John Miles Foley, Founding Editor

Managing the “Boss”: Epistemic Violence, Resistance, and Negotiations in Milman Parry’s and Nikola Vujnović’s Pričanja with Salih Ugljanin

Abstract

Rather than approaching the Parry-Vujnović interviews with Salih Ugljanin, singer of South Slavic and Albanian epics, as primarily contextual and supplementary material, this article explores their neglected performative aspect, the subdued social, ethnic, and religious tensions that underlie them, and the subtle power-struggles, shifting allegiances, clashes, and confluences of interests and intentions between the participants. Special attention is given to the singer’s strategies of coping with, negotiating, and resisting the imposition of alien scholarly terms of engagement.

eCompanion

Example where the warm “grandson-grandfather” interlude preceding a storytelling (PN 656, IV:40, R 983: 3:53-4:04):

N: Koju ćemo dedo?

S: Ej koju? Pa ćes se nasmijati.

N: Dobro! Neka bude malo smiješna.

S: Valahi smiješna će bit, i ono je istinito.

N: Which one [story] shall we [pick? hear?], grandpa?

S: Eh which? Then you’re going to laugh.

N: Good! Let it be a bit funny.

S: Well, funny it’ll be, but true as well.


The more the collector forces himself into the conversation, the more he remains on the outside (PN 652, I:67, R 877: 0:13-0:24):

MP: Jeli prićao [Sadik?] o Musi i Marku?

S [in affirmation]: E.

MP: Đe si čuo?

S [realizing he needs to be clearer but still trying to rely on the context]: Musu i Marka od onoga sam ćuo.

N [trying to help out]: U Mitrovici.

S [realizing he needs to complete the “citation” for Parry’s benefit]: U Mitrovicu od Sadika Bošnjaka.

MP: Did he [Sadik?] tell about Musa and Marko?

S [in affirmation]: Aye.

MP: Where did you hear [it from]?

S [realizing he needs to be clearer but still trying to rely on the context]: Musa and Marko I heard from that one.

N [trying to help out]: In Mitrovica.

S [realizing he needs to complete the “citation” for Parry’s benefit]: In Mitrovica from Sadik Bošnjak.


Instead of the good, obedient son, Nikola plays the rascal (PN 659, VI:57, R 1055: 2:28-3:26):

N: Dobro. Ti malo počini i odmori se [i smisli se31] malo, koju pjesmu.

S [interrupting the end of Nikola’s sentence]: Prati mi jedan ćaj tako ti sveca.

N [most likely pretending not to hear]: Što, što?

S: Jedan ćaj mi prati otud.

N [now definitely pretending]: Reci dobro, ja te nečujem.

S [louder]: Jedan ćaj mi prati.

N [playing silly, yet serious]: Zašto?

S: Da pijem brate.

N: Hotli popit rakiju?

S [resolutely]: Jok vala, fala, rakiju neću nikako.

N [playing ignorant]: Zašto ne?

S: Ja ne pijem nikad.

N: A Da ti uspe[m?] malo rakije u čaj, bili ti popijo? Zdravije ti je.

S [adamantly]: Bogami jok, nikako.

N: Zašto bolan nebijo?

S: Ja sam ostavijo rakiju sad.

N: E, dobro, ti počini malo sad.

S: A hoću da mislim sad, a ti . . . [Nikola here turns away from the microphone addressing someone else (Parry?). The singer now refers to whatever is happening (Nikola lighting a cigarette, or fire in the room?)]: Ne, ne to ti je pala žiška kad si naložijo . . . [Now returning to his earlier request]: Prati mi jedan ćaj.

N: All right. You rest a while and think a little, which song [you would like to sing].

S [interrupting the end of Nikola’s sentence]: Send me one tea, by your saint.

N [most likely pretending not to hear]: What, what?

S: One tea, send it for me from there [the coffee-house kitchen?].

N [now definitely pretending]: Say it well; I can’t hear you.

S [louder]: Send me one tea.

N [playing silly, yet serious]: Why?

S: To drink, of course.

N: How about some brandy?

