Borderline Latin: Nevenka Arsova, Ranchera Yugoslava

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Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature the works of a ‘non-Latin’ artist via song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.


The end is near, and it’s inevitable. 2011 is gone, and if the Maya are correct, later this year will mark the beginning of a new cycle. Whether you are an apocalyptic, and believe 2012 will bring catastrophe and disaster; or you’re ready to embrace the upcoming change as something positive, you’d have to agree that, if this year’s Arab spring, occupy Wall St. and other ground-shaking events are a sign of things to come, we’re in for a big one. But big or small, we’re all here for the music, and this week it’s all about Yugoslav Mexican tunes.

According to an almost surreal website by Slovenian writer Miha Mazzini, after Josip Broz Tito, president of socialist Yugoslavia, broke relations with Stalin during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the country needed to find a new cultural referent for its people. For some reason, they decided to start importing Mexican films, which in those days were heavily loaded with musica ranchera. According to Mazzini, the spirit of the Mexican Revolution was a perfect match for Yugoslavia’s own revolutionary fiber. Apparently, these foreign films were a blast: they became so famous that soon the country was filled with trios, solistas and bands, which Mazzini calls “fake Mexican” –though I say there’s nothing fake about them.

This phenomenon was so big, that it is still possible to buy old Yugoslav Mexican vinyls and records over there. This music has also migrated to the digital world. Earlier this year, Croatia Records put together a 4-CD box set with 101 canciones mexicanas –available in iTunes. It includes Yugoslav covers of ranchera classics such as “Cucurrucucu Paloma,” as well as some originals. As a gift from Borderline Latin, here’s a Yugoslav version of “Paloma Negra” by the beautiful Nevenka Arsova.

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For comments and suggestions, please contact me at: For more info on my “Borderline” works, visit Borderline Projects.