Crimen et Circenses: Serbian Turbo Folk Music and Organised Crime.

E. Krsmanovic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The controversy around Serbian turbo folk music is extensive. Over the years, many functions have been attributed to it—it became known as a synonym for decadence, the axes dividing Milosević supporters from people fighting to see his end, an antidote for poverty and devastation, a numbing opiate for the masses, and a manifestation of poor taste setting apart the urban Belgraders from the unwanted invaders from the rural and conflict areas. When former Yugoslav countries were shattered by war, turbo folk was considered a potent agent of nationalism and incitement of ethnic hatred, only to metamorphose decades later and become the glue holding different ethnicities of the post-Yugoslav diaspora together. As more and more people became hypnotised by the melisma of the new music genre, many scholars found its origins, function and consequence equally fascinating. The scientific inquiry relevant for the field of criminology was focused on scrutinising the glorification of crime and war aesthetics in turbo folk songs. This chapter breaks from that tradition and critically explores the vibrant, carnivalesque turbo folk scene of Serbia and its links to organised crime.

It starts by examining the image of the couple that epitomises the connection between the music genre and crime: the most popular turbo folk singer Ceca, and her late husband, notorious crime boss and war criminal, Arkan. Ceca’s marriage to Arkan and her involvement in criminal operations after his death strengthened the belief that organised crime and turbo folk go hand in hand. After two decades, this belief is still widespread but rarely challenged. Therefore, in the second part of this chapter, an attempt is made to reveal new points of intersection between turbo folk and crime based on expert interviews conducted by the author to bridge the knowledge gaps in the existing literature. Observing other performers, turbo folk audiences and the music industry itself, this part of the analysis seeks to reveal whether the relationship between crime and turbo folk is still a happy marriage, or rather an outdated myth. Findings show indications of white-collar crime in the music industry in Serbia and the instrumental value of turbo folk’s popularity for money laundering in the diaspora. Therefore, in the wake of a turbo folk renaissance, it seems necessary to replace the historical inquires with novel criminological investigations.

Turbo folk Organised crime Ceca Arkan Serbia Cultural racism Music industry White-collar crime Money laundering
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCrime and Music
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-49878-8
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-49877-1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2020


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