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Croatian censorship – the music may be painful but banning is always a step the wrong way

Written by  Mar 19, 2023

“There ain't no help the cavalry's stayed home, there ain't no-one hearing the bugle blown, we take care of our own. Wherever this flag's flown, we take care of our own.” Provocative lyrics. You might be mistaken to think this is a chest-thumping nationalist song from North Korea. In fact, these are the lyrics from Bruce Springsteen, America’s version of Thompson. One born in New Jersey the other in Čavoglave.

Neither of these artists particularly appeals to me, but music is a question of taste. It is a creative art form. People interpret music, and indeed movies, art, and theatre in different ways. Each to their own.

Never mind rising inflation, lack of a work force to cover the summer season and an ever dwindling population, the news that hit the main headlines was the Mayor of Pula banning turbo-folk.

I am far from being a music critic. However, censorship is never a good thing.

“Censorship may lead to lack of information and subsequent development of apathy, ignorance, conformism and general stagnation.” Not my words, but the words of Union of International Associations. Words that I agree with.

And censorship often has the reverse effect. One example from my youth. Remember the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood? Quite a controversial band at in the 1980’s, even by English liberal art standards. I say liberal because if you’ve ever watched Monty Python or listened to the Sex Pistols you’ll know what I mean.

So Frankie hit the charts with their debut song “Relax.” And it was doing well in the charts and the band had picked up a following. Then the BBC decided to ban the song, to censor it. It wasn’t played on radios or on TV. Why? Because of this lyric “Relax, don’t do it, when you want to come.” For those who don’t know “come” in this context means ejaculation. Am I allowed to say ejaculation?

And what happened after they banned it? The song went viral, sold out in all shops and went number one! It stayed there for five weeks. And this was at a time when you had some mega groups like Duran Duran, Culture Club, Wham and Spandau Ballet. They topped them all, mainly thanks to being banned, although the song was pretty good it has to be said.

The harder you try and push something underground the faster it will rise.

And now we come to turbo-folk.

Right off the bat I have to say that this is for me the most painful type of music there is. I would rather listen to nails scratching down a blackboard or two cats fighting than listen to turbo-folk. If the CIA ever interrogated me all they would have to do is play 10 seconds of turbo-folk and I would tell them everything.

It really makes my ears bleed. However, having said all that would I ban it – no! I would never willingly listen to it, but I wouldn’t censor it. As the English would say “Horses for courses.” If people want to gather and go to a concert and at the end of the day have fun, then I have nothing against that at all.

The lyrics, although cheesy and poorly written, don’t incite violence. It’s not like bringing a group of white supremacists into Brooklyn and expecting a warm welcome.

It seems that the mayor has connected this form of music with being pro-Serbian. Although he later stated that the decision wasn’t a nationalist one but a cultural one.

Culture comes in many shapes and forms. Just look at our entry into the Eurovision this year.

It seems strange that a mayor, a political figure, can get to decide what people should or indeed in this case shouldn’t listen to. Was he voted into office on his political manifesto or his musical tastes? Coming from a region of Croatia that is seemingly the most tolerant this is an extremely intolerant move. Please don’t bring politics into the creative arts. That is the beginning of the end. Don’t patronize the public. Let them decide with their feet, by buying or not buying tickets. He is supposed to represent the public not dictate to them.

Small-minded people are famous throughout history for making gigantic errors. By banning this music he is just adding oxygen to the fire. However horrendous this music might be for most it has its place in a free and open society.

Let’s just hope that Frankie never goes to Pula!   

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