The Magnifico Case: Folk Pop as a Political Priority?


In 2016, Magnifico could not have foreseen that four years later, his casual musings on the sentiment at the core of Slovenian folk pop would be picked up by veteran of right-wing Slovenian politics Janez Janša. He is the current Prime Minister, also known to the global public as a prolific Twitter user. Janša’s tweets engage in an exceptionally broad palette of discussions. Many of these do not necessarily concern political matters or are matters only politicized by Janša himself, as was his somewhat tardy response to Magnifico’s conversation with Milić outlined. Janša (2020) tweeted: “Magnifico is a good musician in his genre. But this does not give him the right to despise the tradition and culture of the Slovenian nation. Especially if he loves our money.” What exactly Janša is referring to as “our money” is hard to tell. Yet, Janša’s tweet clearly alluded to Magnifico’s Serbian origins, and his reference about the difference between Slovenian and Balkan sounds, made in the Al Jazeera Balkans interview. In a boldly speculative move, Janša interpreted the asserted difference in question as Magnifico’s alleged animosity against Slovenian culture. Therefore, Janša could perhaps better refer to “their money.”


This provocative tweet should not be disregarded as an isolated (and chauvinistic) example of the politicization of Slovenian folk pop music. The trend of nationalist music branding began in the 1980s, practiced by certain musicians and the media alike (Stanković 2021). As we have already shown, alongside the rapid popularization and commercialization of the Slovenian musical tradition in post-Yugoslav independent Slovenia, the alignment of folk pop with the nation persisted in the 1990s and 2000s under the auspices of the young media and culture industry. Despite this progressive naturalization of the links between a sound and a nation, Janša’s tweet stood out, attracting public attention as a cause for alarm. Several musicians declared their support for Magnifico, including Slavko Avsenik’s grandson Saša Avsenik, and Blaž Švab, a popular TV star and lead singer of Modrijani, currently the most popular Slovenian folk pop ensemble (Usenik 2020). 


It should be noted that Janša’s tweet is not representative of official cultural politics or specific policies regarding folk pop music in Slovenia. Music at large, and popular music even more obviously so, is largely absent from Slovenian cultural policies (Zevnik 2014). At the same time, the Magnifico case indicates a peculiar relationship between Slovenian folk pop and Slovenian politics. 


We argue that this is an example of the politicization of sonic affects in the context of the (re)current construction of Slovenian national entity as non-Balkan. The Magnifico case reveals sonic affects as a locus of the real conditions of emergence of the ideological differentiation between Balkan and non-Balkan music and sounds. In the following paragraph, we outline the ideological context of the interconnectedness between Slovenian national identity and Slovenian folk pop. Then, we will show how this ideological differentiation is the specific political harnessing of affects of different sonic traditions in the Balkan region.

Magnifico: “Sonce posijalo” (The Sun Shined). Contrary to Janša's charge of Magnifico's disrespect of folk pop, the musician himself started his career under the Avsenik music label. Known for his musical eclecticism and an affinity with Balkan music, he has also famously referenced Slovenian folk and folk pop traditions in his music. Listen for example to his song “Zeleni Jure” (Green George, an allusion to a folk tradition celebrating the arrival of Spring) or “Sonce posijalo,” which is a play on the typical folk pop love songs in terms of both lyrics and music.