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New Wave in Ex-Yugoslavias rock ‘n’ roll

“New Wave ” is a musical and cultural phenomenon which occurred in the period that followed the heyday of punk , in the late seventies and early eighties of the twentieth century. First developed in Britain, from where it is further expanded, until it spread all over the Europe, including East Europe ,and United States. The New wave is a concept of music that implies a fusion of different genres. It is a term that brings together different musical styles an gathers different orientations. It is very difficult to find a common musical elements that would represent a feature of the “new wave “.Sometimes the term was used for the bands who predominantly used synthesizers, and sometimes,its used only to divide post punk movements from punk, whatever kind of music being involved. Some theorists used the term to mark pop music related to punk but not plain punk. To define an aristic or musical genre is is to understand a cultural idea that leads it, its guiding principles,the f low it’s been driven on, towards the needs, expectations and criteria of the audience.New Wave is a postmodern cultural phenomenon not only in popular music,but in fashion, design,and complete artistic atmosphere of the time. Here we examine the cultural and social aspects of this phenomenon in the former Yugoslavia, its specifics and local artistic, political and sociological significance.

The widest term in which we observe this phenomenon is mass culture. Beside the musical determination and the characteristics of the new wave, I think that it is important to talk about cultural and social aspects of this phenomenon in Ex-Yugoslavia. The rock ‘n’ roll aspect of the new wave is a primarily global musical phenomenon. The mark global indicates that something in the world is well known and spread out. But, it is questionable whether it has remained in its primal form or if modifications have changed the essence of the new wave. But, because the essence of all terms is sensible towards the context, rock ‘n’ roll can describe the local genre because it was characteristic for a certain area only. Some authors don’t consider rock as a musical genre, but as a specific cultural practice.[1] These marks indicate the wider meaning of rock ‘n’ roll, not only in musical terms, but also in cultural aspects where rock ‘n’ roll was fulfilled. Music is just a basic anyway, but we must mention the implications rock ‘n’ roll had in a certain culture and in a certain environment.

During the last decade, in Ex-Yugoslavia you could notice interests for a cultural phenomenon called new wave. The interests for the new wave are already made in the late eighties, to be brought back alive in the nineties, followed by reproductions of important albums, documentaries, movies, biographic literature and exhibitions of that period or certain rock groups. In the last years, regarding three decades since the new wave, many cultural manifestations have been held in Belgrade, as well as many multi-media projects and documentary films about this period. One does get the impression that the new wave was more and more important with the urban legend of the “golden time” that has marked generations in a cultural model of Yugoslavia and formed the identity of the youth in this area. Thus its meaning, the new wave in Yugoslavia remains not that much reworked, although some encyclopedias of Yugoslav rock and many (auto)biographic books have been written, followed by many interviews and documents.

The new wave (new pop music), a name that is generated from the anthology of the new wave, a form of French cinematography from the late 50s (nouvelle vague) remained in the late seventies and early 80s and is considered a wide specter of music genres. The new wave was created in the mid-seventies at the same time with punk rock and in the beginning, it was the synonym for punk rock. Later, when it incorporated aspects of electronic and experimental music, disco and pop from the 60s with a lot of punk, it was defined as an opposition to punk and commercial rock.[2] In Yugoslav rock, we find that the name new wave was also used for punk, as well as that in Great Britain we speak about punk as the new wave or the new English wave.

The new wave in Yugoslav terms means the genre emerged in the late seventies that brought to a music scene the new sensibility of the young generation who wanted to express itself in new and different way. Singled out as a new parallel flow with commercial rock music, in its body of work and artistic commitment it built its own ideology. At the time the Yugoslav socialist society perceived the culmination of a development.Located in the unstable political situation at the time and after Tito’s death, the New Wave offered a new cultural model to a urban youth.It helped them to identify in specific historical and cultural conditions, as to define and determine the aim of their rebellion. That is why NewWave under these specific political and cultural circumstances has deeper meaning,different aim and further consequences in Yugoslavia then in the Western Europe.It had a role that goes far beyond musical categories.Not linked only to mass culture and modern popular music but also to the phenomenon of youth subcultures and their expansion in the very specific political enviroment..In the late seventies and early eighties of the 20th century youth began to gather around students and youth centers in major cities such as Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Rijeka called. New wave encompassed music, film, television, fine arts, fashion styles and nightlife, contributing to the awakening of critical thinking, engaging youth and student press, electronic media, designers, artists and multimedia artists, who together helped to create a unique cultural front which will completely change its former aesthetic design, photography, clothing, newspapers, film and television. One of the important movements in the field of Fine Arts, founded in the eighties, had a very pronounced relationship with the New Wave in rock.Called New Painting, along with other urban happenings, gave a striking picture of the Yugoslavian spiritual climate in the eighties , faithfully conveying the spirit of creativity and free speach in Western Europe. In the lyrics that served as the political framework for a different view progress was made by the groups Azra and Idols.

Speaking about problems that the new rock music hat, it spoke also about problems of its generation that required the audience to be involved. This gives new wave the marks of a mass movement in Yugoslavia. [3] The common rock culture tied the industrialized regions of Yugoslavia, regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation and mother language. The late 70s have brought the advertisement industries into Yugoslavia, with the promotion of consumerism, the eighties have brought in the show-business, management and marketing ideas and the myth about the image as a strong factor of media representation. The punk phenomenon as a fashion style and the new wave orientation towards the visual image, experiments in media and pop culture were far more important than the political factor, and fashion designers often used them to form a visual identity of the music and the musicians, as well as for the construction of the new wave culture. Because the media of new wave was music, fashion, photography, video and television, we can define it as a musical-fashion-social movement or as a redesign of old musical-cultural forms that have brought up the media-artistic redefinition and the synthesis of different experiences of anti-culture. The new wave will be remembered because of its social importance, aesthetic and marketing experiments and innovations and not for its commercial impact, what retrospective exhibitions like “the last riot in Serbia” can confirm. Documentaries of the world’s most renown magazines such as New Musical Express and Melody maker, that have followed the scene in Yugoslavia with a great interest can only confirm how much the new wave in Yugoslavia was interesting for the rest of the word. Yugoslavia was also considered the most vital music scene east of Great Britain.

The beginning of punk and the new wave in Yugoslavia is marked with the emergence of Pankrt in Slovenia in the year of 1977. It travels first to Zagreb and then to Belgrade, where it reaches its zenith in the year of 1980. Most rock critics think that the new wave was shut down in the year of 1982, but because of generations of post new wave music groups and their impact in the media and the society, some see the year of 1985 as the year new wave ended.[4] We also find statements that the new wave started to fade in the year of 1989, which is confirmed by the name of retrospective events in SKC in Belgrade in 2009 “Remake, playback, blow up-off (1977-1989).

The main base for the new wave is the connection Ljubljana-Zagreb-Belgrade. The music and cultural scene of these cities will be studied in comparison with global events, without the intention for more detailed presentations of the history of those periods. We will consider rock groups that emerged beyond the main centers of new wave (Rijeka, Maribor, Novi Sad), which indicate the simultaneity of the movement as a causal event, as well as the rock traditions of a certain area.[5]

The definition of the word “new wave”

New wave is a term that defines many avant-garde art, literature and also rock music movements (first of all it was a movement in the film industry, where the name also originates from). New wave is not the classy rock ‘n’ roll, it is also not punk and it’s also not a defined musical genre, and that’s why this genre is determined by artist that have nothing in common regarding their musical style. For example, Wikipedia states that Billy Idol, an English rock star is a new wave artist, as well as the British group Cabaret Voltaire – a fact that two artists who have nothing in common can be included in the new wave era of music. With his music, Billy Idol influences punk and hard rock with some dance moments (guitars, bass guitars, drums, keyboards), while Cabaret Voltaire is known for their sound experiments (with samplers, synthesizers, modal voicing etc.), as well as for their visual performances (films on concerts). Various concepts also reflect their communication with the crowd – Billy Idol is believed to be a rock star and an Icon of the eighties, while Cabaret Voltaire has only had contact with few followers.

The relation of punk and „new wave“ is also a little bit weird, because the two terms are used as synonyms on some (not rare) occasions. Teo Kateforis also indicates that „one does often forget that the explosion of British punk in the year of 1976 was also marked as „new wave““. Even if the boarder is not clear enough (and here we must ask ourselves which musical genre is defined by clear boarders?), „new wave“ is not punk, even if it’s directly connected to it, because punk represents a very simple musical form in both – thematically and musical views (short, energetic songs with the message of resistance against the social and political systems), while new wave can be set as a complex and enriched musical form (with new instruments such as keyboards), that includes also different artistic influences. The milestone of difference between new wave and punk can also lie in the period of their establishment. New Wave” became popular in the seventies, in about the same time with the zenith of punk music.