S [resolutely]: No thanks, I don’t want any brandy.

N [playing ignorant]: Why not?

S: I never drink.

N: And if they [I?] pour a bit of brandy in your tea, would you drink it? It’s healthier for you.

S [adamantly]: By God, no, no way.

N: Why, might you not be ill?

S: I have given up brandy now.

N: Eh, all right, now you rest a while.

S: And I will think now [about which song to sing next], and you . . . [Nikola here turns away from the microphone addressing someone else (Parry?). Then the singer refers to whatever is happening (Nikola lighting a cigarette, or the fire in the room?)]: No, no, but a spark fell when you lit up . . . [Now returning to his earlier request]: Send me one tea.


Nikola, the Boss’s agent, leads the interviews and manages the purse (PN 659, VI:12, R 1044: 1:52-2:27):

N: E hajde sad lijepo Salja, od kraja do konca, ali, ako puštiš koji stih, nećemo ti platit ništa.

S [anxiously]: A da nemogu dok se neodmorim, bogme, ono [the song] je dugaćko. Teke po jedan mah da stanem da se odmorim.

N: Dobro, dobro, kada budeš umorit se, a ti odmori

S [interrupting the end of Nikola’s sentence above]: A onako da brojim hoću.

N [feigning seriousness in a “schoolteacher” manner]: Jes, jes, jes, samo svako slovo ako nebudeš kazat, tačno, ja je znam cijelu. . . .

S [interrupts again]: Ja vala. . . .

N: Ako nebudeš kazat tačno [Salih here interjects, defensively]: Oooh, nećemo ti platit ništa. [Exclaiming, as though to cut the interruptions from the singer and stress his seriousness]: Salja!

S [continues, slightly dejected and defensive at the start, but gaining confidence]: Oh, ja ne znam kako koji peva, a ja kako je pevam, belji ostavit neću.

N [interrupting the end of Salih’s sentence above]: E dobro! E hajde, bicmilah!

S [with a small laugh of approval, amused by Nikola’s “Islamic” exclamation]: Bicmilja i Bože pomozi.

N [instructively]: Samo čisto, jasno, glasno da pjevaš.

S [calmed, in affirmation]: A da.

N: Eh, come on now, Salja, nicely, from the beginning to the end, but if you miss a verse, we are not going to pay you anything.

S [anxiously]: Eh, I can’t until I rest first, by God, it [the song] is too long. But if I stop at one point to rest a little.

N: Yes, yes, yes, but if you don’t say every letter, exactly, [Salih here interjects, defensively]: Ooo, I know it [the song] whole. . . .

S [interrupting the end of Nikola’s sentence above]: And I’ll recount like that.

N [feigning seriousness in a “schoolteacher” manner]: All right, all right, when you get tired, you take a rest.

S [interrupts again]: Well, yes. . . .

N: If you don’t say [it] exactly, we are not going to pay you anything. [Exclaiming, as though to cut the interruptions from the singer and stress his seriousness]: Salja!

S [continues, slightly dejected and defensive at the start, but gaining confidence]: Oh, I don’t know how others sing it, but the way I sing it, I [won’t]51 leave out anything, of course.

N [interrupting the end of Salih’s sentence above]: All right, then! Eh, come on, bismillah!

S [with a small laugh of approval, amused by Nikola’s “Islamic” exclamation]: Bismillah and with God’s help.

N [instructively]: Only sing neatly, clearly, loudly.

S [calmed, in affirmation]: Well, yes.


Nikola approaches Salih as would an adult playing a game of knowledge with a child (PN 654, II:43, R 921: 0:55-1:03):

N: Ja mislim da je Mostar najviši grad u Bosni.

S: Jok ima višije. Sarajevo je više.

N [mildly incredulous]: Više od njega!

S [in confirmation]: E.

N: I think Mostar is the biggest town in Bosnia.

S: Nope, there are bigger ones. Sarajevo is bigger.

N [mildly incredulous]: Bigger than [Mostar]?

S [in confirmation]: Yeah.


