Since the early 1990s, interest in various forms of traditional music among middle-class urban ethnic Macedonians has grown. Known by some as the “Ethno Renaissance”, this trend initially grew in the context of educational ensembles in Skopje and gained momentum due to the soundtrack of the internationally acclaimed Macedonian film Before the Rain
(1994) and the formation of the group DD Synthesis by musician and pedagogue Dragan Dautovski. This article traces the development of this multifaceted musical practice, which became known as “ethno music” (etno muzika
) and now typically features combinations of various traditional music styles with one another and with other musical styles. Ethno music articulates dynamic changes in Macedonian politics and wider global trends in the “world music” market, which valorizes musical hybridity as “authentic” and continues to prioritize performers perceived as exotic and different. This article discusses the rhetoric, representation, and musical styles of ethno music in the 1990s and in a second wave of “ethno bands” (etno bendovi
) that began around 2005. Drawing on ethnography conducted between 2011 and 2018 and on experience as a musician performing and recording in Macedonia periodically since 2003, I argue that, while these bands and their multi-layered musical projects resonate with middle-class, cosmopolitan audiences in Macedonia and its diaspora, their avoidance of the term “Balkan” and associated stereotypes constrains their popularity to Macedonian audiences and prevents them from participating widely in world music festival networks and related markets.
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