Rock music is a huge part of Yugoslavia’s legacy. Soon, there will be a place in Sarajevo bringing Yugoslav rock back to life.
With Will Richard, Zenit Djozić, and Petar Janjatović. Featuring songs by Zed Mitchell, Yugo Project, Zabranjeno Pušenje, Uroš Andrijašević, and more.
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PETER KORCHNAK: This is Remembering Yugoslavia, the show exploring the memory of a country that no longer exists. I’m your promoter Peter Korchnak.
[BACKGROUND MUSIC – “Jednoj ženi” by Zlatko Manojlović]
Rock music is a huge part of Yugoslavia’s legacy.
In the 1995 essay “Twilight of the Idols,” Aleš Debeljak wrote that Yugo rock was quote, “an authentic way of being that would bring me close to people who could understand joy and sadness without a lot of unnecessary words. (…) [It] afforded me the rare chance to live in a multicultural society…” End quote. Debeljak and millions of other ex-Yugoslavs continue to listen to Yugoslav rock because that music is, quote, “a magic formula that secures our passage to that refuge among the eternally young landscapes of the spirit in which we will always be at home.” End quote.
I used Bijelo Dugme lyrics to rekindle my study of the Serbocroatian. I discover new bands, new discographies in order to not just listen to great music, but also to understand the place and its cultures. It’s possible to know Yugoslavia through its music alone.
I’ve talked about Yugoslav rock on the show, a few guests have too, and I’ve played some songs for you as well. Exploring that universe is like picking up loose strands that sometimes cross over others, other times get entangled with them, and it’s all a lovely, raucous romp through the country’s cultural history. Petar Janjatović’s Ex-YU Rock Encyclopedia 1960-2015 helps, but even as complete as it is, as a book it’s somewhat two dimensional.
Well I’ve got the best news for you.
Soon, at Skenderija in Sarajevo, there will be a place bringing Yugoslav rock back to life (and yes, back to reality).
Opening in 2024, the Ex-Yu Rock Center will honor and celebrate rock legends of the former Yugoslavia by presenting their music and legacy to visitors from the region and across the world. And it will help foster new generations of rockers in the city, country, and beyond.
I’ve signed on for Remembering Yugoslavia to be a promotion partner of the Ex-YU Rock Center. And so, in this episode of Remembering Yugoslavia: the Ex-YU Rock Center.
A couple of notes before we get rockin’: the place will be called the Ex-YU Rock Center. Its earlier, working name was Ex-YU Rock Museum, which is how I got introduced to the project last year. The two are used interchangeably throughout this episode.
And, you’ll hear a few songs in the episode, which I’m playing with kind permissions of their authors and labels. Please follow the performers on social media and be kind, buy their music. All the links are at RememberingYugoslavia.com/podcast.
PETER KORCHNAK: The Ex-YU Rock Center is the brainchild of Will Richard, a Mainer who has lived in Sarajevo off and on for 15 years and who is also the assistant coach of the country’s men’s ice hockey team, as you heard in the previous episode, “Bosnian Ice Hockey.” The roots of Richard’s passion for music go way back.
WILL RICHARD: I grew up in a record store in Waterville, Maine. My dad had this shop for 39 years, and so I’ve always been sort of surrounded by music. I love rock and roll. Unfortunately, I don’t play. I have, I have a bass guitar but I wouldn’t want to say that I play the bass guitar. But I love, I love, love music, especially rock music from the 60s and 70s.
And when I came out here I slowly got introduced to various bands from from BIH, but also from the entire former Yugoslavia. And little by little, I was blown away by new music from out here. I mean, I’d never heard of any of these bands, honestly. But now I can say there’s hundreds and hundreds of really top notch, world class, rock’n’roll bands from the former Yugoslavia. And I think it’s honestly one of the strongest scenes in the world. And then we all know about, you know, American rock’n’roll and British rock’n’roll and, you know, some bands from Australia or Ireland or Canada. But I would put music from this part of the world right up there at the same level.
And the more that I was here, the more I dug a little bit deeper. And, I wanted to find out more. I love you know, going online and learning about these bands or reading the liner notes, the CDs, or learning more about all these artists, you know, from the LP covers. And for me, it’s really fun. You know, like I said, the more that I heard, the more that I listened, the more I became convinced that this is really a hotspot for great rock’n’roll.
PETER KORCHNAK: So a very American question: if you could highlight one or two of these musical acts and your journey in discovering them and how it led you to continue this journey of discovery and appreciation.
