Rock Balkan Style

  • 2015-02-05
  • By Etienne Morisseau

Emir Kusturica and The No Smoking Orchestra are coming to Riga for their 2015 European tour. Their combination of rock and gypsy sound leans on their frenetically fast-paced rythm of Serbian kolo music from the region of Sumadija. These natural-born nomads succeed in mixing drums, bass and electric guitar with more traditional instruments such as the accordion, bouzouki and bass balalaika, enlivened by a funky brass section. As the band says, “there are no two feet that can remain calm” while listening to a blend like that. However the show is not only about music, but also about dance and all possible expressions of joy and freedom. This is the message that this anti-globalist phenomenon tries to get across to their audience at every performance.

Most of the musicians from the orchestra came from Zabranjeno Pusenje, a youthful punk-folk band, often criticized for their socio-political lyrics, who became part of a unique rock movement centered in Sarajevo. The musical relation between the band and Kusturica began in 1987 when he played bass guitar on three songs for their third album. When war broke out in the Balkans, Zabranjeno Pusenje were forced to split up, and most of the members were forced to relocate.

Nenad Jankovic, the singer of the band, went to Belgrade and created The No Smoking Orchestra. In 1999, after the group made the music for Emir Kusturica’s Yugoslav comedy “Black Cat, White Cat”, the musician and singer, also known as a two time Palme d’Or winner for his movies “When Father Was Away on Business” and “Underground”, became the frontman of the band and the decision was made to change its name to Emir Kusturica and The No Smoking Orchestra.

With its hallowed reputation in the rock history of the former Yugoslavia, the orchestra quickly gained international success by performing on stage in Southern Europe, Latin America and more recently lately in Eastern Europe. After concerts in Jerusalem, Tel-Haviv, Haifa and Russia, the band will play at Palladium Riga on Marijas iela  on 24th February at 20:30. Tickets are available from 29 euros.