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Milkina kuća na kraju (278)

Unlike many of the previous songs, the popular title of this one is the first line of the third verse. This is likely because the lyrics of most of the recorded versions actually start with that verse, and include several different verses not written in Velika Narodna Lira.


Here is a version of this starogradska pesma (old town song) by Trio iz Maxima (the Trio from Maxim), who apparently performed it in a Ljubljana restaurant called Maxim, although it is unclear exactly when during the Yugoslav period; perhaps during the time of cassettes. This is my favorite version, because it's fast, light and fun. (Note: the lyrics in this version don't exactly match the lyrics below).



Ja prođoh sinoć kraj dola

I stadoh malo kraj kola.

A u kolu Milka skakuće,

Skakuće i meni šapuće


(2 puta)


Milkino oko plavetno

Namignu na me pametno.

Odmah moje srce oseti

Da će mene Milka voleti


(2 puta)


Milkina kuća na kraju,

Oko njene kuće psi laju,

A ja velim: Neka, nek laju

Oni moju Milku čuvaju.


(2 puta)

 

I walked down to the end of town last night

And I stood a little by the wagon.

And in the wagon Milka jumps,

She jumps and whispers to me.


Milka's blue eye

Winks at me cleverly.

Immediately my heart feels

That Milka is going to love me.


Milka's house is at the edge of town,

Around her house dogs bark,

And I say: let them, let them bark

They are protecting my Milka.


 

This is a popular song, and there are several different versions of the lyrics and two or three main styles in which it is sung, as well as covers in different styles.


Zvonko Bogdan is probably the most famous of the song's interpreters, and thus his version appears to be the most popular. Here are the “Zvonko Bogdan” lyrics, the ones that seem to have stuck (with translation for the parts that are different from the book’s version):



Milkina kuća na kraju

Oko njene kuće psi laju

A neka ih, neka, nek’ laju

Oni moju Milku čuvaju


Ja stadoh malo kraj kola

I spazih svoga sokola

A u kolu Milka skakuće

Iz oka joj ljubav šapuće (From her eye love is whispering)


Milkina majka srdita,

Milkina su braća ljutita

Pa neka ih nek’ su ljutiti

Slađe će me Milka ljubiti


Milka’s mother is angry,

Milka’s brothers are angry

Well, let them, let them be angry

Milka will love me more sweetly


Milkino oko plavetno

Pa namigne na me pametno

Da s’ u kolu nitko ne sjeti

Da će mene Milka voljeti


Milka’s blue eye

It winks at me cleverly

That nobody will remember being in the wagon

That Milka will love me


The instrument common to most versions of the song is the tamburica; in addition, most of the song’s interpreters are from northern Serbia / Croatia, indicating that the song originated from somewhere around there. A book called Južno-slovjenske narodne popievke (National songs of the south slavs), vol. 2 (collected by Franjo Ksaver Kuhač) calls the song “Milka” and has three different versions with three different origins: Mitrovica, Senj (modern day Croatia, on the Adriatic coast) and Bačka (northern Serbia on the border with Hungary) (pages 105 to 107). According to the book, the songs have similar lyrics but different melodies; these differences in melody seem not to have survived in the popular Yugoslav culture, as every recording we have on YouTube has the same tune. None of the notations written down matches the tune from the recordings exactly, but they are all similar. The versions from Senj and Bačka are the most similar to the recordings, but even the version from Mitrovica has the same sort of flow and is in the same key. Geographically these are very different places, so I wonder how it traveled between them.


I have also found a very old version from Columbia Records, which did some of the earliest recordings of musicians in the region. This recording of Vasa and Mirko Bukvić was originally released in 1918, and then re-released in 1925. The sound quality is somewhat poor, but wow. Their voices are amazing.



The song has a lulling, sleepy quality to it, which might be why it is included on a compilation of Serbian lullabies (uspavanke). Here is a choral arrangement that amplifies the lullaby vibe, through accompaniment, vocal production (higher voices; women or children) and vocal harmony at the end of the verses (except that the rhythm is a little irregular, which is a little more artistic than lullaby).



In addition to being sung as a male solo song, there is also a popular men’s choral version which has harmonies and accompaniment similar to that of klapa groups. In fact, “Daleko mi je biser jadrana” was also a klapa song that sounded like a lullaby. Two nice examples are Muški Oktet RTV Zagreb and Grupa Neven.


There is also this big band jazz version, by Vojislav Simić & Big Band RTS (Radio Television Serbia), which I find kind of great. It changes the mood of the original song entirely but actually works quite well.



Branimir Stulić (best known as the frontman of Yugoslav rock band Azra) has his own take on the song.


There’s that distorted electric guitar playing the familiar intro from Živan Milić’s version (on a different beat than in the original) and this kind of rockabilly guitar and harmonization stuff in the background. Stulić’s reverb-heavy vocals sound like they belong in a horror film. A great contrast to the uspavanke.


One question I have is why so many of the versions, in particular the most popular one recorded by Zvonko Bogdan, have flipped around the lyrics so that we start with “Milkina kuća na kraju.” A 2011 blogpost on B92 discusses the hidden erotic meaning of the song (and in fact, the lyrics this post presents are different from both the version in VNL and the recorded versions – although we can't take these lyrics or this interpretation as accurate or fact), which might be why the lyrics are sometimes moved around. In any case, I’m wondering if it was considered too risqué to start the song off with Milka jumping and whispering in the wagon and then move on to cleverly winking blue eyes (all possible euphemisms), and if this isn’t why we start with the less charged lyrics of dogs barking and then move to the verse about angry family members. But honestly, I have no idea what to make of this particular and seemingly intentional change in the order of the lyrics, nor the various lyrical changes present within the verses across the different versions recorded.


Another blog post tries to tie the song to real historical persons – I have no idea if this is accurate or not. The post also contains some information about the author that I was not able to verify with the exception of the fact that this YouTube video of Nikola Vučetin Bata’s interpretation also states that the verses were written by Nikandor Grujić (with Bata’s arrangement by M. Milutinović and N. Nešić).


Now for something different... I happened to be in the vicinity of a guitar while writing this post, and I took the opportunity to accompany myself on this song with some very basic chords. A little bit more uspavanke than Trio Maxima for my liking, but I nevertheless enjoyed singing this one.



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