WILL RICHARD: Actually, the first band that I really got into it was Azra. I was in Foča, which is a small town in eastern Bosnia. And I became friends with a local artist out there. And he gave me a double CD of Azra. I mean, I hate to admit it, but I honestly had never heard of Azra or Johnny Štulić or any of the projects that he was involved in, and I quickly really got into the band. And I remember at that time, I was starting to try to learn the language out there. And I remember I’d go to the office and print out a couple pages of lyrics of some of my favorite songs and then I’d go home and try to translate some of the texts and try to learn a little bit. And I remember the lyrics were so bizarre. And I thought to myself back then in 2007, 2008, man, I’m never going to get anywhere with this language if everyone is everyone speaking like Johnny Štulić.
From Azra I got introduced, obviously some of the other greats like EKV or Haustor or Zabrenjeno Pušenje, Partybrejkers. You know, I started doing a little bit of research, started to learn more about these bands, and tried to connect the dots between sort of the various scenes across Yugoslavia.
And honestly, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t listen to ex-YU rock.
After being surrounded by classic rock for so long, you know, at home, it really became really kind of refreshing to find something totally, totally new. And I love you know, whenever I go back home for a couple of weeks to put this album on for my friends, or put this on for my dad, or to put you know, another album on for some of the regulars that used to come into the store. And it’s really fun to, to share these stories and to share this music.
PETER KORCHNAK: I can’t help but think there’s a long road from appreciating music, listening to music, trying to learn the language from the music, and so on, and making the connections to actually wanting to do something like this, and something like this. I mean, the museum. So tell me a little bit more about that process. I mean, why a museum? Why not just like you said, listen to music and just keep going and maybe meet people or whatever, go to concerts. Why a museum and why Sarajevo for that matter?
WILL RICHARD: Well, first of all, for my professional work, I’ve been involved with several projects over the past 10,12 years with the OSCE. And over the past, let’s say, three or four years more specifically, I’ve been doing a lot of work on reconciliation. I really believe that things are moving forward in the region. I think things are moving forward here in BIH when it comes to reconciliation, when it comes to improving relations among people here in the country.
And one thing that I’ve learned is that the key to this is bringing people together and bringing people together on common interest. And I think with this project, with this Ex-YU Rock Center, Ex-YU Rock Museum, one of the objectives is to bring people together. One of the objectives is to bring people together on on a common topic, on a common interest, on a common love for this music.
PETER KORCHNAK: This is it, this is the essence of yugo rock. Back in Episode 36, “Dream of the Yugoslav ‘80s,” I spoke with the guys from Yugo Project, a band out of Cleveland, Ohio, that started out by covering ex-YU rock music. And this is pretty much what they said, that this is music that everyone recognizes and enjoys, that transcends ages and eras, that brings people from all of the former Yugoslavia together. And it also inspired Yugo Project to make their own music. In fact, they’re working on their debut album right now. Golica li te leptir iza uha [Does a Butterfly Tickle You Behind the Ear?] should be out next summer. Here’s a little preview, a single titled “Nitko” [Nobody].
[SOUNDBITE – “Nitko” by Yugo Project]
PETER KORCHNAK: Check out Yugo Project on YouTube and Facebook.
WILL RICHARD: This museum could actually have a huge impact on Sarajevo. Not only could this museum highlight the dozens and dozens and dozens of great bands from Sarajevo but at the same time, the museum could highlight the hundreds of great bands from across the former Yugoslavia. And I think as Sarajevo had one of the, you know, the richest scenes, especially in the 80s, I think Sarajevo is the logical spot to have this this museum or the center.
And I think it is also still in sort of a unique position here in the former Yugoslavia. You know, if we tried to put this museum in Belgrade, I think, you know, there could be potential issues for example with Croatia; if we had the museum in Zagreb, we could have some issues with Serbia or bands from Serbia. But I still think across the former Yugoslavia, there is still this sort of love for Sarajevo. There’s still this love of the city. Everyone wants to talk about sort of the glory days of Sarajevo, especially in the 80s, around the Olympics, and so on. And so I think Sarajevo is the ideal spot for this museum, because of its rich cultural history. And I think this could become a top five or top ten tourist attraction quite quickly, if we’re able to develop it and build it as we envision.
If we had this in, you know, in Belgrade or Zagreb, you know, this could be lost among other attractions. And likewise, here, we’re very close to securing a permanent, or semi permanent location right in the city center, in Skenderija at Dom mladih, at a historical location, here in the city. You know, I think if we tried to do this in Zagreb or Belgrade, we’d have a much harder time getting such a prominent location.
PETER KORCHNAK: It’s still quite a big deal, if you think about it, that an American is doing this.