Nikola feigns confusion in a ruse intended to provoke hilarity (PN 654, II:90, R 935: 2:20-2:25):

N: Đe? U džehenemu, jeli?

S [pronouncing slowly for emphasis]: U đenet!

N: A kako je u džehenemu?

S: A u đehnem sačuva Bože!

N: Where [is all that]? In hell, isn’t it?

S [pronouncing slowly for emphasis]: In heaven!

N: And how is it in hell?

S: But in hell, God keep [us from there]!


Parry interjects into Salih’s reverie on the joys of heaven (PN 654, II:92-93, R 936: 0:51-1:09):

MP: E kad ti umriješ?

S [longingly]: Ej ako bogda tu da me povedu!

N: U džehenem jeli?

S [emphatically]: Nedaj Bože [Nikola and Parry chuckle].

N [through laughter]: Đe bi ti volijo? U dženet ili u džehenem?

S [laughing along]: Ej, ja bi volijo u đenet . . . [makes a hopeful sound and then coughs]: dekiku no ovamo hiljadu godina.

MP: And when you die?

S [longingly]: Eh, may God grant that they take me there!

N: To hell, you mean?

S [emphatically]: God forbid [Nikola and Parry chuckle].

N [through laughter]: Where would you like to go, to heaven or to hell?

S [laughing along]: Eh, I would like to [go to] heaven . . . [makes a hopeful sound and then coughs]: [and spend] a minute [there] rather than [be] here for a thousand years.


Nikola makes the same “mistake” one more time before finally giving up and causing another bout of laughter in the process (PN 654, II:96, R 937: 2:25-2:45):

N: I onda kad se umre, onda se ide u džehenem jeli?

S: Ne, neko u đenem, neko u đenet. Tu nema sem dva, dva puta.

N: Dva puta?

S: Nejma! Treće nejma!

N [laughing while hinting at a known saying]: A sad ako zna đadu dobro je! [Both chuckle.] A ko nezna đadu, ode u Kaniđu jeli?

S [laughing in recognition and quoting the full rhyme]: Ooo! A da! “A ko nezna đadu, on ode u Kajniđu gradu.”

N: And then when one dies, one goes to hell, doesn’t he?

S: No, some [go] to hell, some to heaven. There are but two, two ways there.

N: Two ways?

S: There isn’t. There isn’t a third.

N [laughing while hinting at a known saying]: Well now, whoever knows the road, good [for him]! [Both chuckle.] And who doesn’t know the road, off he goes to Kaniđa!

S [laughing in recognition and quoting the full rhyme]: Oooh! But of course! “Who doesn’t know the road [down], he ends up in Kajniđa town!”


Nikola questions Salih about his battlefield courage (PN 655, III:63-64, R 953: 0:17-0:35):

S [recites]: Neko viće jao mene majko, Neko kuku prifatime druže!

N [through laughter]: Jesili ti koji put reko: “Kuku majko!”

S [emphatically]: Nikad! [Through laughter, but adamant]: Nijesam zakukao tako mi vere!

N: A kako, kad je jedan stari mene iz Hercegovine meni pričo, da te ćerao kad si ratovao tamo neđe s Crnogorcima? Da te pušijo preko nekoga polja.

S [through laughter, but firmly denying]: Au, tako mi Boga laže! [Someone interjects with laughter, most likely Parry.] Auh, nije tako mi Boga ni video. . . .

S [recites]: Someone cries: “Woe to me, my mother,” / Someone: “Alas, comrade, catch me!”

N [through laughter]: Have you ever said: “Alas, mother!”

S [emphatically]: Never! [Through laughter, but adamant]: By my faith, I have never wept!

N: How is that, since one old man from Herzegovina told me that he chased you when you warred somewhere there with the Montenegrins? That he smoked you [made your feet smoke from running? / blew you off?] over some field?

S: [through laughter, but firmly denying]: Huh, by God, he lies! [Someone interjects with laughter, most likely Parry.] Huh, by God, he didn’t even see. . . .


