The meaning of the name “Janum” (“Džanum”) is familiar to anyone who has lived in Turkic-speaking countries or often communicated with natives of those countries. In the Persian language, spoken by Hafiz and Saadi, it means “Dear,” “Sweetheart,” or “My Soul. This word is also used in the countries that were once under the Turkish Empire – Bulgaria and Serbia.
And Teodora Pavlovska, a singer and composer of Serbian origin, known far beyond her homeland of the Slavic world (whose pseudonym is Teya Dora) has made the word the title of one of her songs that was first published on Youtube in March 2023 and immediately entered the charts not only in Serbia, but also in other Western Slavic countries. What is the meaning of this song, already translated into English and other European languages? And how did it come into being?
History of the song “Džanum”
Teya Dora says that this song was inspired by the tragic history of her people, which became a grain of sand in the grindstone of the big powers’ politics, as well as by her own personal feelings. By her early thirties, she had experienced several affairs, none of which ended in marriage or at least a long-term relationship. “I understand men who have trouble getting along with me,” says the singer, who is used to the fact that her countrymen have a deeply patriarchal view of gender relations and that European and American men do not understand the Slavic mentality.
Another source for the origin of this song is the Serbian legends and tales told to little Teodora by her grandmother. These tales invariably end, if not with the death, then with the separation of the lovers, who are hindered by the old family feud, the inexorable fate, the intrigues of evil forces, or evil people who are jealous of the power of true love. Girls in these songs now and then turn into a weeping birch or wither with grief, young men fighting monsters or rush into hopeless battles to quickly put an end to their tedious life. In short, Shakespeare is at rest!
The Meaning of the Song “Džanum”
So, the meaning of this song, which also has a second name “Moje more” (translated into Russian as not only “My sea” but also as “My sufferings”, “My nightmares”) is deeply metaphorical. Each stanza can be “deciphered” both literally and allegorically. For example, the sea is associated by the inhabitants of the small mountainous country of Serbia, many of whom have never been to the seashore, not with carefree summer vacations, but with biblical images-the eternal restlessness of the human soul and the depth of human suffering, like the bottomless sea abyss. The expression “ni za živu glavu” means “as long as I live” or “for nothing in the world. The black veil in the hands of the holy hermit elder who wipes away the tears of the hero is not only a linen cloth, but also a miraculous veil that wipes away the sinner’s tears and heals his spiritual sorrow.
It is possible to convey the plot and mood of this song without losing a single facet of meaning, using only fairy-tale images born of popular imagination. Like the heroes of medieval legends, the main character is addressing his distant beloved with the tender words “Janum” and complaining that he is in an unfriendly foreign land where there is no one to address him with words of brotherly comfort, much less heal his unbearably aching soul wounds. Every night he is invariably carried away into the land of nightmarish visions and stays there until dawn. There, the hero sees ominous black candles, as if lit for his funeral, and he hears the voice of an old man calling him to go on an eternal journey to the unknown seas and wander there until the end of the world.
This vast and somber gray sea, from which no daring or desperate wanderer has ever returned, is a metaphor for death, from which neither the righteous nor the sinner could escape, nor the wretched, unlived mortal, who feels condemned to an eternal torment in the afterlife while he is still on earth. This is exactly what the hero of “Janum” is like, plunged into the abyss of black despair and feeling that only the appearance of a loved one can lift him out of this abyss. Until morning he is in bed, tormented by the pain of his wounds and feeling that the cruel world does not care about his grief and tears. And in the morning the usual life and daily worries begin again, and only a song written in his native language, which sounds like a native voice from afar, helps him to cope with them.