Hip-hop picket held in front of government

  • 2001-04-05
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - A popular Lithuanian hip-hop band, ZAS, held an unusual protest near Lithuanian government buildings on March 28, demanding that the government buy all the copies of their latest album.

This stunt was in part a promotion of their latest album entitled "Taupa."

Taupa is a branch of Lithuania's Maxima-Media-Minima supermarket chain. Taupa supermarkets claim to sell their foodstuffs and other products cheaper than other supermarkets in Lithuania.

But the picket song was not about Taupa supermarkets, nor about the album itself.

ZAS promotes themselves as a scandalous group who know how to enjoy life. During one of their concerts, they crucified one of their members, Bilas Sapiro, who is Jewish. Just for a fun, of course.

ZAS said that the picket near the government building on Gedimino Avenue was inspired by the farmers of the Suvalkija region in southwest Lithuania.

The Suvalkija farmers blockaded a highway near the Polish border on March 27 and 28. This time truck drivers together with police broke up the blockade.

The farmers demanded the government's attention to the poor situation of the Marijampole Sugar Company.

The protests angered drivers and about 80 percent of Lithuanian farmers, who sell their beets to refineries in other Lithuanian towns belonging to Danisco Sugar, a competitor of Marijampole.

ZAS, faithful to its style, decided to mock Suvalkijans as well as all the farmers who protested against the import of cheap Western agricultural products. Sarunas and Ursule, two comics in their sixties from the popular Baltijos TV show "Nekenciu Reklamos" ("I Hate Advertisements") joined the protest.

Sarunas held a poster stating, "We demand that the government buy all copies of the ZAS album "Taupa" until 17:35!"

"Don't allow foreigners to take the Lithuanian market. Tours of foreign musicians should be forbidden," shouted ZAS vocalist Linas Mazeika, laughing.

Mazeika is known not only to ZAS fans as his face was advertising Taffel chips on every corner in Vilnius. Several dozen spectators gathered around the protest picket. Most of them laughed and applauded.

ZAS musicians set a poster with the word "Sting" on fire. The popular British singer, Sting, will hold a concert in Zalgiris football stadium in Vilnius this summer.

Mazeika explained the anti-foreign sentiments of the protest. He reminded people that ZAS wanted to stage some concerts for the rapidly growing community of Lithuanians in the United States. However, the four members of ZAS were sent back from an American airport. Some Lithuanian-Americans complained to U.S. authorities about the plans of ZAS.

The hip-hop band had only tourist visas and no permission for concerts. "Americans were afraid that we would take the music market of the United States. We should act with foreigners in the same way," Mazeika said in his usual manner.

"Music is the same as beets. We urge young people to support the justified demands of the Suvalkijan farmers. We also urge a ban on imports of sugar. Lukiskiu Square (the central square of Vilnius) should be planted with beets," Mazeika said to the crowd.

"Our government should buy our sugar and our socks," Sapiro said.

"No to AC/DC! We have our Skamp," said ZAS member Linas Zareckas.

Sarunas, pretending to be a farmer, said, "We peasants love musicians. Musicians' problems are our problems."

Later, the ZAS members and Sarunas lied on the pavement near the entrance to the government building. They said that they would block entry to the office of the prime minister until the government satisfied their demands.

Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas did not show up. However, Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas and Vilnius' police chief Erikas Kaliacius soon arrived. Zuokas, while constantly laughing, asked the ZAS people to free the way to government. The ZAS guys also laughed in a friendly way, but refused. After this refusal, some 40 policemen showed up. "Oh, sorry, we behaved in a bad way," announced the musicians before asking the crowd to disperse.

However, several drunken elderly men took the entire protest seriously. They managed to punch some policemen. Some of them also threw snowballs at the police. But it ended there and most people left smiling.

It was a perfect example of how to promote an album with a minimum amount of investment. The morning after, the front pages of the newspapers belonged to ZAS.