WILL RICHARD: The idea came about, I’d say about four or five years ago, to be honest, I was talking to some friends here in BIH—
PETER KORCHNAK: —Bosnia and Herzegovina—
WILL RICHARD: –and I was thinking, there’s such a rich music heritage here, in the former Yugoslavia, it would be really excellent to have some sort of a museum or center dedicated to the legends of the past, while also trying to inspire kids to become more interested in music in the arts. And so after. After sort of letting it marinate for a couple of years, I was with some friends right before the pandemic, and I was talking to them about the idea. And they were saying to me, Well, you know, you’ve been talking about this for a while, are you ever going to do something about it? And then one of my good friends, Valerie Perry, she said, Okay, I’ve got a, I got a group of people, you’ve got a group of people, let’s meet next week and try to get this off the ground. So that was February 2020. So just right at the outset of the pandemic.
PETER KORCHNAK: You may recall the think tanker, Valery Perry, from Episodes 46, “Two Schools Under One Roof,” and 47, “The Specter of Dayton.” In fact, she’s the one who first told me about the nascent project when I spoke with her a year ago.
WILL RICHARD: And then really, since then, we’ve been moving as fast as we as we can to try to get this going. We’ve registered as a NGO at the state level here in BIH, officially called the Ex-YU Rock Society. And over the past, let’s say, two, two and a half years, we’ve been busy reaching out to musicians, trying to secure a permanent space for the center, and obviously collecting memorabilia.
PETER KORCHNAK: I will definitely agree that Sarajevo is a good central spot for the reasons you mentioned. And, you know, the least maybe the least controversy among all the capitals. And a lot of people have told me that Sarajevo needs or would definitely benefit from tourist attractions or things to do that don’t have to do with the war, that don’t have to do with the traumatic past. And so this is or will be a positive draw for the city, something different maybe.
WILL RICHARD: One thing that I’ve noticed this year, especially, is that there’s a huge increase in tourism. And the numbers are up significantly from 2019 and so it isn’t just an increase over the past two years following the pandemic. And I think we can create an important attraction here in the city.
And as you mentioned, I think it’s important to have something that can really honor the cultural past of the city and of the wider region. And it is true that you know, a lot of museums at the moment are focused on the tragic past here in BIH. And don’t get me wrong, and I think that’s absolutely critical. But I think there’s space to have museums that focus on, you know, World War One, World War Two, the war in the 90s. But also we can have museums and centers that focus on music, the arts, creativity, and just offering something unique for visitors from around the world.
You know, if you’re coming from the U.S. or you’re coming from Canada, and you’ve never heard of Bijelo Dugme or Indeksi or EKV, I really think we can make these bands relevant to everyone. And I think with the stories, and most importantly, with the music associated with these bands, I think we can really raise awareness to the incredibly rich scene that was here starting in the 60s and still going on today.
PETER KORCHNAK: Before we get to the actual museum, just one more question about the origin and maybe the response that you’re getting. The story is, quote, unquote, boy from Maine starts or comes up with the idea of an Ex-YU Rock Museum, right? So what’s the response you’ve beginning to that fact that, oh, here’s an American trying to do this? Or, maybe on the flip side, maybe more controversially, what’s Uh, why is it an American that has to has to do this? Why not a local or not locals?
WILL RICHARD: I mean, one thing that I’ve realized over the past two and a half years is that it’s a ton of work. You know, it’s a ton of people that you need to know, it’s a lot of negotiations with the space, it’s a lot of reaching out to musicians, it’s reaching out to the collectors. Perhaps it hasn’t been done before, because of the amount of work that needs to be done to make this happen.
And I know that there have been talks of, you know, museums in the region, focus on music from the former Yugoslavia but I think this is the first that will focus on the entire region. I know, in Belgrade there was a museum that was around for a couple of years that just focused on bands from Serbia and I believe there have been exhibitions in Croatia, looking primarily at bands from bands from Croatia.
PETER KORCHNAK: Earlier in November the Museum of New Wave opened in Zagreb, showcasing the scene originating in that city. By contrast, the Ex-YU Rock Center—
WILL RICHARD: —will focus on the whole ex-YU, which is, which is massive. And then there are literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bands that we need to connect with. So we’re talking probably thousands of people that are going to be part of the story. And so it is a major undertaking.
And so I guess, to get back to your question, why does it take someone from the outside to try to get this going? I’m not sure. Maybe when you’re so close to it, maybe you don’t realize just how good it is, maybe, people from here are perhaps modest about their evaluation of the whole ex-YU scene. And so maybe it’s a little bit easier for someone from the outside to come in and say yeah, this is really world class rock’n’roll.
And maybe that gives me also a little bit of credibility, someone from the outside that’s, you know, objective. And so, you know, I think there are some advantages being from the outside. And, obviously, the disadvantages are, you know, being a bit behind on reaching, you know, these 1,000s of people that we need to connect with.