Centers of this musical phenomenon have been Great Britain (with artists as Ian Dury, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker etc.) and the USA (Talking Heads, Blondie, Devo etc.).

If you consider the name, you don’t get to the conclusion that this concept is pointing towards something that is new and different from everything. But, regarding the prior mentioned you can say that the new wave is actually somehow a brand, with which the artists (themselves or by others) were different from rock and also punk music scene, regardless of what they represent (in their genre). New wave also indicates another brand – world music, which is also promoted as a musical genre that collects all world influences in the music of one artist.

A Brief History of the beginnings of rock music in Yugoslavia

Rock’n’roll is not monolithic, because it consists out of many genres and subgenres: rockabilly, country, folk rock, art rock, acid rock, rhythm-and-blues, disco rock, progressive rock, punk, heavy metal and funk. Key persons in rock were not only white, but also black and female, which indicates that rock’n’roll is a music with no barriers with a great power of unity. In this place, we should mention some key names of rock ‘n’ roll: Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Tommy Steele, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Little Richard. We should also mention Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, James Brown, and Wilson Pickett etc… Then, we have to mention the most influential American and British rock bands, led by The Beatles, The Animals, The Rolling Stones, The Doors and Jimmie Hendrix.

Rock ‘n’ roll was created by the young generation, just out of World War II, and their wish for a new way of music that their parents won’t try to accept. Practically, it was the first worldwide revolution with no blood spilled. Rock ‘n’ roll has changed nearly everything: the look, the way we walk, talk, dance etc… It changed the world view and brought out new authorities with new relations between kids and parents. Before rock ‘n’ roll, teenagers from 12 to 20 were either adolescents or immature. They pretty much were pushed into the views of their parents and tried to imitate them either as much as possible or fully and shared their taste.

The year of 1955 is officially the year in which the expansion of rock ‘n’ roll started, regardless of many previous signs of rock culture, such as in the movie The Wild One, where Marlon Brando impersonated a rebel in a yellow jacket, Rebel Without Reason or East of Heaven, where the first hero of this generation – James Dean was starring. The “live fast, die young” philosophy became not only Dean’s destiny, but the lifestyle of a whole generation. Suddenly, musical interferences occurred. USA had to deal with greater interest in black music. The exclusive music, which was primarily made for black audience (and which we today consider as early examples of rock ‘n’ roll), are gaining more interests thanks to white singers and musicians. “White” versions of black artist’s hits have largely introduced the “forgotten” sound to the market, regardless of the fact if they were musically better or worse. Actually, we can say that rock ‘n’ roll in his prior state was the white interpretation of black music. Even Bill Haley, the man that made the first global rock ‘n’ roll hit with Rock around the clock has had such influence. His success bases on new views of already known music made by black artists. Regardless of its “simple” sound, young people became interested in it. The “new” music was different than “civilized musical perception” of elder people. As Rock around the clock started climbing up the charts even the least informed persons realized that something new is happening, something new and very exciting.

With this “Teenager Anthem”, Haley became the first rock star. Rock ‘n’ roll was very popular, despite blues fans that stated how Haley’s songs are another version of the brilliant rhythm and blues. “The father of rock ‘n’ roll” was really a father like figure in the age of 30, which is why he slowly was losing his popularity when younger artists became popular. A 20 year old trucker from Mississippi, who was living in Memphis, Tennessee, named Elvis Presley has had such an impact on rock ‘n’ roll like Clark Gable had for the film. They both were popular and were held high above their competition. Elvis was also the first rock ‘n’ roll sex symbol. There is only a small gap from the moment Elvis paid to enter the Sun Studio to record a record for his mother’s birthday to the time he became an exclusive star of the RCA concern for (by that time) fantastic 35.000 US$. A great carrier began that even his death in august 1977 couldn’t stop. Besides singing, Elvis was well known for his sensual concerts that the American white audience wouldn’t allow at first. Burdened by racial prejudice, they thought that the hip swing was some kind of an homage to black dancing. Thus, this prejudice views did not change the success of this new star.

The only thing that was left to do is – finding a match. Pat Boone became a real role model for the elder generations. While Elvis was “unwanted”, the “cleaner” and “more honest” Pat was a guy that represented the American son in law. But, what most of the audience did not know was that Boone’s hits were new versions of black music originals, songs that were recorded long before by Fats Domino or Little Richard. Nevertheless, Boone made over 20 hits between 1955 and 1962. “The star of clean rock ‘n’ roll” – Pat Boone probably is not a real link in the chain, but you cannot argue about his voice, which has introduced rock ‘n’ roll throughout the world in the second half of the fifties. If the world would’ve been more careful, one could see how Boone was just a copy of much better originals. One of these originals was Fats Domino, who became famous a little later. Even though he was known in the year of 1949 for his song The Fat Man, people discovered his smoky voice and his virtuous piano play a little later. After that, he was held in the top of rock hierarchy with fantastic over 20 million records sold. Not less important, but surely less fortune was a former boxer named Bo Diddley, whose guitar rhythms and autobiographic songs were covered a lot. For example, The Rolling Stones covered his songs not fade away and reached such heights, Bo wouldn’t even think about. His friend Chuck Berry, all personal twists aside, went much better and is truly considered the most influential rock ‘n’ roll author of all times, so famous that even The Beatles would kneel before him. Considered “the first rock ‘n’ roll poet”, Berry knew that this music would remain over time. He gained true satisfaction in the early sixties, when rhythm and blues become famous in Great Britain, what brought back Berry’s classic hits such as Johnny B. Goode, Rock & Roll music and Sweet little sixteen.

The first years of rock ‘n’ roll brought alive two important black stars. The blind piano player and singer Ray Charles, whose life tragedy impacted on his sound and voice, becomes famous with hits like I got a woman and What’d I Say / Georgia on my mind. Hank Ballard gains attention with hits filled with sexual allusions. It is a trend, which will gain lots of followers. In these years we can notice the Doo Wop style, a form that was named after the senseless voicing. Two black vocal groups are specially known for this style: Platters and Drifters. The Platters is a quintet led by Tony Williams and they were more famous than their rivals, which resulted in popular hits like Only you and Smoke gets in your eyes. Drifters had about 30 singers, but became popular in the world with their song Money Money. We must state that the name is much more important than the members itself. Thus, an exception has to be made for Ben E. King, who was a member of the group when their hits were produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, first people that appear on a record as producers. The year of 1955 did not bring much more exciting things in Great Britain. In fact, English radios have not been playing rock ‘n’ roll at all, which was not the case in America. The disk jockey Allan Fried, who led the famous program Moondogs rock ‘n’ roll party in Cleveland was the one that brought alive the term “rock ‘n’ roll”, which is why Cleveland is now considered the birthplace of this “new music”. Besides his large popularity, his career was ended with less fame ten years later, when he was accused for being paid to play some records more often than others. The money found its way in rock ‘n’ roll some time later. In 1955, things looked and sounded sill pretty “healthy”.

The hit Rock around the clock was an anthem, back in 1955. The appearance of this song as the title song for the first Bill Haley film in 1956 was the moment that the world was widely introduced to rock ‘n’ roll, or even forced to accept its existence. Many dancing teenagers was tearing apart the seats and danced in cinema halls all along America and Great Britain, some even in other parts of Europe. In Britain, rock brought in a specific kind of fashion that the Teddy Boys were wearing. They were called like this, because it is believed that their fashion is from half a century ago, from the Edwardian era. The media immediately stated out that this kind of fashion is unwanted and rude. Many people that have let their teenage years behind were interested in American pop stars that became famous before rock ‘n’ roll became their “business”, such as Perry Como, Frankie Lane, Guy Mitchell and Johnnie Ray. The last two have tried to fit in the matrix of rock, even though they were blues singers. Mitchell has recorded some singles like Singing the blues and Rock-a-Billy, which only had the name of some rock songs.

On the other side, Ray became sort of famous for his additional listening device and special techniques in songs like Cry and The little white cloud that cried, that in some way can be considered as rhythm and blues. He had his last success in 1957 with just walking in the rain. An interesting fact is that this song was recorded also by the band Prisonaires for the company Sun. They were called prisonaires because they were really prisoners. But, in the year of 1956, everything faded before Elvis Presley’s success, even though his singles for the sun had things like Mystery train, That’s alright mamma and Good rocking tonight. His signing for RCA brought many bigger hits like Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, Don’t be cruel and the theme song for his movie – Love me tender. Presley has shown that he can sing ballads as well as rock songs with the same quality, which made it easy for him to outvie stars discovered by Sam Phillips, and soon he took over his place on top of Sun’s performers. Carl Perkins was obviously the new Elvis Presley, but after his first big hit Blue suede Shoes (Perkins’ version was much more sold than Presley’s), he had a car accident and the situation afterwards was a huge gap in his intentions to outvie Presley.

