Hip Hop at Europe's Edge: Music, Agency, and Social Change

By Milosz Miszczynski; Adriana Helbig | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
RAP MUSIC AS A CULTURAL
MEDIATOR IN POSTCONFLICT
YUGOSLAVIA

Alexandra Balandina

IN THE WAR-TORN Balkans, music has often been used to generate, foment, or support conflict. Popular music in former Yugoslavia has been inextricably linked with attempts to construct nationalistic ideologies and to provoke interethnic violence. Similarly, rap music has been used as a platform to express ethnic and cultural differences and interethnic dissent in the territories of former Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, as I will show in this article, rap may also be used as a cultural mediator to bridge ethnic divides and other expressions of conflict among different youth groups in the Balkans.

This study is situated in the city of Kumanovo in Macedonia (officially FYROM)—a former republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia— which today experiences tensions between various ethnic communities and the ambivalences embedded within cultural pluralism and ethnic identity.

The Republic of Macedonia declared its independence from Yugoslavia after the violent break-up of the latter in September 1991. Although Macedonia did not take part in the Yugoslav civil war, it experienced an armed conflict in 2001 between the Albanian National Liberation Army and the Macedonian state army, which ended after six months of military crisis and negotiations.1

Kumanovo, the third-largest city in Macedonia, is located 40 km northeast of the capital Skopje. The conflict brought a general climate of interethnic tension and violence to the city, which exemplifies Macedonia’s multilingual and culturally mixed society, containing, besides a large Macedonian population, Albanian, Roma, Serbian, and Turkish minorities. These diverse ethnic inhabitants experience linguistic, religious, cultural, and political dissonance, and in the last few decades, mutually antagonistic nationalisms, which are very prominent, especially between

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