Vol V: Rock and Pop Music in Sarajevo in the 1980s (incomplete overview)
*subject to change*
Sarajevo was multicultural capitol city of SR Bosnia and Herzegovina and legendary host of Winter Olympics 1984. It was well known for upbeat humor, ćevapi u somunu (regional fast food (Socialist variety) which beats (at least it used to) hamburger or hot dog any day), TV series “Top lista nadrealista” & for sure many other things I am not familiar with. Citizens of Sarajevo are direct and friendly folks who like to chat over (super sweet) Turkish coffee and cakes that are so full of sugar your teeth hurt.
Firmly settled in folk, hard rock/heavy metal (Bijelo dugme, Teška industrija, Vatreni poljubac, translocated Divlje jagode) & pop-rock district, Sarajevo was not a typical contender for a YU punk-rock city at all. Let’s see…
Opera Lu – “Televizori” SP (1980) – would be the very first new-wave/punk-rock related single from Bosnia. Pretty irrelevant. A-side “Televizori” sounds like power trio hard rock song more than an usual approximation of ’77 UK punk rock. B-side is a reggae tinged blues rock number.
Bonton Baya were the first group of the Sarajevo New Wave generation that got contract with local Diskoton record label. Their only album “Elpi” LP (1983) reminds me of pop-rock or power pop pulled through various new wave filters. Bonton Baya for sure could play their instruments well and I like the sound of the recording but genre hopping across the album is often sign of questionable taste and in this particular case problematic (for example songs “Kraj radne nedjelje” and “Sarajevo Texas Nashville Tennessee“). In addition to that vocal can be quite distracting and lyrics occasionally terrible (including specific sense of humor or rather the absence of it). Well, words give an extra dimension to a pop/rock song but sometimes it’s better to keep them at the functional minimum. I can easily like “Nipon elektronik” for its unexpected strangeness (I was a little taken aback by this fancy video too) and new wave synth sounds.
The closest group to punk spirit to be found in Sarajevo were collective or an art movement known as New Primitives (facetiously opposed to New Romantics). The creative seeds go back to late ‘70s / early ‘80s friendships from the same part of town and Sarajevo’s II. Gymnasium (ha!). Out of the New Primitives proto rock group “Pseudobluz band Zabranjeno pušenje” and associated new-wave/punk “scenesters” emerged band Zabranjeno pušenje as well as rock entertainer Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors and Bombaj štampa. In essence Zabranjeno pušenje were more a new wave garage rock than basic punk-rock band, but awesome one at that, with nice hooks and kitchen sink lyrics Bosnian style. The first demo tape which collects material from their earliest days (1982-83) is upbeat mixture of new wave, punk rock and pub rock. It brings Ian Dury’s new wave album “New Boots and Panties!!” to my mind. The songs from this demo tape ended in new versions on debut album “Das ist Walter” LP (1984) and second double album “Dok čekaš sabah sa šejtanom” (1985). Zabranjeno pušenje became more typical YU pop rock band by the end of the decade.
Central (punk) rock album from SA: Zabranjeno pušenje “Das ist Walter” LP (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović was loyal to rock mythology of the late 1960s and early 1970s and with His Meteors issued two entertaining albums: the conceptual debut “Mitovi i legende o kralju Elvisu” LP (1984) and “Da bog da crk’o RnR” LP (1985).
Sarajevo’s candidate for an arty new wave band would be Kongres. They appeared on the scene together with the New Primitives. At the beginning they brushed with politicized post-punk experimentalism but changed stance under sudden sway of optimism. In other words they opted for few New Romantic or New Pop tricks which showed on their only art rock / new wave album titled in Slovenian language “Zarjavele Trobente” LP (1984). A special guest appearance by Zoran Predin from Lačni Franz (Maribor, Slovenia) didn’t help much. Allegedly, at the time of preparation for sophomore album Kongres singer lost optimistic look on life, which could have brought back some rock filth in the mix… but it was too late. Kongres was kaput.
Eventually in 1984, year of Sarajevo Winter Olympics, Zabranjeno pušenje (Jugoton, ZG), Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors (ZKP RTVL, LJ) & Kongres (Diskoton, SA) got wanted record contracts and one by one recorded their debut albums.