There was a similar case with one of other stars from Sun. Johnny Cash was first known as a country and western singer, but his early work was a lot rock oriented. The first of Presley’s rivals was Jane Vincent. His famous hit Boo-Bop-A-Lula was recorded while absent from the navy, which he gained after a motor bike crash that left him crippled. This disability, if nothing else, was only good for his attraction. Dressed in black from head to toe, Vincent would fight on scene, use the microphone as a stand, while singing with the Blue Caps. After his appearance in the movie The Girl Can’t help it, Vincent’s carrier starts to fall. He moves to Great Britain in the sixties, where he gained some popularity back but his old wounds just opened his way to alcoholism, which was the reason for his death in 1971 as a very poor man.

Little Richard was more fortune. The black pianist had much success as a gospel singer already. But, his first hits started to show after his recordings for the Hollywood company “Specialty”. In the fifties, he sold over seven million copies of records that contained things like: Tutti Frutti, Long Tall Sally, Rip it up and Good Golly Miss Molly, after that he decided to go back to the church in order to find his inspiration. Therefore, his career was torn by entrances in and exits out of rock, although it is very sure that his hits will be very important and won’t be forgotten over long time. The extraordinary career of James Brown starts in the year of 1956 with the song Please, please, please. Since then, he has had more than one hundred rhythm and blues hits. His famous scene acts and trance states on scene have granted him many followers. His best recordings Papa’s got a brand new bag, It’s a man’s world and Out of sight are truly some of best in history, while some other originals like Night time and I’ll go crazy have inspired the British rhythm and blues artists in the early sixties.

The vocal doo-wop movement has brought up their two best members in the year of 1956, the groups Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers and The Five Satins. Lymon, a thirteen year old boy that sang the main vocals in “Why do fools fall in love” quickly became a drug victim and died in 1968 from heroin overdose. He could never reach the success of his first hit. The Five Satins was actually a very weak group, except their song In the still of the night, which was written by the lead singer Fred Paris. He wrote it while he had to keep watch in the army. After this song, the group was never able to grow up to the success of their first record. Often it is told that this is the best composition of all doo-wop songs. This year had some other one hit wonders, like Ted hunter with Young love, a song that has been very popular on both sides of the Atlantic, Jim Lowe with Green Door and the weird Screaming Jay Hawkins, that became famous with I put a spell on you. His scene play involved a skull called Henry, and it began with his resurrection from a coffin.

The year 1956 was much more exciting in America than in Britain, and Britain was not believed to be a center of rock by that time. Because they realized that rock ‘n’ roll has a chance to remain popular and it gives musicians a chance for enrichment, British artists have tried to produce their own rock records, although the results were terrible at first. The best example for this is the debut record of ex Trade-Marine member Tommy Steele – the first so called British rock star. His song was called Rock with Caveman and has got a lot of excitement, but is nearly forgotten today. Steele will later abandon music and will go over to family joy, ending up starring in Walt Disney movies.

In 1956, some articles appeared in Yugoslav newspapers, mentioning rock ‘n’ roll as music without morale coming from the west, but until 1968, the Yugoslav rock ‘n’ roll is becoming an integral part of youth culture. Rakovic[6] distinguishes two periods. The first period is to be known as the years of classic rock ‘n’ roll (1956-1965), and the second period is the “electric” period of rock ‘n’ roll (1961-1968). In the first period, the youth is seeking ways to retain the music that, in the beginning, drifts apart from the values and the ideology of the socialistic society. Sociologists value the fact that “the ill separation between working, peasant and city youth”, which leading politicians and CK SKJ indicated, fades away through the sixties. The conclusion is that by rock has had a major role in removing the border between the youth in that period. Like in the west, the class conflict is becoming more and more a fight between generations. The gap between parents and their children is getting bigger – kids accused their parents for negative separation in the society (bribing, corruption, thefts, and protections). As the sixties went by, the gap between generations of old and new Yugoslavs was growing bigger. The socialistic youth was against social deformations and was acting against ignorance from elder people while seeking more freedom for their creativity. This period (1961-1968) is known as “electric rock ‘n’ roll”, a period that brings up youth rebellions. They were under the steady watching eye of the party and the president of the Republic – they have brightly considered all the moves to bring them to a “better future” by not having to take away their own freedom of choice.

With the first week of June 1968, students began with demonstrations in Yugoslavia. These demonstrations have been influenced by many student movements in the worlds, but can also be considered as a result of the economic situation in the country, lack of jobs for young people, social gaps, growing bureaucracy and depersonalization of responsibility. The state could not act different but to admit their mistakes and confirm that the youth is right. Nothing that the youth has been fighting for (rock ‘n’ roll, youth newspapers and sexual freedom) has been fought by the government, as long as it didn’t cross the ideology. After the events in June 1968, the Party has made a pact with rock ‘n’ roll and the pop culture, and the two century lasting unity between Party and youth began. This is a classic example of a state that can’t go against the changes of globalization, when the state takes over the youth’s ideas, interpreting them as their own (déjà vu), sharpening the sub-cultural blade and placing the subculture (rock ‘n’ roll) in the matrix of the ruling culture.

In the sixties, rock music was also named “beat”. In this place, we have to state the popularity of The Beatles. The ties between Yugoslav establishment for protesting songs, as well as the anti-war symbol of the sixties is extremely close. Their authors and interpreters, especially Bob Dylan and Joan Baez have spread the word of pacifism and freedom, fighting against imperialism in the state politics of the USA. These two songwriters were the lovechildren of Yugoslav press, that has complimented them every time: while Joan Baez is known as the “young Beatnik”, Dylan was called “the Homer of our century”! With this comes also the change of male youngsters wearing long hair – the press has stated meanings of sociologists that the long hair on teenagers is a reaction to militarism and is no longer a fashion thing, but the expression of the spirit of victory – against war policy and segregation.

The Yugoslav public was kindly ambivalent towards the hippies and the hippie movement. The first reactions were negative because they thought of them as a sect that enjoys LSD, marijuana and other drugs, that they were obsessed with pills, sex and rock ‘n’ roll and that under this impact acid rock was formed, which has been created under the intoxication of narcotics. Thus, no one has ever challenged the value of these bands that somehow became pioneers of the hippie movement: The Byrds, The Mamas & the Papas, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd. After doubting articles about beatnik and hippie movements that have rated them as senseless and goalless, the first studies began to emerge, rating hippies as young students that were supported by university professors and intellectuals, also that they were against materialism, crushing all borders, racial and class barriers and that they strongly fight against the nuclear arms and the war in Vietnam. Studies and reports of university and party experts and state organs about the new left wing movement were also rating the hippies, suggesting that the synergy of the political new left wing and the hippie movement could have revolutionary potential that can be important for the “revolutionary turn” of the western societies.

If we talk about hippies in Yugoslavia, we must talk about gatherings on staircases in Belgrade, the poetry nights, the “hippie séance”, held by the Belgrade painter Olja Ivanjicki, about Dubrovnik as “Hippieville”, where “domestic” and international hippies gathered, such as the known hippie musical “Hair”, held in the Atelje 212 (Atelier 212) in Belgrade in 1969, only one year after the premiere in the New York Biltmore Theatre on Broadway.

The Serbian and Yugoslav culture was not drained out, regarding the national folklore (fife and trumpet). We can clearly talk about the Serbian “guitar” rock tradition with roots in the urbanization of the Yugoslav society; this society was well known for urban rock sub cultures and subversive styles, as well as for their own identities. The sub cultures based on rock ‘n’ roll had subversive and resistant strategies. They refuse to implement themselves in the current procedures of culture, which was very important for the democratization of the Yugoslav society and the political system. Only in this multi theoretical discourse you can see the “wide” picture in which rock musicians from Belgrade and Zagreb are only partially separated. Their socio-cultural matrix remains the same – Yugoslav; they come from there and they also fill this up, even though the roots of their music come from the Western World.

The seventies have also been very important for the impact of this music on the whole development of culture (fashion, morals, aesthetics, communication, dance and slang). Punk Rock and the so called New wave in Yugoslavia have left a deep mark in the music within and outside the country in the eighties. New social, cultural and technical appearances during the seventies (until today) opened up new ways of musical expressions in the Serbian rock music, which is, regarding global relations, based on the give and take principals.

The appearance of rock ‘n’ roll in Yugoslavia meant that the interests of socialistic youth for the western pop culture, Hollywood movies, jazz and Italian music in the first place grew bigger. The Communist’s Union of Yugoslavia has tracked these appearances and has supported them if they didn’t cross the ideology. The party was looking for the appreciation of western states for such tolerance, because the Yugoslav economy depended pretty much on the business strategy and the help of western countries. On the other hand, rock ‘n’ roll has led to a crash in patriarchal customs that started with jazz, sexual freedoms, new fashion and hair styles. At first, rock ‘n’ roll has formed the party’s policy against the youth as a socialistic youth that is interested in the western pop culture. The Yugoslav example is therefore unique in the world, combined with the policy “a window from West to East and vice versa”. This policy remained until the fall of the Socialistic Federative Republic of Yugoslavia.

