shopzilla.com, amazon.com, and others. Web users get there from Google search results that are boosted in popularity by payments from advertisers to Google. It's just a circular click trap.

Tom

5:45 pm  
Blogger Kay said...

Guca is a way (for an normal foreigner) of forgetting all the problems during some two or three days. Enjoying the music (eating and drinking or not) is a great way to make stress go away, enjoying, at the same time a different kind of music (western people like ethno music from this region).
Very interesting text that I enjoyed to read :)
Can you please contact me by mail? I would like to ask you a question...
thank you very much
Carine Markovic

1:20 pm  
Blogger Josh said...

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11:27 pm  
Anonymous Igracke said...

well Guca has become one of the most attractive places in past several years! The concept is still the same, but each year the festivalis more and more friendly organized for tourists. I like Guca, and I wish if ave time and money to go each year again and again!
Thanks

4:32 pm  

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