Music, Television, and the Commodification of Nationhood in the Bulgarian Postsocialist Program Slavi Show

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
2.03 (Binnengasthuis)
Plamena Kourtova , Independant Scholar
“Television,” insists John Fiske, “does not ‘cause’ identifiable effects in individuals; it does, however, work ideologically to promote and prefer certain meanings of the world, to circulate some meanings rather than others,
and to serve some social interests better than others” (Fiske 1988:20). The productions of the Bulgarian pop-folk musician and television personality Slavi Trifonov are an illuminating example of the complex social processes
eloquently theorized by Fiske. In 2001 Trifonov pioneered an American-style, daily talk show, Slavi Show, which established a strong engagement with postsocialist Bulgarian political and civic issues within an artfully crafted
television entertainment context. As the host, Trifonov and his house band revived a body of folkloric-patriotic songs by refashioning them as hard-rock popular folklore. Promoted via the musical interludes of Slavi Show, these
repertoires took on the form of musical extensions to the political narratives of Trifonov; operationalizing specific moments of Bulgarian history as relevant to the struggles of contemporary Bulgarian nationhood vis-à-vis European
Union integration. Building on extensive fieldwork in Bulgaria and critical perspectives from television studies, ethnopoetics, and economic anthropology, this paper explores the visual, poetic, and musical aspects of two specific television
performances of Trifonov’s patriotic repertoire. I suggest that these create a discursive cluster wherein musical sound, image, and culturally specific poetics collide with the mediated, habitual, and recurring experience of television
to (re)produce a specific postsocialist, Bulgarian nation. These highly scripted narratives are assigned a particular emotional legitimacy but are still consumed as inconspicuous commodities of popular culture.  
Reference: Fiske, John. 1988. Television Culture. New York: Routledge.