Highly educated music artists were bitter enemies of jazz, at first, and later also of rock ‘n’ roll, rating the music as decadent and dilettante. Jazz arrived in Yugoslavia between the world wars, and the musical youth of Yugoslavia, as a critic of the quality of musical values has accepted it as a form of art in the beginning of the sixties. Although the Socialist’s Union of Yugoslavia and the Youth Union of Yugoslavia accepted rock ‘n’ roll as the music of the youth in the year of 1966, the youth of Yugoslavia has accepted Yugoslav rock ‘n’ roll’s musical value in the year of 1981, speaking of Yugoslav rock ‘n’ roll as of a “rock ‘n’ roll culture”.

The emergence and local characteristics of the New Wave

So rock ‘n’ roll arrived in the Socialistic Federative Republic of Yugoslavia in the sixties[7]. The real growth of the local rock ‘n’ roll bands was made with electric guitars and vocal-instrumental groups that consisted out of electric and bass guitars[8]. The first groups named “the electricians” have just played covers songs of old titles, and later started writing their own music. You could say that much time has passed from the acceptance of this musical genre to the first visible results of its impact. By that, I am speaking of the impact of rock ‘n’ roll on the local environment, and if we talk about Belgrade, this can be applied through the first radio shows playing rock ‘n’ roll, the first Guitar festivals (Gitarijada) in 1966 and the rock ‘n’ roll magazine Dzuboks that states the importance of this phenomenon for the local environment. In this way, rock has become a domesticated musical genre, but also a cultural phenomenon. But, in some way, rock ‘n’ roll was still “global”, or a “mass medium of communication”[9], because this genre identified this particular area as a part of a big space, as a part of global community – the rock ‘n’ roll community. So, all the other important values in music and culture that can be considered as local musical elements aside, rock ‘n’ roll was a sign of cosmopolitism and of an adaptation process of cultural impact from the west. In this case, some people or groups used rock ‘n’ roll as an important element that builds up local feelings and cosmopolitism within those local feelings.

The question of the local rock ‘n’ roll scene was often the subject of critics for the magazine Dzuboks. From their texts you can see that in the late seventies, the scene was in stagnation: “as for rock in Belgrade, in the last year, nothing significant happened (…) there is not a single new wave group in Belgrade.” Not only there were no musicians to end this lethargic state of the scene, even the audience was stuffed into the remaining state, and another text states that in Belgrade “there simply isn’t any audience for new wave music”. In an article called “The BG-Wave chronicles”, in the period of 1965-68, the scene was rated as a “cover scene”, or as not original, because it consisted only from cover bands that covered songs from the west. The lack of places in which the alternative and innovative rock culture could develop was mentioned as one of the possible reasons of such state. This state was also supported through the lack of financial aid and financial interests for concerts and festivals.[10]

The image on the domestic scene before the “New Wave” was simple and genre distinguished – we hereby speak of the already established genres like “folk music” and “pop music”. With rock ‘n’ roll coming into the domestic music scenes in the sixties, this genre just included the “classic” rock ‘n’ roll (like The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, The Beatles, The Shadows, or domestic bands like Iskre (The Sparks), Siluete (The Silhouettes), Indeksi (The Indexes), and later Smak, Time, Pop masina (Pop machine), Generacija 5 (Generation 5), Riblja Corba (Fish Soup) etc.). Only with the new impulse that the “new wave” brought in the eighties, a deviation in genres is happening and it is leading to another perception of rock ‘n’ roll concept in this area, a truly indicator of significance for such a “wave”.

Like the name states, the “new wave” in the eighties was in the whole Yugoslav area a new way of expression, something that has never been there before, not only in music, but generally in arts (photography, comics, painting, theatre etc.). To be able to see it as something new and different, you need to look at this new thing regarding the current situation. In Yugoslav “new wave”, there has been the “classic” rock ‘n’ roll scene and there also have been popular rock ‘n’ roll musicians. As the biggest band in this comparative model we will have to mention Bijelo Dugme (The White Button). Members of this rock ‘n’ roll band that has been formed in the seventies were already considered superstars of the Yugoslav “sleepy” scene in the eighties. The appearance of new bands was visible at a Bijelo Dugme concert in September 1979, on Belgrade’s JNA stadium, where a band from Zagreb – Prljavo Kazaliste (Dirty Theatre) was the support. Although only short, their appearance has had a large impact on some people in the audience.

With the determination of “new wave” as of something that is different than classic rock, or something that is refreshing, alternative and represents an innovation to the current scene, you can see the start of identifications or the construction of the new wave phenomenon in Yugoslavia. Such an identification, regarding the prior rock ‘n’ roll form is not a local specialty, because in Britain, old rock stars were too cocky, fake and exclusive gear that has led to a start of a subversive rock ‘n’ roll meaning. As we mentioned, Great Britain was a good ground for the “new wave”, because the British scene impacted the Yugoslav scene the most.

The “new wave” is closely tied to punk as a new form of expression (bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clashed and The Damned etc.). In the late seventies, punk appeared in Britain and has already had the meaning of a new way of enjoying music (regarding classic rock). In musical terms, it is the “weakening and a deliberate reduction of melody and rhythm to some kind of a “primal” form of rock, to a stripped essence of this (more than) music that has marked half of the century”, while the “weakening” was made up by the energy with which the musicians played their songs live (hard playing, fast rhythms, loud noise etc.).[11] In Yugoslavia, late movies mention two bands as the “leaders” of punk: Pankrt from Slowenia and Prljavo Kazaliste from Zagreb, Croatia. At the same time, the new wave is developing, which is why these two terms are often used as synonyms. For example, Prljavo Kazaliste is considered the first punk group in this area (with their first album from 1979), but also as the first new wave group (sound changes in the album Crno bijeli svijet (Black-White world) from 1980) in SFRY. One of the most popular thing back then was also the implementation of ska elements.

In this view, Zagreb had advantages over Belgrade, where the new wave has finally arrived a year later with the album Paket aranzman (Package arrangement), a compilation of current bands from Belgrade, published in the year of 1981. Belgrade had a direct encounter with punk at a Pankrt concert in the program “Three Days of Young Slovenian Culture” in November 1977 in the Students Cultural Centre. The impact of the new wave on Belgrade’s music shore is only to be considered with three key groups: Elektricni orgazam (Electric Orgasm), Sarlo Akrobata (Karl the Acrobat) and Idoli (The Idols). These three bands were labeled with the new wave mark from the beginning, even though their sound was completely different from one another. One of the reasons these three bands are considered as new wave is the compilation in which all three bands participated. As three interesting groups that emerged nearly at the same time, with different musical sensibility (but thus with same musical marks – they all are different than the classic rock ‘n’ roll scene), they were too “new” to publish own albums, so the idea for a compilation was the right choice. Although all three groups were against a compilation, the desire for an own record was bigger.

The first of “Belgrade’s new wave three” (as they were called in the media) was Sarlo Akrobata in 1980, after them, Elektricni Orgazam came second. Idoli came least. Considering Elektricni orgazam, we can say that this was sort of a “British story”, because the British impact the group had gained with their frontman. The band published in the BAS (Belgrade’s Alternative Scene) a solo-album named Elektricni Orgazam in the year of 1981. Apart from the British influence, they had a singer that was spectacular on scene. Sarlo Akrobata was defined as three teenagers from Belgrade that met in front of the Student’s cultural center and you could see that they actually represent the clash of three different kind of energies. Their first (and only) album Bistriji ili tuplji covek (A Brighter or Dumber Man) was considered as one of the three best albums in 1981 by the readers of Dzuboks, a very important rock ‘n’ roll magazine. This proves that the specialty these band had to offer has found its way to the audience. The only different thing about Idoli was that they were the only one from these three bands that had a concept, which came from Dragan Papic, a photographer and a conceptual artist. Some even say that Dragan Papic made Idoli. The concept looked like this: they were first known through photos in youth magazines, the graffiti on city wally, and then by their sound, which was a very new concept back then.

Local characteristics of “new wave”

In the eighties, many changes started happening in pop music, which is related to industrial culture and mass consumption, even though it remains an active creation, meaningful and pleasuring process within a certain social system. Popular music implies the pervasion of music and sub genres, which was an already approved subcultural practice. Based on musical genres and their own fashions, a majority of subculture genres emerged, that are tied with adapted values, taste, clothing and behavior. The eighties are characterized through many musical genres and interaction with many changing styles, what led to changes in subcultural forms. The music industry is supporting the fast changing musical subcultures while creating clothes, details, music, ideas, values, media and shows for a specific subculture, which targeted a new mass audience, teenage consumers. This approves the thesis that musical subcultures in the eighties were created in a split second, without a developing process or the addition of iconic symbols.