But there was also another new band in town graced with sound name SCH. Looking back, it was more like an art project of Senad Hadžimusić (Teno), with revolving line-up comprised of friendly collaborators, than a stable rock unit. Through SCH vehicle restless guitarist and vocalist Teno projected his amplified bad vibes and distorted nightmare trips. He acquired status of a local scene (court) jester bringing bad news with every opportunity. There were many faces of SCH and it clearly shows in their neurotic output documented one way (demo cassette) or another (video tape).
Surprisingly, SCH got studio recorded material for a potential album as early as ’84 (as their comrades from New Primitives movement) but there wasn’t a record label in Yugoslavia willing to have business with them.
SCH: The Beautiful and Damned – live at YURM ’85 (Zagreb)
Strangely enough, they were included on Diskoton cassette sampler “Nove snage” (1984). (w / Bombaj štampa, Kongres, Mali princ etc.) Years later SCH participated at Novi rock ’87 festival in Ljubljana and perhaps as a result they manged to secure a tape issue for legendary small label FV založba that had been successfully gathering ex-YU misfits and malcontents.
SCH: Brutti, sporchi e cattivi – live at Novi rock ’87 (Ljubljana)
“SCH” tape (1988) is comprised of selected demo songs recorded in 1985-87. It can be regarded as updated third version of demo tape (after two samizdat demo cassettes in row) picked by FV založba for the official SCH release. Teno’s predominant mood was noise / industrial at that moment so all the fuzzed punk rock numbers were left out. In 1989 they went in studio and finally recorded material for debut vinyl album that was later in the year self-released. Prophetically titled “During Wartime” LP (1989), it has become cult.
“Unlike Slovenia and Croatia, where the critical public, humanistic intelligence, independent media and institutions through their hard categorical apparatus, often from the point of Marxism, defended subculture and everything else that exposed false slogans and misery of the system, SCH has always faced a silent wall in Bosnia. The battle between subculture and the ruling ideology, whose consequence would be the making, the survival and the development of positive (political – cultural) values, came down to illusions and suicidal attempts of SCH… On the other hand stands the fact that it never mattered what SCH would do next. It is only important that they do something (and survive). Their significance has gone beyond the meaning and quality of their music. They move beyond limits where everything is allowed (even the potential failures and mistakes). They are their own measure. There is no one else. Their death will put an end to an epoch and the far-sighted graphite will be proven “Teno – Tito”. It was written some time ago on a fence in a neighborhood where they used to rehearse.”
Of course there was so called “school of Sarajevo pop-rock” around but I am not well versed in that. Crvena jabuka (ex Meteors, Kongres, Bonton Baya) were saccharine and very popular with girls. Another unbelievable pop phenomenon was boy band Plavi orkestar specifically tailored for regional taste and YU mass market of mid 1980s.
Bolero were strange pop rock band active in the second half of the 1980s. They recorded two arty and heartfelt pop-rock albums: “Na kraju slavlja” (1986) & “O Jesenjinu” (1988).
Late ‘80s Bombarder would be speed metal continuation of city’s hard rock tradition.
Don’t Look Back vol. V: Sarajevo (1-2-ex-YU!!)
VA New Primitives Sarajevo (1982 – 85)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Penzioneri na more idu zimi (demo) (1983)
Kongres – Djevojka na snijegu (early version) (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Sanjao sam noćas da te imam (demo) (1983)
Kongres – Zabava (early version) (1984)
SCH – Prazan hod (1984)
Bombaj štampa – Jogging (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Put u središte rudnika (demo) (1983)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Magi’s Farm (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Anarhija All Over Baščaršija (1984)
intermezzo: Tema iz filma “Valter brani Sarajevo” (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Neću da budem Švabo u dotiranom filmu (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Supermen (1984)
Kongres – Sumrak (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Mala glupača (1984)
Kongres – Optimist (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Rekla ti je mama (1985)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Lutka sa naslovne strane (1985)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Sva su raja (1985)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Kažu mi da novog frajera imaš (1985)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Krivo usmeren (1985)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Čejeni odlaze… (1984)
SCH Sarajevo (1983 – 1990)
Djevojke su gole (1983)
Pankerica (pazi se!) (1984)
Oh, što je to tako (1984)
Znamo sve (1985)
Back to the USSR (1985)
We Are Fault (1986)
Happy Family (1986)
Ne dozvoli da zaboravim (1989)
Partija naša (1989)
Naša pjesma (1990)
Romanija (sve zbog schizofrenije) (1984)