Today we are going to take a look at a band we must count among the dearly departed. If only because they chose so. Starting out as a student punk rock project, it went on to perform alongside contemporary musical greats like Jan Kooper, Brian Eno and Bono of U2. The name of the band is, or rather, was, Sikter.
The Siege of Sarajevo
You’ve probably realised by now that this here show featured an above average number of bands claiming to be “one of the regions most successful acts”. Part of that is due to the self-aggrandizing that is so often associated with the Balkans. But part of it is due to the fact that the sheer amount of contemporary culture – especially music – emanating from the region is exceptional. Especially given the relatively small size of the area. Be that as it may, Sikter definitely were one of the most successful Bosnian acts.
Sikter started out in 1990, at the tail end of the former Yugoslavia when it was already pretty much obvious that the country is going to hell in a handcart. But what started out as a punk-rock cover band, was turning into a alt-rock band of some influence during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Specifically, it was the band’s continued performance in spite of the siege of Sarajevo that got them noticed by Western journalists. This ultimately made the MTV take notice. The then-ubiquitous music channel aired their track Pain in Bran for several months in 1995
At some point in 1995 Sikter managed to get out of the besieged Bosnian capital for a gig in London. But they never managed to get back as the Sarajevo airport became inoperable. They settled and started playing in Amsterdam, coming into contact with Jan Kooper and Brian Eno.
Opening for U2 in Bosnia
Back in the day virtue signaling was not just something Tucker Carlson and Andre Neil lost their shit over. Plenty of other musicians wanted to help out this alt-rock band who somehow made it out of Bosnia. Which is how Sikter did a tour with Italian star Vasco Rossi and ultimately met Bono. U2 famously held a concert in Sarajevo soon after the siege and the war was over. Sikter opened for the Irish band.
Even though the war-torn nineties were their formative, and arguably, best years, it took Sikter until the year 2000 to record their first album. Appropriately, it was Brian Eno who helped record and produce Now, Always, Never. This was followed two years later with Queen of Disco which also heralded a shift towards a more, well, disco style. Two additional albums followed in 2005 and 2009.
Sikter’s lineup changed dramatically over the years. Overall, the band had as many as twenty-one members. Singer and keyboard player Enes Zlatar was the only one from the beginning until the end. And the end came one February evening, with a farewell concert in Bosnian national TV.
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.