This week we’ll be rapping to the Bosnian Beat. It may be just this presenter’s bubble speaking, but Bosnia-Herzegovina is a particularly fertile ground for Balkan hip-hop. Especially with with its interwoven layers upon layers of history, social change and suffering, all interspersed with sheer unadulterated humanity and civility. Case in point a collective that goes by the name of Helem Nejse.
In case you’re wondering, “helem nejse” is colloquial Bosnian phrase which more or less means “it is what is it”. Which is a quintessentially Bosnian way of handling constant change. Especially if change is as often for the worse as it is for the better. Helem Nejse is a three-member collective from Bosnian capital Sarajevo. Since their inception in 2014 they have become a centre of gravity for music, activism and social justice.
Helem Nejse are: MCs/vocalists Amir Čular and Amer Čanković and DJ Tihomir Radić. And even though they may appear to be just three guys from a Sarajevo banlieu, their media appearance is as crafted and managed as any you’d come from a professional musical act anywhere in the world. Albeit with a definite self-deprecatory Bosnian twist.
During the eight years – and counting – of their existence, Helem Nejse released three albums. All three have become a stable of urban Bosnian culture. This goes especially for the humorously named Gluten Tag, released in 2020 just before the pandemic. They are also the undisputed hip hop champions of YouTube in Bosnia-Herzegovina
One of the reasons Helem Nejse is so popular and influential is the fact that they are not merely a hip hop collective. They are primarily that, of course, but they are also a hub of creativity where hip hop music is just one of their products. They also produce a massively popular cartoons and radio shows where they tackle issues facing Bosnian society. And just to round things up, they also have a long-running theatre production going titled Sarajevo Terrorism Days
All in all, Helem Nejse are more than worthy to be the torch bearers of Bosnian hip hop, a torch that was lit more than two decades ago by the likes of Edo Maajka. It is no overstatement to say that the past twenty-odd years have seen the development of a style that can rightfully be called Bosnian hip-hop, that is very much based in reality, rich in lyrical and musical metaphor and draws heavily from both western inner-city music as well as the unmistakably Balkan musical heritage and tonal specifics. Even more importantly, Helem Nejse and by far not the only one of such bands.
We will talk more about other in some other episode of Balkan Express. But for now, check out Helem Nejse’s music on YouTube, Spotify, and wherever you get your music from, and Balkan Express will be back next week.
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of, you guessed it, the Balkans. Forget gusle and tamburice, this show is about rock, pop and a sense of humour. Well, at least there’s guitars. On air most Tuesdays in a new-and-improved time-slot at 1100 hrs. Usually. Your train conductor is Aljaž (aka @pengovsky) who once did the world a solid and decided never to sing again in public. Which is why he ended up doing radio.
TuesdaysWith : Aljaž Every Tuesday at 10.00
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of the Balkans.