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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Lastavice, lasto, grom te ubio (414)

It's been a while! I'm back with a short little Velika Narodna Lira post about a song I've been singing for months. Enjoy!


Lastavice, lasto, grom te ubio,

Lastavice, lasto, grom te spalio,

Što mi budiš dilberčeto,

Što mi budiš dilberčeto!

-- Ne kuni me, mlado, ne karaj me,

Ne kuni me, ludo, ne karaj me,

Ja ga budim da te celuje,

Ja ga budim da te miluje,

Da te celuje, mlado, da te miluje,

Da te celuje, ludo, da te miluje.


Little swallow, swallow, lightening killed you,

Little swallow, swallow, lightening burned you,

Why are you waking me, dear?

Why are you waking me, dear?

-- Don’t curse me, young one, don’t punish me,

Don’t curse me, crazy one, don’t punish me,

I wake him up to kiss you,

I wake him up to caress you,

To kiss you, young one, to caress you,

To kiss you, crazy one, to caress you.

Duca Jovanović writes for Telegraf that when Danica Obrenić originally recorded the song for Radio Belgrade in the early 1960s, she was forced to remove the word “God (Bog)” – which she claims is how the “people (narod)” sang the song – from the lyrics. The lyric was “Lastavice, lasto, Bog te ubio” – “Little swallow, swallow, God killed you.” You couldn’t have God killing swallows in Yugoslavia, Obrenić said. (Another version of her song is here). Bog can be heard in other versions of the song, notably those recorded by Bosnian sevdalinka artists like Zehra Deović.

The lyrics in Velika Narodna Lira are also de-God-ified, but they flip the first and second lines of Obrenić’s recorded version.

The song is short but super beautiful, heavily featuring melismas that demonstrate the technical prowess of whoever chooses to sing it.

The covers of Obrenić’s albums from that time call the song “a folk song from Serbia” (see here, for example).

I found some other really excellent versions of the song:

Although mostly performed by women, I did find a really interesting version by Dragoljub Sarbanac, which has some different lyrics and seems to be mixed with a song called “Si si naj naj.” He has super beautiful melismas, and if you didn’t know that this was two different songs you might not be able to tell.

The song remains popular. Merima Njegomir recently performed the song on Radio Television Serbia’s program Najlepse narodne pesme (October 2022).

Musician Ana Ćurčin also put out a more experimental version of the song, which is the only one that really changes the initial arrangement much. She’s got the ensemble Kolo backing her up with choral vocals and the main instrument used is an acoustic guitar (plus a kaval interlude), different from the usual string-heavy orchestra used in other versions.

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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