Nikola casts doubt on the carving of a well by the Muslim Hero Alija (PN 656, IV:74, R 993: 2:29-2:44):

N [suspiciously]: Aha! A da nije to Sveti Đurđe udrijo tu sabljom pa otvorijo vodu?

S [interrupts with dismissive laughter]: Kakav Đurđe i krmak? On je gotovo puka žedan. [Nikola (and Parry?) laughs at the singer’s passionate dismissal.] Oni, oni nije drugome ništa dao. No ažda ih je opkoljila jadom. . . .

N [suspiciously]: Ha! And could it be that it was St. George who hit there with his saber and opened a well?

S [interrupts with dismissive laughter]: Which George and a swine? He nearly burst of thirst! [Nikola (and Parry?) laughs at the singer’s passionate dismissal.] He, he gave nothing to another. But the dragon besieged them with suffering. . . .


The collectors briefly lose patience with Salih (PN 655, III:78, R 957: 0:31-0:39):

MP: Glasnije. Prićaj glasnije.

N: Glasnije pričaj stari!

S: Glasnije . . .

N [now softer, jokingly]: Da se čuje, ja sam malo gluh ja ne čujem.

MP [justifying the outburst]: Kad ja ne čujem dobro odavlen. . . . [Presumably he is close by.]

S: Znam, znam.

MP: Louder, speak louder!

N: Speak louder, old man!

S: Louder . . .

N [now softer, jokingly]: So that it can be heard, I am a little deaf, I can’t hear.

MP [justifying the outburst]: When I can’t hear well from here. . . . [Presumably he is close by.]

S: I know, I know.


Generally kind and considerate to Salih, the collectors press him though he needs to rest (PN 659, VI:92-93, R 1066: 2:03-2:37):



N: A zašto si prestao sada?

S: Bogami ne mogu.

N: Kako ne moreš?

. . .

S: Odavno prićam ođe.

N: Što ima, dva sahata još nema . . .

MP [interjects]: Ni dva sata nema!

N: . . . da si došao.

S: Bogami . . .

N: I dva si puta počivao!

S: Pa jes no hej duša jedna, nemore, nemore da je konj.

N [complimenting and chiding all at once]: Da ja imam pričat koliko ti ja bi pričao deset dana, ne bi nikada prestao.

N: And why have you stopped now?

S: By God, I can’t.

N: How come you can’t?

. . .

S: I’ve been talking here for ages.

N: What is there, there’s not yet two hours . . .

MP [interjects]: Not even two hours!

N: . . . since you came.

S: By God . . .

N: And twice you rested!

S: Well, yes, but hey, there’s only one soul [I have], it can’t, it couldn’t if it were a horse.

N [complimenting and chiding all at once]: If I had as much to tell as you, I would talk for ten days; I would never stop.


Salih complains of physical pain (PN 654, II:67-68, R 928: 2:19-2:50):

S [halting mid-recitation]: Iju!

MP [barely audible]: Što ti kažeš?

S [to Parry, through a quick painful laugh]: . . . Zohar mi ovde, nešto me zabolje.

N: Što ti je bilo?

S: Đe prićam . . .

N: Nemoj ti prekinut sad. Pričaj naprijed.

S: Ne mogu, đe pričam . . .

MP: Eh mi ćemo poćinut, poćivati malo. Dobro je za kafu.

S: Da poćinem.

MP: Da.

S: Sam da malo se odmorim.

N: Samo nemoj zaboravit, đe si osto.

S: Jok.

S [halting mid-recitation]: Ouch!

MP [barely audible]: What do you say?

S [to Parry, through a quick painful laugh]: . . . [I feel pain] here, something started to hurt . . .

N: What is it with you?

S: Where I speak . . .

N: Don’t you stop now. Go on.

S: I can’t, where I talk . . .

MP: Eh, we’ll rest, rest a little. It’s a good [time] for coffee.

S: For me to rest.

MP: Yes.

S: Just to rest a little.

N: Just don’t forget where you’re at.

S: I won’t.


Threatened by Nikola’s logical criticisms, Salih appeals to the higher authority of the tradition (PN 674, VII:24-25, R 1234: 3:03-4:10):

S: E pa oni tako pjevaju

MP: Tako pjevaju?