International theoretic models of music subcultures, which are classified by the time of their appearance can’t be adequately applied to Yugoslavia because of the different social structures and the youth’s social status, as well as because of the lack of clearly polarized opposition models of subcultural styles. Prica states that the majority of subcultural styles in Yugoslavia is not original, it is either the result of the spreading of global ideological style movements, or the overtaken iconographic forms formed a “bad” ideology.[12] The mechanical takeover of styles without understanding the impact is the best example for the punk culture, whose ideology remained unfounded, while the style continued to live. But, the difference between the movement phase and articulation, or relatively the creation of new forms until the transformation phase into a subcultural style, as well as the fast changing styles led to the fact that for many future generations punk actually started the moment it disappeared – even in the creation phase, punk followers in the UK could not clearly understand its context.[13] In Yugoslavia, the borders between the subcultures are not precise – the different subcultures are cross-fading. In the new wave culture, we encounter a wide specter of combinations of large elements of other subcultural styles that have a new local meaning, which is also noticed by the new wave audience, as well as youth groups that are denying the visual rules for groups and extreme styles, labeling it as their own individualist, or even groups that show their way of rebellion against ruling styles through personification of good bourgeois taste. The cross-fading between subcultural styles is not only specific for Yugoslavia, but also for all the global events in the eighties in the western world, when the dominant subcultures are slowly fading away. Punk is considered to be the last great subculture. With the disappearance of punk, subcultures known as youth groups that are showing their denial through behavior, music and fashion are also slowly disappearing. Classic subcultures disappear the moment when they become the subject of sociological studies and when they become attractive for the open market – when they are commercialized.[14]

Language and Subjects

Speaking about language, we can call the local perception Yugoslav, because the official language was Serbo-Croatian and the bands have used this language for their expression, which is why the local (Yugoslav) new wave scene is different than the global (British and American), because their songs have been written in English language. One of the implications of performing in the mother tongue is the better connection with the local audience (acknowledging subjects, places and problems in the songs), but also the better feelings of local love between the musicians and the audience (we speak about “our” problems in “our” language). Therefore, an essential fact is the content of the songs, or the subjects about which the musicians speak, which is very important for the identification of the audience. In this case, the question of localization is reaching from the wider (Yugoslav) scene to more narrow scenes (Belgrade, Zagreb etc.). An indicator of this is the connection between certain groups that the protagonists of the new wave scene speak about. We could talk about the repertoire of Prljavo Kazaliste as an example – the members state that it’s the product of life experience of young boys that grew up in suburban Zagreb. On the other side, when you speak of Belgrade’s new wave scene, you can see a connection between these groups and the environment of Belgrade.

Everyday life in a certain place, as well as the forming and consuming of local things has an impact on the perception, but also on self-positioning in a wider environment. A song that is most often used in studies to show the connection of Belgrade and new wave is Zlatni Papagaj (Golden Parrot), made by Elektricni orgazam, where they speak about the café Zlatni papagaj, which by that time was the first café in town and also was the meeting place for the “crème de la crème” of society, the so called “sminkeri (posers)”. The characteristics of the posers were closely tied with good material statuses, which was reflected in buying expensive things, good cars and a greater attention to physical looks. An example in which the everyday life is reflected and crossed with new wave lyrics is the song Konobar (the Waiter), the first song from Elektricni orgazam, which speaks about bad experiences with waiters members of this band had in a Belgrade restaurant. Starting from everyday happenings, some things get certain (positive or negative) attention up unto social opportunities, sung in the language of the environment and about subjects that are so relevant, new wave formed a consciousness about the fact that the musical culture segment can be figured out and be seen as “something ours” or something that is “fairly close to us”, as a part of the local environment, so that the local population (primarily focused on the “youth”) can be equated through expression and identification.

A further explanation can be found in the specialty of the social and political situation in which the new wave folded in and also brought a certain authentic facts. In the new wave period, during the eighties, the president of SFR Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito dies, what directly impacted the social climate – the state structure starts to wabble. With the president passing away, the system is weakened and certain people create an idea of “freedom”, where new wave can also be interpreted as a view of gaining back the freedom. Perhaps we could explain the situation back then through comparisons with a latter (after the wars in the nineties and the fall of SFR Yugoslavia). More people are expressing a similar meaning when they talk about the possibilities that young musicians had in the eighties, in comparison with their colleagues. In that time (early eighties), the politics were less present in everyday life and in the media, which opened up a space for musicians for media promotion, while today we have a much worse situation in that view, because the media is overfilled with different informations The new wave in this sense gains a local meaning of free and different musical and cultural expressions, but also the moving of social borders. A constantly weaker state structure will happen in the next decade, which is also one of the reasons the perception of new wave and rock ‘n’ roll will be based on positive milestones.

The authentic facts of new wave are expressed as his local characteristics and the connection with the rest of the world (western world), which new wave did in fact do, regardless of the fact if we talk about certain artists and their connection with British artists (for example Elektricni Orgazam) or the time gap between the west and Belgrade or Zagreb, which in the new wave era was not so big, lasts for about a year or two. The impression was that Belgrade, through the scene, was considered as the “actual” city, in that sense that the strong new wave scene could mess with the world music scene. This confirms our implication about the importance of rock ‘n’ roll as a cosmopolitan identity marker in the determination of local identity. As an illustrative example in this case, we can use the review of the album Elektricni orgazam in the British music magazine NME, published in the year of 1981.

Rock music became a cultural good, and because the definition of rock includes musical communication, it not only implies just a production and consumption, but also artistic intentions of their creators – the visual aesthetic of its musical form that implies its image. The image of a rock group is the adequate concurrence of visual facts with musical and textual ideas. The essence of image, or the visual essence of rock is the picture design. Ideas about image as the main factor of medical representation brings alive many artistic and dramatic artists that form the image of the music through verbal and visual presentation as a result of many artistic views and the combination of those create a new visual aesthetic. Out of many global examples we must separate two fashion designers – McLaren & Westwood, who constructed the identity of Sex Pistols and launched the punk fashion[15] in order to emphasize the role that Yugoslav artists and designers had in the new wave era and impacted the Yugoslav new wave with musical innovations and new parts of visual aesthetics. There are also many exhibitions of the new wave, where it is presented with visual archived material that confirm the mentioned things.

Regarding television, you can separate a music video that played the major role in the placement of rock music for the wide audience, impacted the image of musicians and became the main transmitter of values and lifestyles that are presented to the youth. Also, it created an own aesthetic, which was independent from film and television and became a form of film that separated as a powerful medium for manipulation that is also used for marketing purposes even today. Therefore, we must take a look at the values, the messages and the interpretation of music videos typical for the new wave era. Some think that music videos and serials that Miljkovic and Dimitrijevic created have impacted the forming of new wave identity in that case that specific tastes of youth have been created, regarding the aesthetics of music videos that will gain more attention than the message in the videos.

In Belgrade’s scene, Miljkovic and Dimitrijevic have brought in unpredicted possibilities of individual expressions while staying in the time and space of new wave. They show, problematize, separate and deconstruct the values in television media with the music as the starting point, they make film experiments in the perception of themselves and the world. Their film picture is independent from discursive logic, it initiates the reality for the senses with the connection to the music, text and picture order in organic unity, which can be illustrated best with the New Year’s Eve shot Rock ‘n’ roller III, which was rated as the key event for the full affirmation of new wave in Belgrade. It is considered that they also initiated idea of the empty white studio in Europe.

A similar principal is applied to album covers of new wave music, between the wish for visual coordination of a certain concept, where the design of the cover with graphic analysis, pictures, symbols, color, text and typography will check which idea is transmitted through the picture and in which way it corresponds to the music and lyrics. Even if the lyrics of a song state main things the youth is interested in, the new wave covers can’t be classified because new wave hasn’t brought a unity of style in graphic design and has not established a rule that the best new wave bands had the best cover design that was adequate to their music (for example Azra), even if this function should lure the consumers and should form the image of the group.

In the essence of the design is the photography. One of the media that has clearly managed to form its own language is rock photography, which historically follows music expressions and communicates through clear and short messages and contains specific codes that clearly distinguish new wave, punk or rock photography. Rock photography positively impacts the affirmation of new wave music. In Zagreb this was done by the youth weekly magazine Polet and his basic idea that one should reflect the youth’s sensibility of the street, while in Belgrade this role was overtaken by the Student’s Cultural Centre and the competition for rock photography that popularized the development of photographic concepts and initiative. From many photographers that have impacted new wave with their specific style we must mention Dragan Papic, who, besides his authentic new wave expression in photography initiated the projects “Decaci (Boys)” and “ARA”, in which the strategy of communication guerilla produced many subversions in the media with the impact on the forming of identity in the construction of new wave.

