“Neki Dječaci (Some Boys)” : narratives of homoromanticism and homosexuality in Yugoslav popular music of the 1980s
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In the region of the former Yugoslavia, religious leaders and anti-LGBT activists claim that homosexuality is not native to the area but rather is an import from the west, and they use such rhetoric to commit and incite violence against queer communities. However, a history of homosexuality in the region has long been supported by evidence from social and religious practices, legal code, and sexology. In a contribution to that history, this reports explores interpretations and implications of popular music narratives that also reference the existence of homosexual desire, people, and culture in Yugoslavia. Following the decriminalization of (implicitly male) homosexuality in some regions of Yugoslavia in 1977, many of the country’s most popular rock and pop bands released songs with lyrics, sounds, and even videos which implicitly or explicitly draw on narratives of homosexual desire. The majority of these artists did not publicly identify themselves as homosexually-desiring or active, nor were they involved with the nascent local gay cultural and political movement of the 1980s; their narratives appear to be imagined fantasies of the kinds of situations and emotions experienced by those with homosexual desires. Regardless of the songwriters and performers’ own sexuality, such narratives serve as a recognition of homosexual desire and communities in the region, and ex-Yugoslav fans and listeners have claimed these songs as a meaningful part of their local history of homosexuality. Less well known is the new wave ( novi val) band Borghesia, whose members were among the most active organizers of that gay movement and whose songs and videos more explicitly and personally express non-normative desires and lives. While Borghesia was not as famous as Yugoslavia’s rock stars, they were the first openly queer artists in a region that now has a thriving and growing queer musical subculture. By referencing or representing homosexual desire through musical narratives across the spectrum of popular styles, all of these artists contributed to a record of homosexuality in the former Yugoslavia.