S: E.

MP [argumentatively]: Ali je li dobro da tako pjevaju?

N [clarifying]: Jeli to istina valja čut?

MP: Jeli bila istina? Ako nije bila istina zašto se pjeva?

S [adamant]: E pa, on da nije istina, nebi ga on pevao.

. . .

S [on Parry’s suggestion to include all this subsequent reasoning in his song]: E oni ne kazuju da je imao koji oruža, da se digao na njega da učini huđum, niko.

N [teasingly]: Sigurno si ti preskočijo.

S [emphatically, imitating Nikola’s contesting tone]: Nijesam.

N: E dobro!

MP [interjects passionately]: Mislim da loši pjevač kaže samo da je, Haljil, odsjekao pedeset glava, tako, ali da dobar pjevač bi rekao tačno.

S [not following]: Ha!

MP [explaining]: Kako je bilo, zašto je mogo da k, o, osjeć [laughs at own stammering], osječe toliko glava.

S: Well, they sing it like that.

MP: They sing it like that?

S: Yes.

MP [argumentatively]: But is it good that they sing it like that?

N [clarifying]: Is that the truth? It should be heard?

MP: Was that the truth? If it wasn’t the truth, why is it sung [like that]?

S [adamant]: Well, he . . . if it wasn’t true, he [the singer from whom he learned the song?] wouldn’t have sung it.

. . .

S [on Parry’s suggestion to include all this subsequent reasoning in his song]: Well, they don’t say if anyone had weapons . . . that he got up to attack him, no one . . .

N [teasingly]: You have skipped [something] for sure.

S [emphatically, imitating Nikola’s contesting tone]: I haven’t.

N: Well, OK.

MP [interjects passionately]: I think that a bad singer only says that Halil cut off fifty heads, like that, but a good singer would tell it correctly . . .

S [not following]: Ha?!

MP [explaining]: . . . as it was, how come he was able to, c-, c-, cut [laughs at own stammering], cut off that many heads.


Example of subversion: Salih deflects Nikola’s insistence on a song in which the Serbs are victorious (PN 655, III:49-50, R 949: 1:17-2: 03):

N: Kako to? Ti si rekao da ćeš pjevat pravoslavnu pjesmu, da ćeš pričat a ti si već sada da su turci pobjedili. Kako to Bogati?

S [through laughter]: Bogami, ja onako mi dade uz riječ, a neznam . . . [All chuckle].

MP: Rekao si da će bit pravoslavna pjesma.

N [repeating Parry’s remark louder]: Rekao si da će bit pravoslavna pjesma.

S: Vala pravoslavna jes, ama teke, ja zar zanosim na turski, a oni ovo pevaju.

. . .

N: A znaš li ti koju drugu srpsku pjesmu?

S: A pa ima.

N: Ma đe srbin pobijedio turčina? Znaš li?

S: Vala, pa znam to nekoliko.

N: E hajde jednu da mi kažeš, koju? Koju to hoćeš?

S: A da ope će platit Srbin najzadnje.

N: How’s that? You said you were going to sing an Orthodox song, that you are going to tell, but you now [made it so] that the Turks won!
How’s that, by God?

S [through laughter]: By God, that’s how the words came to me, and I don’t know . . . [All chuckle].

MP: You said it was going to be an Orthodox song.

N [repeating Parry’s remark louder]: You said it was going to be an Orthodox song.

S: Well it is Orthodox, but I lean towards the Turkish [point of view?], and they sing this.

. . .

N: But do you know some other Serbian song?

S: Ah, well there are some.

N: But where a Serb won against a Turk? Do you know [any]?

S: Well, I know a few.

N: Eh, come on, tell me one! Which? Which one do you want?

S: Well, yes, but the Serb will pay in the end again.


Reluctantly consenting to compose a poem about the six-days of meetings, Salih improvises in the traditional manner (PN 655, III:106-07, R 966: 0:13-1:12):

S: Kako ime . . . gazdi?

