Musical mentality without smoking

  • 2011-12-15
  • By Sam Logger

GOT A LIGHT?: The No Smoking Orchestra brings its upbeat optimistic show to Vilnius.

RIGA - People are used to the fact that popular culture offers various ways for how to relax and enjoy one’s spare time. Music is one of them. However, in the environment where music likes to have its rules and standards, it appears that some artists choose to go in different directions, opposing the main factories of popular music. There we can see Emir Kusturica and The No Smoking Orchestra, a melodically expressive musical union which fascinates with its mentality. The band is going to play its only concert in the Baltics at Pramogu Arena in Vilnius on Dec. 29.

Created in 1980 in Sarajevo, former Yugoslavia and today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, the band was known for its musical manner, which stressed the territory’s cultural resistance movement called ‘New Primitivism’ and the radio and television show “Top Lista Nadrealista.” The No Smoking band, with the original name literally translated as ‘Zabranjeno Pusenje’ in the Serbo-Croatian language, soon became a national hit when they released their first album “Das ist Walter,” with the chart breaker “Zenica blues” up front, selling more than 100,000 copies in Yugoslavia. Moving away from the most popular music styles of that time, members of the band performed their techno-rock, full of serious and sometimes satirical lyrics alongside with their musical approach, mostly combining folk music and garage rock.

Yet the success of the second album was cut short after comments on the statesman Marshal Tito’s death were criticized by the media, resulting in a boycott of the album and tour. By 1989 they released another two albums, but the war in the territory stopped the activities of the band. One half of it moved to Belgrade, Serbia, and was renamed “No Smoking Orchestra,” while the other part of the band continued to play under the old name. The band saw its second wind at the end of the 1990s, offering a place in the band to the independent filmmaker Emir Kusturica and building their international reputation.

Emir Kusturica and the band are obviously an interesting addition to the music, laughing about common standards and reflecting their own point of view. For the most conservative part of society, the insight on things they present may seem too open and impolite, as they easily showcase their emotions about the processes that happen around them without any remorse that somebody may not like these comments. Moreover, they feel it is their responsibility to speak out loudly. Probably their directness has made the band true and credible. Their simplicity, on the other hand, makes sure that the music they play is understood by everyone who attends their concerts. Still, the prospective visitor to the Vilnius concert must be aware that there is a small chance to see a show which will impersonate the calmness of Christmas as the band’s music is all about fun, Yugoslavian rhythms, Gypsy spirit and provocation.

In the end it can be said that the music surprises with its mentality. It is able to reach the roots of the personality and explore feelings which can somehow be described as joy in tough times. Remembering that many tunes of the band had been released in the period which was not easy for the nations of former Yugoslavia, it is strange to see that melodies of songs are mostly up tempo, shows are full of great emotions, rather than complaints about a sad destiny. And this may really be the biggest advantage of a concert where the roughest experience possible is left in the background, letting entertainment be the front-runner.

Ticket information can be found on