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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Džanum, na sred sela (194)

I love a good film song. So many folk songs in Yugoslavia were popularized through film, and I, too, often learn new songs by watching movies. This song is most famous for its place in the classic play and film Koštana, written by Borisav Stanković in 1899. This song appeared in Slavoljub Stefanović Ravasi’s popular 1976 TV film version, sung by Snežana Savić in the role of Koštana. (I watched the whole film on YouTube, in Serbian (English subtitles are not available, unfortunately).)

Džanum, na sred sela šarena češma

Tečaše, ago, tečaše,

More, nasred sela, šarena češma

Tečaše, ago, tečaše.

Džanum, na ta češma dve do tri mome

Stajaše, ago, stajaše,

More, na ta češma dve do tri mome

Stajaše, ago, stajaše.

Džanum dajte meni tuj bistru vodu,

Da pijem, ago, da spijem.

More dajte meni tuj bistru vodu

Da pijem, ago, da spijem!

Džanum, za teb’ ima šarena soba

Da spiješ, ago, da ljubiš,

More, za teb’ ima šarena soba

Da spiješ, ago, da ljubiš.


My dear, in the middle of the village, a colorful fountain

Flowed, aga, it flowed.

More, in the middle of the village, a colorful fountain

Flowed, aga, it flowed.

My dear, at that fountain, two to three girls

Stood, aga, they stood,

More, at that fountain, two to three girls

Stood, aga, they stood.

My dear, give me that clear water,

To drink, aga, to sleep.

More, give me that clear water,

To drink, aga, to sleep!

My dear, for you there is a colorful room

For you to sleep, aga, to kiss,

More, for you there is a colorful room

For you to sleep, aga, to kiss.


Koštana is a historical drama takes place in Vranje, a town in southern Serbia, after the Serbian-Turkish Wars (1876-1878) which resulted in Serbia’s recognition as a state, independent from the Ottoman Empire. Vranje was known as a musical center before these wars and had its own unique character. Momčilo Zlatanović, professor of literature, wrote for VranjeNews that sevdalinke were the main musical product of the town and were the type of music it was best known for.

Although originally written as a play, songs were added to please the audiences of the day at the time of its publication. Koštana, the central character, is a Rom woman who is a well-known and much beloved singer in Vranje, despite the class- and ethnic-based animosity between Romani and the “hadžije”. The play and film follow a small slice of her life to tell a story about choice, fate, and love. (Koštana was apparently based on a real woman – Malika “Koštana” Eminović).

It encompasses many issues that still resonate with people in Serbia and throughout the Balkans today, such as the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, nation- and state-building, patriarchal organizational structures and the second-class status of women, and the marginalization of the Romani people in society.

Music is used in the film almost exclusively for when Koštana sings songs to the townsfolk and the play’s main characters. It mostly is used to express sadness, longing or dreaming, and occasionally confession. Almost all of the songs are in a similar slow, drawn-out style and use similar melodic structures (primarily based on Turkish makam-s).

Džanum, na sred sela” is one of the more upbeat songs in the film and is sung in the play’s second act, where the townsfolk, including Hadži-Toma, who previously was vehemently opposed to Koštana and her singing, are all sitting around and enjoying the music. Hadži-Toma is entranced by the song (and Koštana), and thus this is part of the turning point in his stance towards the singer.

The song contains words that come from Turkish: džanum (canım, my dear) and aga (ağa, sir, master) (not to mention çesme, or fountain), which we know are common in sevdalinke. There are also some words/phrases that I have noticed are common in songs from southern Serbia/Macedonia/Kosovo – bistra voda (clear water) and more ­(a word with multiple meanings and translations, including something used to call out to others; common in songs).

It is attributed to Stevan Stojanović Mokranjac, a famous composer and a collector of folk songs. He is often referred to as the “father of Serbian music.” “Džanum na sred sela” appears as the first song on his collection Osma rukovet (pesme sa Kosova) (1896), which contains songs he collected in Prishtina in 1896. Thus, this is rather a confirmation that he arranged the song based on a folk tune that he heard in Prishtina. (The “rukovet” will, I’m sure, come up in another blog post where I will devote more time to this very interesting work that Mokranjac did as an ethnomusicologist).

As Osma rukovet (pesme sa Kosova) was published around the same time as Stanković’s play, I am curious to know how the song made its way to the film Koštana, and whether it was also part of the play. I found the script online, and the songs are written into the scenes. Here are the lyrics given for this song:

Море, насред села шарена чесма течаше,

Аман, течаше,

И на чешму две до три моме стајашев,

Аман, стајашев.

Море, дајте мени туј мутну воду,

Да пијем, аго, да спијем...

— Море, за тебе има шарена соба

Да спијеш, аго, да љубиш.

This is only slightly different from the version in Velika Narodna Lira. I am curious as to how and when this and other songs were selected for use in Koštana.

It’s also interesting that a song collected in Prishtina (if, in fact, that is where Mokranjac collected it) would end up in a play about Vranje. The two are relatively close geographically, and although they likely had different local cultures the southern sound and lyrics were probably more important for promoting the play to the wider Serbian audience.

I want to highlight just one more version, which starts with the Mokranjac arrangement and then leads into some orchestral jazz. The YouTube description calls it the “Eighth movement of the Serbian Jazz Suite.”

Other versions that are similar to the film version:

Finally, I want to point out that there is a song that seems to be from the present-day territory of Macedonia with very similar lyrics, but which is not at all the same. (Although I did find one Bulgarian recording of the song, most of the references to it place it geographically in present-day Macedonia—although I can’t be sure where the origins are from what is available).

You can find a collection of all the songs from Velika Narodna Lira that are available on Spotify on my playlist.


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