New Wave and the punk culture

Punk bands have often applied a simple structure and arrangement of music, which was similar to garage bands from the sixties. English punk fan Sideburns has published paintings (which were later reproduced in Sniffin Glue) with three chords and the titles: “This is a chord, this is the second chord, and this is the third. Now, make a band”. The majority of punk bands has a simple verse-chorus structure with four quadral bars. This simplicity has formed the punk principle “do it yourself” and was against the rich and complex music of rock bands that were popular. In the beginnings of punk rock, people found this kind of play annoying, and the guitar solos that were very complicated were considered unnecessary. Nevertheless, guitar breaks were very common, even in early punk songs.

Punk songs are usually not longer than two and a half minutes, sometimes they are even thirty seconds long. The tempo of punk rock is much faster than rock. Typical punk instruments are drums, one or two electric guitars, bass guitar and vocals. The drums often sound dry and heavy, and most often they have just the basic set (snare, hanging toms, floor tom and bass drum), hi-hat and cymbals. The rhythm was very simple, with a quadra bar and low technique bass or snare, while in hardcore punk the section required a lot of practice and had a lot of tact changes. The bass is very simple and consists out of the main chord notes, but some modern bands like Rancid or Anti-Flag are putting much more afford into the bass technique. The guitar section most often uses high distortion power chords, but some bands use surf-rock accesses with lighter twanged chords. The production is minimal with the lyrics that sometimes are recorded on the home cassette deck.

Punk music was “aggressive”, with lyrics that attack any form of authority (Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen), and was much different from other music. While Pistols made a huge boom in England, in the USA the punk was spread by The Ramones, but in the USA punk was not that accepted. Until the year of 1980, many punk bands appeared. The most popular were The Clash, The Damned, Rats, Sham 69, Generation X, Stranglers, Crass and Misfits. Each one of these bands played punk, but they were all different so that Crass’ music was called anarchy-punk; Misfits played horror-punk; Damned played gothic-punk or gothic rock; the Exploited played hardcore punk, Sham 69, Cockney Rejects and Angelic Upstarts played Oi! Punk or street punk, Green Day and Queers played pop-punk and The Clash influenced many ska-punk bands like Operation Ivy, Mighty Mighty Bostons, Rancid, Voodo Glow Skulls and many more.

Punk arrives in Yugoslavia in the year of 1977. The British radio host John Peel recognizes quickly the potential of the first punk band Pankrt and releases their single in his influential show on BBC 1. Big music magazines like Melody Maker and New Musical Express are very interested in the development of the non-aligned music scene, which in the year Tito died (1980) starts to grow and sees itself as the most vital music scene east of Great Britain. People speak about new wave, a music genre that came out of punk, which is very close to punk, but this term in Yugoslavia also includes punk bands. In the consuming society of the west punk was considered a critic to society or the state. This is the meaning of the intimidation of society, but also of the ambivalent individual anarchism and the part of an anti-capitalistic, anti-soviet and anti-militaristic ideology. These meanings impacted certain lifestyles and the artistic production (the forming of independent labels and independent distribution). In Yugoslavia, we must ask – how could punk and new wave bands develop under the terms of the self-ruling socialism?

When we ask ourselves the questions how music groups have political meanings, the first thing we come up with are the lyrics, which in their semantic meaning can include reports of the real world. In the lyrics of a song, you can see a wide spectrum of irritation, provocation and – more or less – critics. Between songs, you can use the time to contextualize songs and comment actual events and problems. Other things you can do through para-lyrics or mentioning, with additional texts on the covers and packages, booklets, interviews or speeches, where the design of the cover can also have communicative ingredients. Not less important, you can use the interviews to place your views into the world or show certain values.

Nevertheless, the leading roles in punk have not been played by the lyrics only, but also by the gestures and habits (of both, musicians and followers). So it’s not only about what, but also about how one does play something or sing about something. With this in mind, even the Yugoslav anthem, when played with respect, can have a different meaning than when it is quoted by Disciplina Kicme (Spine discipline) in their song Pecat u jednom stolu (Stamp on a table), played with the bass guitar on distortion, especially not in socialistic times, because the melody of the Yugoslav anthem is similar to the Polish anthem. Punk habits, that have been shown in the concert or the look (clothes and hairdo), has the goal to distinguish the person the most from other people or “posers”. In Yugoslavia, there was a wide spread stereotype of an adapted nerd or bureaucrat. The performance in the early eighties gains a spreading in the media through the music video; borders between music, art and theatre are just wiped out.

In the beginning, punk bands had problems with censorship in most capitalistic states, even though production requirements and receptive contexts were clearly different. The British Sex Pistols for example, were forbidden to play, so that they played under pseudonyms (similar to the Yugoslav band Laibach). Their hit Anarchy in the UK was not allowed on radio. Crass had problems with the police and the Scotland Yard because of their political bizarre lyrics. In Tito’s self-ruling socialism, there hasn’t been any central institution for censorship, nor there has been censorship before or after an artistic process – it was always the final product that has been rated. Commissions formed in the late seventies were concentrated on lyrics; their form has not been that important. This will prove to be very good for Yugoslav punk music, whose most important artistic value was the affirmation of socialistic paroles. If the state labels find some production is very risky, Yugoslav bands could move the place of production abroad – most to Italy. But because every Yugoslav republic had its own rules, we could observe a large recording tourism between Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia.

The self-censorship reached to the redactions of radio station. In spreading and popularization of international punk and new wave, as well as of the domestic new wave, two stations played a major role. The first was a Slovenian student made radio station Radio Student, founded in 1969 out of a student’s movement, and the Belgrade radio station Studio B. The editors of the state’s labels, that intuitively opened the borders of the things that seemed unacceptable for the regime pressured people to change some lines in the lyrics or even to abandon some titles, just to avoid the taxing of the record (we can observe economic reasons for this kind of pressure here too). People made agreements about how the lyrics should be written. Most often, planned words and lines are exchanged for something that just came up the bands mind. In the worst case, not a single word would be left from the original. An example for this is the Yugoslav punk anthem Narodna Pjesma (People’s Song), made by the band Paraf. Thus, in concerts, bands would sing the original versions of their songs, which is why they have spread so fast. Bands that had an already known affinity towards political lyrics had to present their setlist to a police officer before the concert. Music with nationalistic symbols or religious symbols, which could hurt the brotherhood and unity of the Yugoslav people, as well as some form of disregards towards Tito or the NOB (Narodno oslobodilacka borba – People’s fight for freedom), that was the founding piece of socialistic Yugoslavia was as equal as a taboo brake.

In extreme cases, the organizers would interrupt and even end concerts. In 1983, when Laibach was performing in the musical biennial under the motto “We create Future” simultaneously played a film about the history of Yugoslavia named “Revolucija jos traje” (Revolution is still happening) with pornographic clips in the background, the organizers had to be supported by the police and even by the Yugoslav People’s Army. Bands often managed to explain their actions on so called informative interviews, because they already had constipated something similar and the police was more likely to scare them than to punish them. This is also important for the espionage of some band members, which was so obvious that one gained the impression that the subjects should know that they are being watched. One method of repression that was not against the principles of the Rule of Law was the marginalization, which also was one of the favorite method. This means that only a certain amount of people had access to concert halls (the tinier the better) and that some artist were excluded from mass media. In rare cases, placements of wrong informations should lower the interests for a certain subject.

These are only the problems some radical groups had to face. The protagonists of the Yugoslav punk and new wave knew the of this system and were able to follow them, even if they have been pushing the borders from time to time, which, in Slovenia were different than in other republics. In Serbia, where dissidents could appear anytime, you had to be very careful. In general, these were young apolitical students or young students that wanted to create a free space and their own identity. This implied ironical states against the current culture that was considered stiff and old fashioned, while not being against Tito’s socialism. In cases where the system was not repressive enough for rebels, one could cheat from time to time.

After the separation between Tito and Stalin in the year of 1948, the socialistic Yugoslavia went another way, apart from the countries of the Eastern Block, not only in political, but also in cultural sense. The government has opened their borders for Anglo-American influences in the fifties, especially for jazz, which were primarily forbidden because it was believed that they were capitalistic. In the sixties, rock ‘n’ roll arrived in Yugoslavia. A large domestic market of soft rock and hits is developing, where the songs were sung in Serbo-Croatian. In 1968, a complete turnover is made with the first Yugoslav self-written rock records. The crossover with traditional folk music and rock created a completely new subgenre – the so called Yugo-Rock. Until the mid-seventies, those songs only dealt with love thematic.