N: Milman.

S: Milman?

N: Jes!

S: Tebe Nikola.

N: Jes.

S [referring to Lord operating the phonograph from another room]: Onoga neka.

N: Što, što si reko.

S: Onog, onoga nećemo dofatit, znaš, no samo vas dvojicu.

MP: Dobro! Kako hoćeš. [Laughter, mostly Nikola’s.]

N: Ajde Salja da čujemo!

S [quietly, to himself]: E da vidim u koji dan smo poćelji . . . u ponedeljak. . . .

N: Ma lijepo ko za gusle znaš.

S [quietly]: A da vala. . . .

N: Počeli smo radit ovđe u poneđeljak, a danas je subota.

S [pensively]: Jes . . . demek radilji smo cijo dan do, do noći.

N: Jes.

S [more confidently]: U svaki dan cijo dan do noći, radilji smo . . .

N: Jes.

S: I tako, [Parry interrupts] . . . i tako smo pjesmu. . . .

MP: Glasnije!

S: A?

N: Glasnije pričaj!

S: Glasnije ću pričat, teke sad dok . . . [Recitation follows after a pause of seven seconds].

S: What is the name . . . of the boss?

N: Milman.

S: Milman?

N: Yes.

S: Yours is Nikola.

N: Yes.

S: [referring to Lord operating the phonograph from the next room]: That one, let him be.

N: What, what did you say?

S: The other, the other one, we won’t put him in [the song], you know, but only you two.

MP: All right, as you please. [Laughter, mostly Nikola’s.]

N: C’mon, Salja, let’s hear it!

S: [quietly, to himself]: Well, let me see, what day did we start . . . on Monday. . . .

N: But nicely, as though for the gusle, you know.

S [quietly]: Ah, yes, of course. . . .

N: We started working here on Monday, and today is Saturday.

S [pensively]: Yes . . . indeed, we worked the whole day till night.

N. Yes.

S [more confidently]: Every day, the whole day until the night we worked. . . .

N: Yes.

S: And so, [Parry interrupts] . . . and so we did the song. . . .

MP: Louder!

S: Huh?

N: Speak louder!

S: I will speak louder, but now while . . . [Recitation follows after a pause of seven seconds]


Power shifts from the individuals to the story and the performance itself (PN 655, III:99-100, R 963: 2:30 to R 964: 0:37):

N [fighting his own and general laughter]: Pričaj još Bogati jebem!

S [himself laughing]: Ma neda mi smijeh.

[Salih continues, and at times also enacts his story, interrupted only by common laughter. . . .]

N [coughing and laughing along with the others]: Jeli to istina bila čiča?

S: Istina istinska, ovo ti pričam.

N [laughing and swearing approvingly]: I nije išo po drugu jeli?

S [fighting his own laughter]: Bože saćuvaj! [Parry here contributes an inaudible but obviously jolly remark] . . . Tako mi Boga . . . ne znam. . . .

N [interjecting, through laughter]: Ajde Bogavam da čujemo ovu ploču šta je bilo? [All burst out laughing.]

S: Haj Bogami . . . Ovo nema niđe ni u Auropu.

N [fighting his own and general laughter]: Tell more, for fuck’s sake!

S [himself laughing]: The laughter is not letting me.

[Salih continues, and at times also enacts his story, interrupted only by common laughter. . . .]

N [coughing and laughing along with the others]: Was that a true story, old man?

S: The truest truth, this, I tell you.

N [laughing and swearing approvingly]: And he didn’t go for a second one [wife], ha?

S [fighting his own laughter]: God forbid! [Parry here contributes an inaudible but obviously jolly remark] . . . I swear to God . . . I don’t know. . . .

N [interjecting, through laughter]: C’mon, by God, let’s hear this record [again], what happened. [All burst out laughing.]

S: Let’s, by God . . . There’s nothing like this anywhere, not even in Europe!

Center for Studies in Oral Tradition | 243 Walter Williams Hall | Columbia, MO 65211
573.882.9720 (ph) | 573.884.0291 (fax) | | Technical Support