We’ve had a small festival going on in our neighborhood the last couple of days. Food booths, art on display, that kind of thing. Another new outdoor café sprang up just in time in the BBI Centar mall plaza. There seems to be no saturation point when it comes to sitting down outside with a cool drink or a kafa.
On Tuesday morning a temporary stage appeared next to the new cafe. We walk that way frequently, and over the next couple of afternoons we got to see a lot of local performers on the platform – sevdah singers, Balkan choruses, guys with stringed instruments that look like tiny long-necked bouzoukis, other guys with accordions, kolo dancers.
It wasn’t all folk music. There was a children’s hiphop dance team and some pop singers. A young woman in conservative Muslim dress belting out Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” presented an interesting example of how performance context can change the meaning of a song.
Andreas and I decided to come back and check out the free headline performance Wednesday night – some group called Zabranjeno Pusenje. Sure, whatever. We studied the poster. The photo showed six guys who looked like older rockers; we spotted the word “blues” among the jumble of letters. Anyway, it was an excuse to sit in the café’s new wicker chairs.
We forgot what time the show was supposed to start and got there an hour early. We sat sipping our coffees and smirking about all the yellow-vested security officers and emergency vehicles lined up in front of CinemaCity. All this for a neighborhood block party? Then, as 8:30 approached, the audience started showing up. I’m not a good judge of crowd numbers, but Andreas estimated there were about 7,000 people there.
Zabranjeno Pusenje means No Smoking Orchestra. It seems they are quite famous in Bosnia. They got their start as a garage band in this neighborhood of Sarajevo. They were one of Yugoslavia’s most popular acts in the 1980s.
The war broke up the band in the 90s (like it did so much else). One of the two songwriters left for Serbia. There are now two No Smoking Orchestras – one in Belgrade and one in Sarajevo. The band we heard was the Sarajevo manifestation.
Here are some videos made by the Sarajevo band. One critic describes their music as “Gypsy techno-rock” and that seems close enough much of the time, although the first of these three videos is a much different style. A word of warning – if you are easily offended, don’t bother with the second two.
This first song is from a soundtrack the band recorded for a film about the war titled Nafaka. The female singers are a choir called Arabeske.
This one is also from the film.
This one is pretty silly. It’s called Arizona Dream, but it’s very Bosnian.