The Balkans: “Whose Is This Song?”

Recently several Macedonian bloggers published links to the online documentary “Whose Is This Song?” by a Bulgarian director Adela Peeva on their blogs and started discussing the story. The documentary was filmed as an idea that the director got during a dinner in Istanbul with several friends (a Macedonian, a Serb, a Greek and a Turk), when all of them said that the song playing in the background was from their country.

First to publish [mkd] a short review of the documentary was Arheo Blog:

[…] Although the documentary doesn’t have any political tendency, the search for an identity of a song shows the search for the identity and national impatience for the nations from the Balkans. Instead of connecting them, not knowing the situation, in some moments Peeva has to deal with emotional reaction of the interviewed people thinking that she is offending them. Trying to connect the cultural heritage for the Balkans, this time through music, Adela Peeva at the end will conclude that it’s almost unbelievable how only one song with unknown background can create hatred in people. This is shown in the end of the movie, in the scene where one Fiesta is transformed into a field that is on fire and its save by “people from different ethnicities”. This is happening at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.

Although it’s a great documentary, I was intrigued by the two facts said in the movie – “That this is a war song and that the rhythms are from North Europe, because they are not typical for the Balkans”. It’s up to you to determine which song it is.

When the post of Arheo Blog was shared [mkd] on Kajmak.ot there were several reactions:


I don’t know why there is always a tendency to look for argument and reasons for national tendencies. That is always the case for the Balkans, because politics is unavoidably connected with history. I stand by: “that the documentary doesn’t have any political tendencies”, because it’s made with another purpose. Probably it didn’t have that motive at the beginning, but the results show something completely different. This is something that we have seen several times when there is mixture between cultural heritage and achievements of different ethnicities and civilizations. Everything artistic that includes more sides, by the nature of this region will lead to nationalism and it will be considered as motive with political tendencies.


Yes, yes. It’s made by completely naive reasons to find the true origin of the song. That’s why she says to the Bosnians that the Serbs have the original (although she still hasn’t been in Serbia), she plays the Bosnian version to the Serbs, and to the Bulgarians she says that the Turks claim that the song is theirs.

There is nothing naive in the documentary… and if it’s full with something it’s politics. But it’s good that it’s made in that way – it shows the nations here in the best way :).

The blogger Razvigor also published the video and wrote [mkd]:

[…] The author of the film in the part for Albania said that she would return, and that really happened with her last movie “Divorce Albanian Style” [mkd]. Is that movie available on the internet also?

These are the things I was talking about when I was searching for the Macedonian Michael Moore [mkd].

There are two version of the song in Macedonia: from the town of Prilep “Oj ti Paco Drenovchanke” and from the town of TetovoOj devojche, ti Tetovsko jabolche.”


  • Sammish

    Thanks Elena for this post. And thank you so much for sharing Adela Peeva’s documentary. It is a revealing and shocking documentary. I am not a Balkan however I am interested in the history of nationalism and political movements.

    It is so sad to know that old wounds never heal when it comes to ethnicities in the Balkans. Although Peeva’s approach of going and interviewing common people instead of seeking academics and experts in music history is well taken, it falls short of getting an objective assessment of where this song originated. I guess this approach (common people interviews) is excellent in assessing the deep political differences and ethnocentric tendencies of the population. To this effect the song itself is irrelevant. I, however, would truly want to know how it all started.

    It is kind of funny as well as very sad to hear people assessment of things. I really was puzzled by the Serbian Orthodox priest discussing St George festival as an example of “Gypsification” of the Balkans. I was amazed when he criticized the famous director Emir Kusterica for doing so in all his films. Yet, this priest was playing the song beating on a drum with other players playing the ney (turkish) and Saz (Anatolian). I was wondering why he held such lower views of the Gypsies. I guess in the Balkans you always have to have one or two scapegoats. They come in handy sometimes when one is overwhelmed with history and is unable to forgo the past.

    Thank you again.

  • Birgit Wehnert

    I am looking out for this documentary in Germany. Is a DVD with English and/or German subtitles available?
    Thanks for information!