And so, I’d really like to build something special here in Sarajevo. And then for me, this is a city that I’ve spent a third of my life in and with the team that we have, I really believe we can make this happen.
PETER KORCHNAK: Who else is working on this with you, because you might be the idea man, but there’s, there’s a, there’s a team and I know that there is a team.
WILL RICHARD: There’s a team of about 10 of us, officially part of this NGO called the Ex-YU Rock Society. Most of the people are from here in Sarajevo.
ZENIT DJOZIĆ: I’m kind of an ambassador of the Ex-YU [Rock] Center.
PETER KORCHNAK: One of the higher profile locals involved in the project, particularly the first exhibit on the Sarajevo music scene in the 1980s, is Zenit Djozić. He is the founding member of the band Zabranjeno Pušenje, whose song Yugo 45 you heard in Episode 20, “Rock’n’Retro,” and whose name translates as, No Smoking.
Djozić played drums and later also sang back vocals with Zabranjeno Pušenje in the band’s early days. Djozić was also a member of the radio and television comedy troupe Top lista nadrealista. Stay tuned for the end-of-year episode of Remembering Yugoslavia about Yugoslav humor. After the war, Djozić graduated from the Bosnian Academy of Performing Arts and got a master’s in TV production in the UK. He works as a television producer.
ZENIT DJOZIĆ: I’m presenting the idea of ExYu Center center to the people from the whole region, all ex-Yugoslav countries, and I’m also connecting with my colleagues and I’m trying to get some support. And also I get, I’m trying to get some artifacts and the things from them.
And also I’m involved in explaining and making the more clear picture of what’s happened in that time because I’m kind of [a] witness of that so, I’m kind of [a] filter of these events, and I trying to give them my suggestions, and help in any way.
PETER KORCHNAK: So what are you hearing from people, rock stars, musicians, when you approach them to donate stuff or to get involved in other ways? What’s the response you’re hearing?
ZENIT DJOZIĆ: It’s [a] very good response. Most of them are very surprised and very happy to, to hear that they are to be here and Sarajevo will organize that center, because they believe, as we are, that that Sarajevo is on a crossroad in the middle of the Yugoslavia, ex-Yugoslavia, and was on a crossroads and every band, every significant band, and less significant come to the Sarajevo and play and start, many of them start their careers and play in the beginnings of their career. So they have kind of emotional connections.
And on the other side, Sarajevo was [a] very significant and strong rock’n’roll center in ex-Yugoslavia in one period. I can freely say that in the 80s, with the production and great talents and the many many of potential of the bands, we actually lead the ex-Yugoslav scene was the main main stage and main town in ex Yugoslavia.
PETER KORCHNAK: And you mentioned, you solicit donations of artifacts from musicians. Have you donated anything? Or have you been asked to donate anything? And if so, what is it? What can we find in the center that’s Zenit’s?
ZENIT DJOZIĆ: I’ve got a very huge archive. I’ve got a really big collection of the articles in all ex Yugoslavian newspaper[s], which is, for example, Džuboks, Rock, and Polet in Croatia, Naši Dani in Sarajevo, and I collected that, and I collected some artifacts like I could congos, drums, and some prizes, you know. And also my some my stage clothes. I also find the people and friends who can have such kind of things, and I connected with them.
And besides the photos and long play records, tapes, and clothes, and things like that, on top of these artifacts is actually the things which could recreate the atmosphere, which we have. It is actually our main goal. Actually, we don’t want to be some kind of museum with the stuff which is, you know, have some historical value but doesn’t have any– I mean, spirit of the of the time. We want to recreate the spirit of that time. That’s the main goal. And so we will find a way how can we recreate that, but it is our primary goal.
PETER KORCHNAK: So what was it like, the 80s in Sarajevo, what was that experience like that you’re trying to recreate?
ZENIT DJOZIĆ: In the beginning of the 80s there was actually end of era of the our biggest bands from Sarajevo like Bijelo Dugme and Indexi and mega popular bands, probably the most popular bands in whole ex-YU rock scene and whole ex-YU rock scene in Yugoslavia. And in became in that period where those bands’ popularity actually was on a top and it was the big problem for our younger generation. Many of our members, members of our bands, actually the bands around us [were] actually trying to imitate Bijelo Dugme and Indexi, and it was a big mistake. And in that time, we find that that is the best way that we find our way and our our style, original style in music.
It was great because we succeed[ed] in that. It was [a] very strange situation come up because in the same time we have a very popular TV and radio show, which is popular in all ex Yugoslavia. Our audience was about millions and millions, and in the same time we have rock’n’roll bands like Zabranjeno Pušenje, Elvis J. Kurtović, Crvena Jabuka, and things like that. So, it was not ordinary popular bands or ordinary popular comedy show it was the kind of cultural cultural front actually.
