'Pulp Fiction' does not need to pay copyright, just be honest

i-710d005c8660d36282911838843a792d-ClockWeb logo2.JPG(August 10, 2005)

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Since "The Connection" was abruptly cancelled by the Boston affiliate of NPR, the local station is scrambling to fix the schedule. We got Diane Rehm show instead and also something called "The World".

I was listening to the World this afternoon - interesting stuff about the Harvard Zoology Museum collection, about a Slovenian alpinist rescued from the Himalayan mountain called "The Killer" (9th highest peak in the world), etc. At the very end, they had a segment, just a few minutes, about an interesting German band and their new CD. It actually sounds really good. I may buy it.

But, what really got my attention was the part when they played a song I am very familiar with. Here is the relevant part of the interview:

With a name like Quadro Nuevo, you probably wouldn't expect the four band members to come from Germany. And you wouldn't think the music they play would sound like this.

Mulo Francel plays clarinet and saxophone in Quadro Nuevo. He and the other band members live in Munich. He says Quadro Nuevo's music is borrowed from many places: Ethiopia, Egypt, Syria, Greece, Turkey and the Balkans. There's also one other very important component.

Mulo Francel: "We like the coffee very much, we like the Oriental version of the coffee, the mocca, so we called this music mocca music and we called this CD 'Mocca Flor.'"

This tune may not be recognizable at first. "Miserlou" became a surf guitar anthem. And it was later picked up in the soundtrack to the movie "Pulp Fiction."

Mulo Francel says the song "Miserlou" brings specific things to mind for the bandmates.

Mulo Francel: "Miserlou, for us, evokes a lot of images, a lot of sceneries in our minds. It's like smoking water pipe after a long hot desert day, you feel the heat of the sun on your skin and you're sitting maybe (laughs) with a charming, Oriental smelling young lady in an Arabic pub."

It irks me to no end, ever since "Pulp Fiction" came out, that there was no attribution for the cover theme. Apparently, the German band does not know where the song comes from either.

It is actually a very old song from south Serbia, one I have played and sang at many, many drunken parties. Here are the lyrics in Serbo-Croatian language (by typing a short excerpt in Google, you can find MIDI-files on various sites):

Vranjanka

Volela me jedna Vranjanka,
Mladost mi je kod nje ostala.
Nit je Sofka nit je Kostana,
Vec najlepsa Lela Jelena.

Pusto, pusto, pusto mi je sve,
Nema, nema moje Jelene.
Dodji, Dodji Lelo Jelena,
Ti si moju mladost odnela.

Ko zna gdje je moja Vranjanka,
Ljepsa od svih moja Jelena,
Sve bih dao kad bi' saznao,
Ko je moju Lelu ukrao.

Pusto, pusto, pusto mi je sve,
Nema, nema moje Jelene.
Dodji, Dodji Lelo Jelena,
Ti si moju mladost odnela.

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To my knowledge, Misirlou is actually a greek song.

http://www.dinosaurgardens.com/archives/297 (has links to various mp3s)

as for the lyrics you posted, wikipedia says:

"A Serbian version of this song titled Vranjanka (The Girl from Vranje) was created by Serbian singer Stanisa StosiÄ. This version is widely sung across the territory of the former Yugoslavia; when Pulp Fiction appeared, to many it was a surprise to find out that the song was indeed Greek."

I have different recordings of Misirlou by Dick Dale and by Xavier Cugat. The Cugat version is based on a version that was traced back to the exiled Ionian Greek community. They supposedly brought the tune out of Turkey and added lyrics. The Wikipedia entry tells that story.

Dick Dale is interesting. One side of his family were Polish Ashkenazim and the other side were Lebanese Sephardim. If this is an old tune that was floating around the Ottoman world, he might have picked it up from a number of possible sources.

How is it that I never got the parallel between "Vranjanka" and "Misirlou"? Yes, same tune, different meters. Thanks for the insight and the laugh! I'm not too interested in Misirlou, but I loooooove Vranjanka, especially when I get to back up the singer.

By SuzanneAL (not verified) on 09 Jan 2008 #permalink