All this changed in 1975 with the Slovenian Buldozer (Bulldozer), a provocative rock theatre that irritated the party and their politicians in public. Even if Buldozer was a freak group following Frank Zappa’s steps, it became a major role model for future generations of musicians. RTB and Jugoton have refused to play the second Buldozer-album “Zabranjeno plakatiranje” (Forbidden Posting), which contained suspicious black humor. When the record finally was published by the Slovenian label Helidon, the frighteningly awaited scandal did not happen.

The founding of “the first punk band behind the iron curtain in 1977 was made on purpose. The Slovenian sociology student Gregor Tomac was attracted to the punk phenomenon through articles in Times and Newsweek magazines. After this, he travels to London to studies punk and to gather as many records as possible, because they were not available in Yugoslavia or appeared years later. In the meantime, the future vocalist Peter Lovsin was looking for future band members. The band that called themselves Pankrt was hardly convinced that they were about to be forbidden after the first performance, which proved to be wrong. They have impressed the audiences on future concerts, especially in Zagreb or Belgrade.[16]

Pankrt have recorded their first single with provocative titles like Lublana je bulana (Ljubljana is sick) and Lepi in prazni (Beautiful but empty) in Italy. This record was published in 1978 in 2000 copies by the Student’s cultural center SKUC and was not available over public channels; thus, it was sold out after just a week. In contrast, the „contra-revolutionary“first album Dolgcajt was distributed in 1980 by the state label RTV LJ; the corresponding radio station did not play any of Pankrt’s titles though. Two major representatives of punk appeared in Rijeka – Parafon and in Novi Sad – Pekinska patka (Peking Duck); the members of Pekinska Patka have been listening to punk in night shows on Radio Luxembourg. Paraf, that was founded in the same time as Pankrt were inspired by photos of British punk bands in the Melody Maker magazine; they did not know anything about the music.[17]

The scene in Zagreb was less known for punk as for their rock and new wave scene. Thus, the band Prljavo Kazaliste from Zagreb manages to publish the first Yugoslav single with the word punk on their cover – even though it was mentioned, weeks later, Pankrt’s first single was the first published vinyl with punk music written on it. Zagreb had two other successful new wave bands with Haustor and Film. A true star of this scene became Branimir (Dzoni – Johnny) Stulic with his band Azra: they held concerts for seven straight days in the Youth Club Josip Kulisic in Zagreb in 1981. Stulic, who was older, has composed a wide repertoire of complex ballads for the acoustic guitar since the seventies. Under the influence of the first Pankrt concert in Zagreb in 1977, he gave up his hippie image and modified his play style. Even though Azra can’t be considered as rock, the plastic and also political colored descriptions of environment were trendsetters of a generation.

The Belgrade scene has offered a late example of creative and energetic bands in the 80s (Sarlo Akrobata, Idoli and Elektricni orgazam). Hereby we must mention that a concert of the English punk band The Roots – with Paraf from Rijeka as support – in the Student’s cultural center (SKC) in January of 1980 is interpreted as the initial capsule for the forming of bands and the spreading of the new music style. Young bands had a chance to rehearse in the basement of the SKC, which has not been used.

State’s music festivals across the Federation were very important for the development of the Yugoslav scene. Soon after the Youth festival in Subotica in 1980, Jugoton has introduced new bands as Idoli, Elektricni Orgazam and Sarlo Akrobata in the sampler Beograd: Paket Aranzman – this album is the most important album of the Yugoslav new wave. After that, bands appeared in short terms and had their fans not only in their city, but in the whole republic. Young people were (with the help of youth and music magazines) always informed about new bands from different places and republics. The thing that party officers preached with minor success was developed out of its own dynamic: the brotherhood and unity was kept alive with musicians and fans gathering around and traveling from concerts to concerts, going over the republic borders in any means possible. The common pop culture tied the industrialized regions of Yugoslavia, regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation and mother language. You can say that the network in this interactive scene was closely tied together.

And thus, the brotherhood and unity of Yugoslav people was weak, especially after Tito’s death in 1980. Student’s riots in March of 1981 in Kosovo disturbed some editors. Jugoton decided in the last moments that Haustor had to give up the song Radnicka klasa odlazi u raj (The working class is going to heaven) on their first album; the already printed covers were destroyed. Also Azra’s song Poljska u mome srcu (Poland in my heart), which was put on vinyl without restrictions, couldn’t be played in the TV-show Nedeljno popodne (Sunday Afternoon) because of the events in Pristina. The paranoid atmosphere becomes obvious in a statement of the magazine for security and state’s self-defense, where the graffiti “PUNK” was interpreted as Pomozite Ustanak Naroda Kosova (Help Kosovo’s people with their uprising).

In Slovenia, where the critical alternative scene becomes even stronger, the atmosphere becomes more and more nervous. The Youth Socialist Union was pressured from both sides: the Communists were confronting them with no success in the pacification of the youth, and the scene representatives have demanded a new orientation and the pluralization of the union. The Youth Union had nothing else to do then to support punk, because in contrast the scene, which was not greedy for criticism could turn against them, but, when thousands of young people would articulate only with punk the state’s roll of the Union would be questioned. Also, the Union came to the conclusion that punk’s social critic is more than less justified. The Slovenian affirmation strategy towards punk led to conflicts on the XI congress of the Youth Socialistic Union of Yugoslavia in 1982.[18]

The so called Nazi-punk afar has sharpened the conflict between the Slovenian youth and conservative Communists: in November 1981 they launched a campaign in the newspapers, accusing the members of the band 4 R for intentions to form a party with fascistic programs. Although in 1984 everyone accused was free, the citizens were angry on the scene, because punk was introduced as fascistic or as a tried program of influence from the capitalistic west. Slovenia’s punk scene never recovered after this, and the repression of the police and school was stronger.

With the economic crisis in 1982 that has led to lack of certain goods – especially fuel – the optimism and the happiness of the prior years have faded. The scene was separated into elite (avant-garde) projects – such as the second dark album from Elektricni Orgazam – Lisce prekriva Lisabon (Leaves cover Lisbon) – and commercial performances. Ambitious bands had unrealistic career hopes in the English speaking area; they tried and went on tours with no endings. With the fatigue, they faded and the starting energy and creativity was lost, so that later albums of new wave, thus the still high selling numbers were not as influential as earlier. The mid-eighties were marked by bands like Ekatarina II, or Ekatarina Velika with Milan Mladenovic or Disciplina Kicme with Dusan (Koja) Kojic; both bands emerged from the separation of Sarlo Akrobata. The lyrics were more serious and the expressions were harder and more depressive.

Throughout Yugoslavia, Idoli began to appear with Serbian orthodox symbolic, starting in 1982 on their album Odbrana I poslednji dani (Defense and the last days), and the cover was written in Cyrillic, which was leaning on the Serbian culture. Even if by that point one such game was an ambivalent provocation (the member Vlada Divljan insists that it was just about denying the socialistic dogma), the album was not very popular outside of Serbia. Also, Prljavo Kazaliste from Zagreb has played with Croatian patriotism since the beginning. Often interpreted as nationalistic, the song Mojoj majci (To my mother), the band was firing up the nationalistic atmosphere of Croatia in the late eighties; in the nineties, the band went on tour through the Croatian diaspora. The support of nationalistic intentions, like in the case of the band Grc (Spasm) from Rijeka evoked the apocalyptic visions of the bloody end of Yugoslavia, that were made in martial songs like Nocas se Beograd pali (Tonight, Belgrade will burn) or Noz u mojoj ruci (Knife in my hand).

A problem that can’t be let out of the erosion of socialistic Yugoslavia is the generation’s conflict. Young people that were celebrated every year on the Day of Youth as the future of socialism has found it very hard to identify themselves with idols of World War II, that was built in socialistic Yugoslavia. The discrepancy between private thoughts and public contents was growing bigger. The stiff communistic rituals were not modern enough; paroles were becoming phrases and did not reach those they were intended for. Punk and new wave songs were putting them back – although affirmative, but with ironic distance – as a weird echo. Many party members still remained suspicious towards rock music – even during the liberation of the seventies.

The so called Nazi-poster afar has destroyed a socialist’s state tradition in the 1987 – the carrying of the relay on the Day of Youth. It was Slovenia’s turn to build up the youth’s relay and the poster for the Day of Youth, as well as to begin with the carrying. But, in the meantime, an artistic collective has built up around the band Laibach, under the name Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK – New Slovenian Art (Ger.) that has taken over the structure of a political movement or a party and based their work on the manifest of Laibach. The new collectivism, a subgroup of the NSK has filed in a sketch for the Poster of the Day of Youth in a yearly competition, and the commission has accepted this suggestion. Later they found out that it was a modified version of a Nazi-poster from Richard Klein, only the symbols have been changed: the Nazi-flag was exchanged for the Yugoslavian flag and the German eagle above the Swastika was exchanged due to the Yugoslav Coat of Arms and finally the torch was exchanged with the relay. Although Richard Klein’s poster was the modified version of a Norwegian poster for the Olympic games of 1932, the commission was attacked because it liked the “fascistic aesthetic”. The poster from the New collectivism was truly a retrospective of identical accuses of punk and the NSK, that provoked a paranoid reaction of the totalitarian culture. They did not end up in prison, which has strengthen the Slovenian civil society for the independence of Slovenia.