And we then decide[d] that— actually we spontaneously come to the name of all this movement, we actually founded the movement, cultural movement, which we call the New Primitives, or Novi Primitivizam, and it was the reflection of the some Western movement to like new wave or punk and things like that. So, we try to get our original ideas and original style to end the look on our world in that moment. So it was a great success. We have a lot of, lot of good concerts and selling a lot of records and, as I said earlier, we in that time we really dominated on a Yugoslavian scene.
PETER KORCHNAK: What in your mind that does make that movement or those those bands, that collection of bands so important in the whole of Yugoslavia?
ZENIT DJOZIĆ: I think there is a lot of social and cultural and rock’n’roll reason for that. We always use humor as our vehicle. So, I think I can say that in New Primitivism, the humor is a major tool for the sending the message to the audience. If we compare that with punk in Britain, there was always kind of aggression against the authorities and things like that. That aggression is kind of the major expression of punk.
In our case, in New Primitivism, humor is a major major vehicle and it’s present everywhere in, in our lyrics, in our music in our comedy show, of course, and in in even in films, in fine painting, arts, and things like that. So, that is very well accepted from the ex-Yugoslav scene because it was fresh.
PETER KORCHNAK: The name of the movement itself, New Primitives, is of course very self-deprecating.
In his 2013 book Shake, Rattle, and Roll: Yugoslav Rock Music and the Poetics of Social Critique, sociologist Dalibor Mišina described the New Primitives as a “militant Sarajevist and Yugoslavist rebellion against cultural hypocrisy” that “emphasized homegrown (local-parochial)—as opposed to imposed (external-cosmopolitan)—local identity as the foundation of existence and the self.”
ZENIT DJOZIĆ: One of the most important things, we came into the end of one socialistic era. And new time comes and we work in a moment where it was the socialistic way of looking on a culture was almost completely cliche. And we bring some new style and new ideas and it was really really well accepted.
PETER KORCHNAK: The sociologist Mišina characterized ex-YU rock of the late 1970s to the late 1980s, as “an outlet for reflecting and commenting on Yugoslav socialism and the differences between the ideal/proclaimed and the existing/real.” Its substance was “social engagement, non-conformist outlook, and criticism,” which made Yugoslav rock musicians the “most consequential popular-cultural catalyst of socio-cultural and socio-political critique in Yugoslav society.”
ZENIT DJOZIĆ: And also we take the street speech as a kind of major speech in the media. So we used that, I mean, street, I can say street, it is speech from the people on the margins of the society, we use that as kind of our instruments. So we bring that words on a TV, on the radio, and this was completely fresh and very funny.
PETER KORCHNAK: By the way, this is a very abridged version of my conversation with Djozić. The complete interview, including the Top Lista conversation, will comprise an exclusive end-of-year bonus to Remembering Yugoslavia’s Patreon and Paypal supporters. Head over to RememberingYugoslavia.com/Donate to make sure you don’t miss out.
Zabranjeno Pušenje the band continues to make music. To date, they’ve released twelve studio albums, three live, and three compilation albums. And they’re still using humor in their work. Take the song “Bosman: Prvi bosanski superjunak” (Bosman: The First Bosnian Superhero) from the 2018 album Šok i Nevjerica. It takes a worker-by-day-superhero-by-night to clean up the country’s politics and crime. I’m playing the song for you with the band’s kind permission. Follow them on social media and buy their albums at zabranjeno-pusenje.com.
[SOUNDBITE – “Bosman: Prvi bosanski superjunak” by Zabranjeno Pušenje]
WILL RICHARD: And we’re also partnering with people across the region, for example, we’re working with Petar Janjatović in Belgrade, he’s the author of the Ex-YU Rock Encyclopedia.
PETER KORCHNAK: You may remember Janjatović from Episode 7, “Yugofuturist Rock’n’Roll.” He is one of many collaborators outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina that the Ex-YU Rock Society team has been working with to get the Center off the ground. I spoke with him about his involvement in the Ex-YU Rock Center last May, in the shade of some fruit trees in the backyard of a very hospitable friend of his.
How are you involved with this project?
PETAR JANJATOVIĆ: Consigliere. Io sono consigliere. [LAUGHTER]
You know, all of us we are coming with the ideas, all kinds of ideas for the museum because okay, this is no, I mean, this is not something we invented.
For example, one of my ideas, not to play modest, is to have in that museum all music documentaries made in former Yugoslavia or about local scenes. So that would be the place when you can find everything, and like in library you can go and said okay, I would like to have this documentary about Ekaterina Velika or Darko Rundek or whatever just to have that in one place. Or music books which are connected about the scenes. And of course all kinds of photographs, posters, artifacts, guitars, clothes you know, all kinds of things which can represent variety and all important bands and things which happened.