  • Ufogorenmasumciftci

    Dear All
    According to its lyrics,this is a well-known Turkish-Song named “KATIBIM”.Even a single word can proof that.If you look at the lyrics you can see the word “USKUDAR” which is one of the most popular neighbourhood right opposite the Maiden Tower at the Asian side of Istanbul.
    The lyrics had been written in the late Ottoman term by an unknown local artist.But it was not so popular at that time.
    But,suprisingly, the rythm is not Turkish.
    The rythm was first heard by a Scottish Military Band who came to Istanbul during British Military Parade at end of the WWI.
    At that time, the most of Turkish people was amazed by the members of band who were wearing skirts (kilt).So they could not pay attention to the rythm was playing by the Scottish Military Band. (except a few artists)
    This rythm became popular on a table clock imported from the U.K. as a gift.
    In conclusion, The rythm had came from an old Scottish National Anthem.The lyrics had been written by a local artist during end of the Ottoman Imperial.
    Since than this song has been singing by various Turkish Singers and Performers and also has been translated into hundreds of languages accross the world.
    It does not belong neither Bulgarian nor other Balkanians.

  • Wow, superb, magnifique, harika. I’m lost for words.

    I am Turkish and I love this song. I never knew it was known outside Turkey and this documentary made me realize just how similar people and cultures are. It makes me want to go backpacking around the Balkans. Good job!

    Oh and regarding the hatred and nationalism in people, I believe most people are good and I hope they will be making this world a better place.

  • SONG

    Dear Brigit Wehnert,

    You could order the DVD of \Whose is This Song\ (English subtitles) directly from us.
    Please write using the following e-mail address:

    Adela PEEVA

    Slobodan Milovanovic
    Executive producer

  • v

    I’m a Macedonian Bulgarian and this song sounds like Boney M.’s Rasputin to me :-)

  • Ahmed Karim

    I too have heard teh story that this tune originated from people in Istanbul who were listening to a Scottish regiment’s band playing it. But that was in 1853, during the Crimean War. Difficult to tell, for the Turkish version “Katibim” I have is from 1949 by Safiye Ayla (on “MAsters of Turkish Music Vol.2; Rounder CD 1111; USA). Then I have a version from Serbia (I think; it says “FYROM” on the CD but the language is definitely NOT Macedonian) “Ruse kose curo imas” by Zorka Drebetic’ possibly also from the late 1940s-early 1950s; On “Music of the Balkans Vol.1; FM Records FM 706 (Greece). Finally, one from Bosnia “Haj oj djevojko Anadolko” by the renowned singer of Sevdalinke Himzo Polovina, probably from the early 1970s; on: “Kradem ti se u veceri”; Naraton NTCD002; Bosnia-Herzegovina. And from the text, both the Bosnian and the Serbian are almost identical, only that in Bosnia it seems they sing it with an additional first verse (which could have been added by Himzo Polovina himself).
    What really disgusted me was the reaction by those Serbs from Vranje, and from these Bulgarian hooligans. History can’t explain or justify that pathologic, sick, mean, evil, foul, murderous, grotesque hatred of everything Turkish, Bosniak and Muslim. I for one do, after that, feel less and less sympathy and comprehension for those people. On one hand it was a typical “shoot the messenger” thing. On the other hand, I don’t get it. There have been incredibly bloody wars in Europe and yet, Germans do not for the most hate French or British or vice versa. But these people do hate each other for events which happened centuries ago. Well, if I understood it I think I would hate them more, because they say that to understand is to forgive, but sometimes the better one understands something the more one hates it. I would not go there if they invited me, thank you very much! The Bosniaks were the only ones honest about the origin of that song, and what is it of they made a religious hymn out of it? The Serbs did much worse things in Bosnia, and instead of being ashamed of them they brag about them! And threaten to do more of teh same! Time they were taught a thorough and very painful and lasting lesson in humility and finally rendered harmless to their neighbors! And I do feel symapathy for all Serbs who are not like that. For they are seen as traitors by all the others.

    • Bosanceros

      The only reason the Serbian people reacted to the “Bosnian” song Adela Peeva played to them was because it’s an Islamic song associated with jihad and militant Islam, just as the Dervish in Macedonia said. It has nothing to do with Bosnia.
      Had she played the real Bosnian version “Oj djevojko Anadolko” the reaction wouldn’t have been the same, as it’s almost identical to the Serbian version.

      This is the song she played to them:

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  • Niko

    Ahmed Karim

    A Turk talking about Serbian hate? How about recognizing the Armenian genocide. Tell me how many Christians are there left in Turkey? People living in glass houses should be wary of throwing stones.

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