Today is a very special day for Radio Ara, as you are well aware. Thirty years, the big three-oh, is nothing to scoff at. Especially if we are *not* the ones doing the scoffing. But seeing as this here show is supposed to be dealing with a very specific part of the world and the music thereof, let’s take a look at what passed as contemporary music in the Balkans in 1992, just about the time Radio ARA came about.
To be honest, 1992 wasn’t a particularly happy time for the region. The siege of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina had begun in April and the war in Croatia was in full swing, letting the world know that Yugoslavia was no more. But while the world might have known it, The Eurovision Song contest was late to the party. 1992 was the last time a country that went by the name of Yugoslavia participated in the show. Fittingly, with this awful faux-French cafe tune.
New countries, new music
This particular musical crime aside, it was more than obvious in 1992 that Yugoslavia had gone the way of the dodo. But the countries that were left it is wake were only getting started. Some in a more relaxing way than others. In Slovenia, which escaped the Yugoslav carnage relatively unscathed the year before, people wanted to have fun (and not think about the hellhole its economy had become at the time). Which is why this particular tune, a cover of a 1960s Slovenian hit, was so popular.
Croatia, as you might have guessed, was something else entirely. The country had been in the middle of a protracted conflict which influenced its music production as well. On one hand, it produced some questionable quote/unquote patriotic music. On the other hand the year 1992 gave some of the best punk Croatia had to offer. Like, ever.
In some ways, Serbian bands had it even worse in the early 1992. With their country increasingly becoming the pariah in the Balkans and wider Europe, they found their world had shrunk significantly. Nevertheless, at some of them continued to somehow release albums. Case in point Električni Orgazam, the Electric Orgasm, which released a compilation album in 1992.
Music under siege
But 1992 was probably the worst year to do music in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The country’s premier cultural centre, the capital of Sarajevo, was literally under siege by Bosnian Serb forces. Still, the fact that music production endured was even a subject of scientific research. That said, it was mostly a sad affair. Either the songs were patriotic and propagandist in nature or they were just… you know… sad. The curious exception was a citizen-band called Mjesečari, with a satirical track that was apparently one of the most popular tunes in Sarajevo in 1992
All this apart, North Macedonia, or – as it was known at the time – The Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia, was living in a sort of paralel reality. Escaping armed conflict but still very much aware of it, the country – at least its capital Skopje – was the home to some of the most progressive music of the era. Including, for example, a trash-metal band Sanatorium that is still around. But 1992 saw a very curious hip-hop duo called Peace Brothers, release their only album and get some serious airplay.
And there you have it. Depending on where in the Balkans you were in 1992, you will remember the birth-year or Radio ARA quite differently. Some of us remember it primary by Dolce Far Niente by Zoran Predin, pop-rock hit that also served as the theme to the film All The Way, And Then Some, a 1930s crime drama/comedy.
And that is all the time we have for today. Happy Birthday to Radio ARA, 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.