PETER KORCHNAK: And you are of course, the author of The Encyclopedia, you know everybody and everybody knows you on our you know, everybody and everybody knows you so that you’re making some of these connections for the museum. So, when you are doing that what are what are people saying, what are these musicians etc from bands saying to you about about this when you approach them to contribute an item or somehow be a part of this story?
PETAR JANJATOVIĆ: Everybody are very much for the idea.
PETER KORCHNAK: Of course, the food came, we are in Bosnia.
PETAR JANJATOVIĆ: We are in trouble.
Everybody are very much for the idea. Some of them are asking why Sarajevo, and I said come on, This is the center of Yugoslavia. And why not? And that means I also you know, I connect them for example, the guys from Sarajevo, I connect them— they met Miroslav Cetković Cvele, a bass player in Bajaga’s band band who is trying to establish a Serbian rock museum in Belgrade. And of course, he has the same problem like we have here: space. So with our space, nothing but you know, he’s collecting stuff, he’s communicate with the people he has some kind of, let’s say virtual museum, he knows what people have at home. And also, we are doing the same, informing people to save those things, not to throw away.
I met a few months ago a lady, she was in relationship with one very famous Yugoslav musician, I don’t want to name him. And [s]he says, gee, fuck, when we broke up, I threw away all those golden records and stuff. No, no, no!
But it’s important to inform people and they’re, you know, going through their archive, basements and stuff like that. And they have the idea what to do with that.
For example, YU Grupa, I think the oldest active Yugoslav band, when the brothers Jelić were in 1972, I think, it’s it 1973, in London, so they, the guy who is actually from Belgrade, but at that time, he was he had some small shop at Portobello Road, and he was doing those glitter suits. And he made that that forehead for them. And they still have that. So it would be beautiful, you know, just to have and they are for example, on the cover the first LP of YU Grupa they are dressed in that. Can you imagine, you know, some LSD colors.
PETER KORCHNAK: And so they’re donating that are not yet.
PETAR JANJATOVIĆ: That is in collection of Cvele in Belgrade, so he will borrow [sic] us. And the idea is to exchange you know, also to provoke the people in Ljubljana, in Zagreb, in Skopje to do the same. So if we have net of Europe or local rock museums, we can exchange exhibitions and do the same. So I connect people from Sarajevo with a guy who His name is Tošo Filipovski, he did encyclopedia of Macedonia and rock and roll together, we are working with Amir mucilage, who is a music journalist from Sarajevo, who wrote Encyclopedia of Bosnian rock’n’roll, I connect them with the people in Slovenia, in Zagreb, in Rijeka. So you know, we try to establish some kind of net[work].
PETER KORCHNAK: For you, personally, I mean, what does it mean to you?
PETAR JANJATOVIĆ: Museum?
PETER KORCHNAK: Yeah.
PETAR JANJATOVIĆ: I mean, to save the history, to save the memories, to save the things.
And I think it would be it would be really nice to have something like that here in Sarajevo. Because in Sarajevo you have museums which are about war. Which is very important of course, but let’s make museum about fun, about love, about, you know, peace. Because Sarajevo is, let’s face, it is [a] very touristic city and people are coming here with these stories of bombing, of death. So one museum, okay, let’s spend [a] few hours to see about joy, and to have information about that Yugoslavia was not only the civil war, there was something else. And through the music, you can show lots of about the theater, about the movies, literature, because everything is connected, I mean this is culture. So in some way that would be a Yugoslav culture Museum.
PETER KORCHNAK: Another of Janjatović’s ideas is to feature musicians in bands outside the former Yugoslavia who are from or who have ancestry from that country. Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, the son of immigrants to the U.S. from Croatia; Alex Lifeson, originally Aleksandar Živojinović, of Rush, the son of immigrants to Canada from Serbia. Or Mark Varjak, AKA Srđan Miodragović, of the Sisters of Mercy, originally from Belgrade.
PETAR JANJATOVIĆ: When Nirvana was about to play in October ‘91 in Ljubljana and the manager somebody they realized— they thought the war is in Ljubljana. And it’s dangerous. So they change in a few days concert so they played village Muggia, near Trieste. So you hear, you know, people are talking before the gig, then yeah when they’re out and Krist Novoselić says—
“Dobro veče, mi smo Bijelo Dugme.”
PETER KORCHNAK: —Good evening, we are Bijelo Dugme—
PETAR JANJATOVIĆ: —that’s great joke and the audience explode, because audience is people from Slovenia and Croatia of course…
WILL RICHARD: People are quite, quite happy to hear that, you know, this is going to be happening. A lot of people say, Yeah, I can’t believe this hasn’t been done before. Other people are saying, you know, this is going to be a really difficult task in terms of covering the whole scene, like I said, from the 60s, all the way up through the present.
