Radio Quarantine – Mravi: Na Travi (1998)

It continues to fascinate me that much of this Balkan music here in these last few days was recorded immediately before, during, or right after cataclysmic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. There’s no doubt that the events shaped the music in one way or another. Some of the music reflects that more readily and some is very much… chill. That, to me, says something about the very nature of art. Art and music are their own force. It can manifest in a way that reflects everything around the artist, or despite everything. It’s no more or less powerful in any direction.

MRAVI brings an entirely different sound to the table than things I’ve posted in recent days. There are definitely some similar threads woven in. Some of them may be part of the social climate in Belgrade at that time. Others? Hard call. It’s definitely a sound I haven’t heard from American or Western European bands from the same time period. It’s just… different. Over twenty years old and it’s different enough to sound completely new.

New is still important at this point here and now, more than a year into the pandemic with travel and movement still very limited. Some people may have begun to found comfort in the new routines. They are most likely the people who found the most comfort in the old routines. That’s not how things work for me. I’ve always founds that the routines turn quickly to ruts and figuratively speaking, the ruts are murder on the ankles. They’re not comfortable. They’re not easy to navigate for those of us born with a tendency to wander off piste, so to speak. Exercise works out some of the kinks but it’s not quite doing it. Living vicariously through art can grow old too. It’s left me out of sorts, if that hasn’t become obvious. I have cherished this time to quietly explore inner space, but… but…

Speaking of familiar, I happened yesterday on a photo on social media of an old lover. It was somewhat jarring but not in the same way as those times when we had first met. It frightened me when we first met that I felt an unfamiliar jolt of electricity. Some may explain that as what we are actually feeling when we say love at first sight. I remain more skeptical, but it was something and it didn’t lessen much with subsequent meetings. It was exhilarating. It was terrifying. Seeing the photo yesterday was different though. Same woman. Same beautiful face. What struck me was that she looked so incredibly tired. It’s not a question of aging. It hasn’t been all that long and yes, aging does come in quantum leaps but it’s not aging. She hasn’t aged. She just looked weary and that’s a look on her that I never saw before even when she was exhausted from personal struggle and loss. She looked weary and sad. It upset me more than I thought it would as it’s long felt like my feelings for her had gone off the way the lights go off at the flip of a switch. It drew out some protective instinct that made me want to reach out to her.

Ghost emotions maybe, like those phantom limbs I speak so often of. You can remove something but it never goes away entirely. You just store it away somewhere deep inside like old love letters and mementos. You happen upon them when you haven’t thought about them for ages and they turn up when you’re looking for something utterly unrelated.


Who knows? Maybe what it drew out in me was the desire to be needed; the thought that somewhere out there someone is thinking about me and wishing I were there?

I dont know. My reaction surprised me.

How do people, like the musicians in Mravi for example, put aside heartache that is much more profound than any romantic foibles? Or do they just file it more efficiently so they can reach into it more easily when part of it may relate to something they’re creating. None of us here in America, or very few of us, know any kind of heartache so deep. What we consider hardship is relatively minor in comparison to what many others around the globe experience. Where we differ mostly is in the shock and outrage that we should experience any hardship at all. We don’t draw on it to create, mostly. We scream about it.

Still, there seems to be more songs about love and heartbreak than any other kind of song. Maybe I shouldn’t write off my feelings as trite. What greater motivator has there been than love and loss?

It’s all just smoke though. I don’t know what these songs are about. I don’t speak the language so I’m not even quite sure why they can so effectively speak to me.


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