November 16, 1992 Vreme News Digest Agency No 60

Cane, Maestro

Under the Rule Of the Accordion

by Stojan Cerovic

I wouldn't advise anyone engaged in politics and society to be completely insensitive to the fact that the better part of youth live in a parallel world which has almost no contact with the reality that is occupying the whole of the international community

A cynic might say that there is nothing important in the fact that the Belgrade rock group "Party Breakers" is touring Slovenia, that the Ljubljana audience was thrilled, that busloads of fans came from Zagreb to listen to their concert, and that they all ignored the borders, war and embargo. A cynic would say that anyone knows that rockers are the same the world over, that a blockade is nothing to them, and anyway, what is strange in Belgrade rock being popular in Ljubljana?

Cynics always have good arguments, because they are never impressed by anything, and in any case, this world is far from perfect and nothing can change it, and therefore there is no reason for us to get excited. But cynicism is boring, it always says the same thing, stopping you from admiring a beautiful woman because you can imagine a more beautiful one, and it forces you to be always thinking of the absurdity and transience of life. O.K., maybe it's no big deal, but there is something nice in the fact that the "Party Breakers" and their Slovenian hosts have for a moment spoilt the party of all the present lovers of hatred and bloodshed.

Rock is the rhythm of life and the international rock community is difficult to perplex or seduce with an ideology of intolerance and war cries. Rockers in the sixties had a lot to do with the stopping of the Vietnam war, giving the basic tone to anti-war demonstrations, and one of their number has just become president of the USA. In the America of today there are not many who are sympathetic to the accusation that Bill Clinton did not act as a good patriot at that time. It has taken a quarter of a century for this change to take place, and it was a question of a war in a far-off country. But historical time does not flow uniformly and in the Balkans things can happen faster than in America, just as they can regress.

Rock-and-roll has become the universal language that completely destroys traditional patriotism, making war an obscenity and impossibility. Maybe this is because verbal articulation isn't important, because its rhythm, at a certain age, corresponds to the physiological rhythm, because it is a physical and not cerebral thing, because it hits the erotic centers and successfully channels destruction, releasing an enormous amount of energy. Whatever it is, rockers are an evidently peace-loving people who celebrate love and hate uniforms, and it is unfortunate that it is to be found in exactly the age-group which is expected to die for its country.

Along these lines, it was possible to assume that patriotism here would grow so unhealthy and in the end bring about war, because rockers were a definite minority in relation to folk singers whose sensibility is of another sort. I wouldn't want it to be thought that I am accusing the pipe and accordion for war mongering, but the accordion is definitely in power. Also, you are more likely to meet imbibers of rakija (brandy) amongst the folk singers, while rockers would much prefer to smoke grass, if they can find it.

Rambo Amadeus (a rock singer) says that he is against Milosevic because he ruined rock-and-roll, but it is obvious that this kind of music has not gone much further than the urban centers. This is probably good news to those who worry about the health and identity of the nation and who find in rock music the worst kind of cosmopolitanism. It took communism time to get used to rock-and-roll, which to the very end, it was unable to stomach, and nationalism will get rid of it completely. Before Cane (the leader of the band) and the "Party Breakers", Rambo Amadeus had a concert in Ljubljana which was just as successful, but this was prior to the sanctions. This time the Ljubljana students and the "K 4" club were taking the risk of having the whole thing fall through and having trouble with the authorities. Nonetheless, the embargo was flouted, although this has already been done by all the smugglers and black-marketeers, but this time it was public. The wild Belgrade rock, fierce and explosive, at the top of the best international trend, fired the Slovenian audience, they say. What does this mean and what do the Serbs and Slovenes want now? If anyone were to ask Cane or any member of the audience about Yugoslavia, borders, national interests, political parties, elections, the answer would be: "There's no connection, man!" Anyone with a clue will understand. In a vitally important sense, this is the only answer. It is not the answer of an ignoramus, but of one who feels that it all belongs to a system and order that is not only dull, conventional and lifeless, but also bloodthirsty, a system from which one can only flee. It is simply a question of rejection and there is nothing more to explain. Therefore there's no point in asking rockers what they mean or what they want to say.

And so, when this is the case, someone will surely say that this attitude is not political relevant. Rockers would easily agree with this, they would give in to the mutual irrelevancy in order to be left alone. However, I wouldn't advise anyone engaged in politics and society to be completely insensitive to the fact that the better part of youth live in a parallel world which has almost no contact with the reality that is occupying the whole of the international community.

Namely, it looks as if this time it is not just a matter of conflict but one of a total generation gap, which doesn't mean that the problem is to be solved with the growing up of young people. In the normal sense of the world, rockers never completely grow up. There's no use in hoping that they will leave this rotting place anyway, just as the best always leave. There are a lot of them and leaving is becoming more and more difficult, which means that we can expect to have them around. The Belgrade students, who certainly belong to Cane's and Rambo's rock-and-roll clan, have already shown what this can look like, for a beginning.

The appearance of the "Party Breakers" in Ljubljana is therefore not something that can be translated into a political message of the type "we don't want borders", "we want Yugoslavia", "who cares about the embargo". I know that not one party, either in Serbia or in Slovenia, will change their program because of the "Party Breakers", considering that the numbers are small and for the most part they don't have the right to vote, and if they do, are reluctant to do so. But this concert should be taken as an important referendum by those who best understand the future.

When they saw what things had come to, a number of Belgrade bands got together and recorded the cult song "Listen Hear". This was when they were being hunted down and sent to the front. They had to do something and they said what they thought as clearly and directly as possible without seeming to preach or spread propaganda. "I want to love you, Baby, more/Don't let them take me off to war".

There can be no polemic about this. All those who enter the fight about what belongs to whom, who wants to be with whom and where they want to live, only prove, from the rockers point of view, that they have forgotten an important thing. "When you crawl too much/There's no time to fuck". To fighters on the front this must look stupid, unhealthy, twisted and, of course, treacherous. To celebrate life in times of war is a betrayal, just as war betrays life. I'm not saying that the matter is a simple one and that all the arguments have always been on the side of those who reject violence outright. But these people have become even more non-violent and war automatically excludes them from society and pushes them into a ghetto. Rock-and-roll cannot survive in a ghetto and this is the reason for the explosion of enthusiasm at the "party Breakers" concert in Ljubljana. On both sides they wanted to get out of the ghetto.