But what’s most sort of motivating for me is, whenever I talk to people, it’s something that puts a smile on their face. I mean, there’s a lot of negativity there, you know, there’s a lot of especially now, let’s say in BIH, just a week before the elections, there’s a lot of people that are frustrated with the political situation in this country, a lot of people who are hoping that the country would be in a better position 27 years after the end of the war. When we mentioned this project, this is something that immediately, like I said, puts a smile on people’s faces and it’s something that they want to be part of.
PETER KORCHNAK: Anecdotally speaking, I can confirm this. Everyone I tell about the Center or anyone who shares the news with me gets quite excited.
PETER KORCHNAK: So what are you building? What’s your vision? What’s your timeline? You already mentioned the location and how’s that going? I understand you have a phased approach.
WILL RICHARD: We’re aiming for Spring 2024 for the grand opening of the Ex-YU Rock Center. And as part of the center, we’re hoping to have about 1,000 square meters of space—
PETER KORCHNAK: —about 11,000 square feet—
WILL RICHARD: —where we’ll have 10 to 12 permanent exhibitions, and then space for rotating and temporary exhibitions, while at the same time having performance space, rehearsal rooms for kids, for students, and also to have a rock-themed cafe bar as well.
And in terms of the location, we’re very, I’d say we’re very close to being at the point where we can sign the dotted line for a 5-year lease in Skenderija, in the center of Sarajevo. And I think the location is perfect for us, directly in the city center. And I think we could get a lot of foot traffic at this location.
And, in general, at the center, we’re hoping that this becomes not only a place for tourists from around the region and from around the world, but also a regular sort of hangout place for people in the city, including youth. We want this place to be vibrant, we want it to be exciting, you know, we don’t want it to just be sort of a mausoleum to the past, but also a place where things are regularly happening. So a place with gigs, you know, every week, with different types of performances, different types of workshops, conferences, and so on.
And between now and, let’s say spring of 2024, in order to show to the public and also to show to the musicians and to sponsors we’re planning four temporary exhibitions over the next, say 12 months. The first one will be on the Sarajevo scene from 1980 to 1992.
PETER KORCHNAK: Sarajevo Rock Scene: The Golden Years opens at Dom mladih in Skenderija, on November 29th with a special, invitation-only event. It will be open to the public the next day and up for 2 months, thru the end of January.
WILL RICHARD: The second exhibition will be focused on the 40th anniversary of Idoli’s landmark LP Odbrana i posledni dani.
PETER KORCHNAK: Džuboks magazine editors and critics voted the Idoli’s debut album the best Yugoslav rock album of the 20th century.
This exhibition will launch the week before Catholic Christmas and also wrap up at the end of January.
The third and fourth exhibitions are planned for later in 2023.
WILL RICHARD: The third exhibition will focus on the city of Rijeka in Croatia, and the incredibly rich rock’n’roll history from this one city.
And the fourth temporary exhibition that we have in the pipeline will focus on women in ex-YU rock.
We’re aiming to create some momentum and to really give visitors and residents here in Sarajevo a bit of a taste of what’s to come.
PETER KORCHNAK: I’ve been discovering Yugoslavia through music and it’s been a fascinating journey, full of twists and turns and reverb holes. You just never know what gem you’ll find in the vast catalog of music that came out, and that continues to come out, of that region.
For instance, I was looking for a rock version of “Hej Slaveni” for this episode and found not one but two. You heard the first in the open, the instrumental intro to the original Slovak song “Hej Slováci” from which the Yugoslav anthem is adopted, by the Slovak Nazareth cover band, Lazareth.
And this one, a metal cover version with Slovenian lyrics. It’s the creation of Uroš Andrijašević, on guitar. He was born in 1984 in Belgrade. “This was my humble attempt to support the idea of reconciliation between people all over the Balkans,” Andrijašević wrote in an email. The vocalist on the track, again with lyrics in Slovenian, is from Croatia. But, Andrijašević added, relating to the comments on the YouTube video, “Reactions on this cover really underscore the sad fact that the process of reconciliation is still ahead of us.”
Find Andrijašević and his metal creations on his YouTube channel, under his name. And once you’re there, behold the Yugoslav flag with an upside-down pentagram instead of the petokraka.
[SOUNDBITE – “Hej Sloveni” by Uroš Andrijašević]
PETER KORCHNAK: The exhibit on the golden years of the Sarajevo rock scene opens—again by invitation only—on the former Day of the Republic. I really hope they’ll have a fog machine but even if not, Zenit Djozić and other ex-YU rockers will be there.