The new youth culture in Yugoslavia was – as of one in a socialistic state – not only tolerated, but also supported, which made her a public phenomenon. With the creation of punk and the new wave, the below mentioned facts had a major role:

  • The import of international punk on three levels:
  • Multipliers (radio stations and magazines)
  • Records (by traveling abroad)
  • Bands (with the copying of the new styles and tours of foreign bands through Yugoslavia)
  • The targeted support of young bands with the infrastructure of socialistic youth unions, that was non-profit (rehearsal places, concert halls, youth press, festivals)
  • Actor’s protections:
  • Internal protection from liberal officers in different organs,
  • Public protection from intellectuals on key positions in the government
  • The lack of censorship and inconsequences
  • The generation’s conflict
  • The state socialistic crisis, socialistic values, economic and federative situations (powerless centers and a weaken state).

Like in the west, the subversive potential of music soon became neutralized through commercialization. Only in Slovenia, an elite circle of artists and intellectuals gathers around the band Laibach, which despite the “fascistic aesthetics” afar – and with all tries of repression and limitation – still manages to win this process. In Slovenia, the thesis was dominant that the harsh critic of punk in the eighties brought alive all social movements.

Nevertheless, the thesis that punk has ionized political meanings and deconstructed the ideological substance of socialistic self-ruling was even more powerful. The alternative culture was raised from the musical scene and caused a pluralization of lifestyle; in which way this has led to the democratization of society still remains a question – finally, the weakening of the censorship has brought alive all nationalistic currents. Was the integration strategy of punk inside the structures of socialistic youth – against the resistance in the own ranks – based on a central political decision and in which way did nationalistic movements in the governments of other republics after Tito’s death have used the subversive potential of the musical scene in their fight with Belgrade, remains an open question for further investigation.


The new wave was created in the mid-seventies at the same time with punk rock and in the beginning, it was the synonym for punk rock. Later, when it incorporated aspects of electronic and experimental music, disco and pop from the 60s with a lot of punk, it was defined as an opposition to punk and commercial rock. In Yugoslav rock, we find that the name new wave was also used for punk, as well as that in Great Britain we speak about punk as the new wave or the new English wave. The new wave in Yugoslavia has begun in the late 70s and brought alive new sensibility of the young generation, which wanted to express themselves in a different way. It was separated as an own genre regarding rock, in its performance as well as in its own ideology.

In the moment the Yugoslav socialistic society was in a culminating development and in the unstable political situation after Tito’s death, new wave has offered a new cultural model, with which the youth would define and identify themselves. In Yugoslavia, new wave had a role that goes over the musical category and is not only tied to music, but also to the expansion of youth subcultures in late 70s and in early 80s. They were formed around student’s and youth centers in large cities such as Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana and Rijeka. Today, we consider the new wave as a result of punk, which is closely tied to this genre, because in Ex-Yugoslavia, it also involves punk bands. In the consuming society of the west punk was considered a critic to society or the state. This is the meaning of the intimidation of society, but also of the ambivalent individual anarchism and the part of an anti-capitalistic, anti-soviet and anti-militaristic ideology. These meanings impacted certain lifestyles and the artistic production.

In the last decade we notice a very nostalgic way to speak about the music scene in Yugoslavia’s 80s. It is a fact that Yugoslav new wave music played a major role in the reception of the western rock music and created things that are considered important in today’s rock music, and it is also true that this period was the last decade of the so called Yugoslav cultural space, in other words, it is the last moment for freedom of expression before the events that will follow, which is the reason why this nostalgic backtracks to the eighties have a far bigger meaning than only musical.

This analysis shows that the new wave was interpreted as something domestic, and also that this is the element that ties certain groups of people and forms a consciousness about local things (even today), which is why it is a local musical and cultural phenomenon. The new wave scene has brought up own interpretations of this phenomenon, with their own authentic views. Thanks to this productions, and thanks to the people that are recognizing themselves with these structures, music becomes an important social phenomenon.

Just like everyday musical practice modifies certain space, it is important to notice the perception of a certain genre, because “musical genres often play a huge role in expression and determination of a certain identity”. In this case, you can consider music not only a reflection of social identity, but also as its own important constructive element. Only the interests that even today exists for the new wave is a strong indicator that this phenomenon was a local phenomenon (either of Yugoslavia or just for Belgrade for example). If you have to start from the assumption that it’s the musical culture imported from Britain or the USA, it was still able to form own authentic expressions and specialties, not only in sound, language, lyrics and songs, but also in gathering places, partying and technical equipment.

Although the new wave is considered as a Yugoslav phenomenon, films talk about clear distances between the scenes in Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana, with a strong accent on the cross-fading of scenes, as well as about gatherings, exchanges of ideas etc.. To be able to get the “power”, rock ‘n’ roll first had to be accepted from the locals, to then later be modified and in the end “ready” for the forming of local identity.


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  1. Trifunovic, Lj (1986). Vibrations. Belgrade: IIC SSO of Serbia.
  1. Žikić, A. (1999). Fatal merry-go-round. A chronic of Belgrade Rock’n’Roll, Part I : 1959-1979. Belgrade: Geopoetika,
  1. Žikić, A. (2009). What are genres good for? The separation, distances and distinction in the structural and cognitive anthropology on musical culture. In: Structural anthropology today. Thematic chronicles in honor to Claude Levi-Strauss, ed. Dragana Antonijevic, pp 326-361. Belgrade: The Serbian genealogical center and department for ethnology and anthropology of the philosophy faculty.

[1] Shumway, D. (1991). Rock & Roll as a Cultural Practice. The South Atlantic Quar-terly 90 (4): 139-155, p. 141.

[2] Cateforis, T. (2009). The Death ofNew Wave. San Diego: Syracuse University.

[3] Timotijević, S. (1983). New wave photography in rock. In: Albahari, D (ed.), THE OTHER SIDE, the almanac of new wave in Yugoslavia. Belgrade: IIC SSO of Serbia, Belgrade.

[4] Kostelnik, B. (2004). My life is the new wave, interview book. Zagreb: Fraktura.

[5] Trifunović, Lj. (1986). Vibrations. Belgrade: IIC SSO of Serbia.

[6] Raković, A. (2012). Rock ‘n’ roll in Yugoslawia from 1956-1968 (A Challenge for a socialistic society). Belgrade. Arhipelag.

[7] Žikić, A. (1999). Fatal merry-go-round. A chronic of Belgrade Rock’n’Roll, Part I : 1959-1979. Belgrade: Geopoetika, p. 35.

[8] Raković, A. (2012). Rock ‘n’ roll in Yugoslawia from 1956-1968 (A Challenge for a socialistic society). Belgrade. Arhipelag.

[9] Frit, S. (1987). The sociology of rock. Belgrade: IIC and CIDID, p.20.

[10] Ristivojević, M. (2011). The correlation of music and place with the example of Belgrade’s „new wave“ in rock ‘n’ roll. Ethno-anthropological problems, Belgrade 6(4), 931-947.

[11] Prica, I. (1991). The youth sub-culture in Belgrade. Symbolic practice. Belgrade: EI SANU, p. 61.

[12] Ibid., p. 16.

[13] Perasović, B. (2001). Urban tribes and the sociology of subcultures in Croatia. Zagreb. Croatian University press, p. 235.

[14] Clark, D. (2003). The Death andLife ofPunk, The Last Subculture, pp. 223-36. In: David Muggleton and Rupert Weinzierl (eds.). The Post-Subcultures Reader. Oxford: Berg.

[15] Savage, J. (1991). England’s Dreaming, Sex Pistols and Punk Rock. London: Faber & Faber.

[16] Tomc, G. (2004). We Will Rock YU. Popular Music in the Second Yugoslavia. U: Đurić, D., Šuvaković, M. (ur.). Impossible Histories. Historical Avant-gardes, Neo-avant-gardes, and Post-avant-gardes in Yugoslavia, 1918-1991. London: MIT Press, pp. 442–465.

[17] Savić, S., Todorović, I. (2006). The punk version of Novi Sad. A Contribution to the punk-hardcore scene of Novi Sad. Novi Sad: Student’s cultural center.

[18] Tomc, G. (1994). The Politics of Punk. U: Benderly, Jill; Kraft, Evan (ur.). Independent Slovenia. Origins, Movements, Prospects. New York: St. Martin’s Press, pp. 113–134.

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