AIDA KALENDER & DIJANA MARJANOVIĈ (Radio ZID, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Rock Under Siege

Rock'n'roll is a universal code of communication among the young people all around the world. It is a way of living. But, to understand what rock can mean to young people facing horrible circumstances you had to live in Sarajevo during the bloody war of 1992-95. My presentation will try to describe it as authentically as possible.

Before the war Sarajevo was a very important Yugoslav rock centre. The band Bijelo dugme and the representatives of the local New Primitivism movement were of major significance for the rock history of this part of the world. The so-called alternative rock lived in the dark. Yet paradoxically, during the war the local alternative culture (including rock) turned into a mainstream one c.e. became the only one which could resist the circumstances. The basic reason why: small systems - big flexibility with a lot of creativity.

Bands During the war more than 30 new bands started working (c.e. playing music). They were influenced by very different, mainly contemporary popular musical genres. No more Balkan inspirations, folk motives, traditional sounds mixed with modern trends,... Also the Sarajevo youth tried to escape from the surrounded town, from primitivism, helplessness and hopelessness of the times, trying to get a link with normal life. Their music was very aggressive, their lyrics were very sharp, ironic, cynical, full of black humour and open for some of the taboo topics.

Clubs During the war there was no Sarajevo club scene, no regular concert performances, no possibility to rehearse. There was only one club - OBALA - open during all the war, also the venue for more than 15 concerts.

Media The official media did not play the local alternative music. They broadcast hundreds of patriotic songs; nothing else was "appropriate". The radio ZID was the only station which perceived the new local rock scene and which promoted it in a a specialized radio show. Every week it presented one or two of the new local bands or songs, broadcasting also the interviews with the band members and the chart based on the calls from the citizens of Sarajevo. More than 1000 calls during the two-hour show. The Sarajevo rock scene was extremely interesting for foreign media. MTV, NME, Billboard, Blah-blah-blah, etc. did stories about it.

RUS project "Rock under siege" is the project created in the middle of 1994 at the radio ZID. It consisted of concerts and of audio-video-print production. The first big RUS concert was held on January 14, 1995. The electrical power for it was provided by generators.

Audio production Overproduction of patriotic songs without any value. The first CD made in war: the compilation "Rock Under Siege" with 14 bands from Sarajevo. Live recordings taken from the RUS concert. The first CD "The Gentle Art of Firing" of the Sarajevo alternative rock band SCH was produced by the OBALA Art Centre in the middle of 1995.

After After the peace agreement (November 1995) foreign bands started doing concerts in Sarajevo (Laibach, Dodgy, Chokebore, The Young Gods,...). Yet so far no local recording company, no distributors, no musical market. The old mainstream rock and pop stars became the "state (or party) rock performers." Renewed hard times for alternative culture - back to the underground status. Lots of invitations from different parts of the world, but no hope at home. Many wartime bands have split. The second CD compilation produced by the radio ZID - "Rock Under Siege B". We are still under the siege. It is still hard to communicate with the rest of the world, as there are lots of barricades in the minds. There is no certain future.

© 1996 Kabi d.o.o.