ZENIT DJOZIĆ: I’m not nervous because we already fixed a lot of things we make. I mean, we already get collections from the all major bands. I’m really happy that I can see real progress and the we are making collections which will be in the future really significant.
We want to keep things out of [the] culture of forgetting and give all these bands and all these great musicians and people real honor for all what they deserve. Because there was a really good and excellent music. I’m also happy because I believe that we will make space for the new generation which will come and give them the space to play, to make their careers and things like that. So I’m excited.
PETER KORCHNAK: Sponsors of the Ex-YU Rock Center include the Center for the Promotion of Civil Society, the Association of Composers and Music Creators, as well as UNESCO, the European Union, the governments of the Netherlands and Switzerland, via their embassies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Sarajevo Canton.
WILL RICHARD: The best way to support the Ex-YU Rock Center is to help us spread the word. There are, as I said, 1,000s of musicians that we need to connect with, and we’re trying to collect a really interesting set of memorabilia, and we’re talking about thousands of items. And so if people can help us connect with musicians, to help us collect memorabilia, that would be fantastic. Also to connect with, you know, fans, from back then from the 70s, from the 80s, people who might have, photographs, people who might have old newspaper clippings and so on. We’re trying to collect a wide range of artifacts from the past.
And of course, there’s also the financial assistance. You know, we’re anticipating this Ex-YU Rock Center to cost probably around one or two million dollars to get it off the ground. You know, we want this to be a very modern museum, we want this to have the latest audio-video technology, the latest say multimedia, and so on. And so obviously all that costs a fair amount of money. So we’re also looking for sponsors, corporate sponsors, and also any individuals that want to get on board.
We have a Ex-YU Rock Center membership program. If you sign up and there’re various levels, bronze, silver, gold and platinum at the various levels. There are different packages with, you know, some Ex-YU Rock Center merchandise, we also have some, some autographed items that are part of the packages. And to become a member, we have a link on our website at–
PETER KORCHNAK: ex-yurock.com.
WILL RICHARD: And we’re also on social media, on Instagram and Facebook. You know, find us, follow us, spread the word. Every little bit helps.
[BACKGROUND MUSIC – “Jednoj ženi” by Zlatko Manojlović AKA Zed Mitchell]
PETER KORCHNAK: Električni Orgazam’s megahit “Igra rokenrol cela Jugoslavija” (The Whole Yugoslavia Is Dancing Rock’n’Roll) rocked the former Yugoslavia in its waning years, in 1988. The song was everywhere, everyone knew it—and still does—exhorting listeners to think for themselves and saying it is rock’n’roll that unites them all. The song was later used in the 1996 war movie Lepa Sela Lepo Gore [Pretty Village Pretty Flame] in a scene with paramilitaries burning down a village. The message was all too obvious.
I can’t attend the opening of Ex-YU Rock Center’s first exhibit but I’ll plan on visiting in January—and to be there for the grand opening in 2024. I hope you can make it. If you do, say hi to all of its creators and all the rockstars for me.
And please support the Ex-YU Rock Center with generous contributions or become a member. Your contribution will support the development of its exhibitions, including display cases, AV equipment, and various support; and renovation of music rehearsal rooms. Rock out at ex-YUrock.com today.
[BACKGROUND MUSIC – “Rainmaker” by Petar Alargić]
PETER KORCHNAK: Next on Remembering Yugoslavia:
SPASIA DINKOVSKI: I don’t even call it burek because I know it’s not burek. I call it borek for a reason. It’s a pie I’m making out of filo pastry. I have a lot of fun coming up with the fillings actually. And I definitely don’t claim to be traditional and I’m very vocal.
PETER KORCHNAK: Burek makes the world go round for millions of Earthlings. What is it and why do aliens voyage across the universe to get some? On the next episode of Remembering Yugoslavia, burek like you’ve never bureked it before.
Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts and subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out.
[OUTRO MUSIC – “Jednoj ženi” by Zlatko Manojlović]
PETER KORCHNAK: That’s all for this episode of Remembering Yugoslavia, thank you for listening. Find additional information, song embeds, links, and the transcript of this episode at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.
The track “Hej Slováci” courtesy of Lazareth – thank you! Follow the band on social media.
The metal version of “Hej Slaveni” courtesy of Uroš Andrijašević – thank you. Check out his YouTube channel!
Guitar riff cover of Osvajači’s “Pronadji me” courtesy of Nenad Konstantinov – thank you!
The songs by Zlatko Manojlović AKA Zed Mitchell, Yugo Project, and Zabranjeno Pušenje used with permission – thank you all. Please follow these bands on social media and buy their music!
I am Peter Korchňak.