Yugoslavia is like a ghost ship: it has actually long since sunk, but every now and then it rises again. And then it makes a huge impression!
Such a sighting of the ghost ship „Yugoslavia“ was reported on Saturday, 25 February 2023 in the Mitsubishi Electric Halle in Düsseldorf. There, Bijelo Dugme, the best-known and best-selling band of the former Yugoslavia, performed in front of an estimated audience of more than 5000 people.
Let’s be exact: actually, the guitarist and two of the former singers performed with new accompanying musicians. Goran Bregović, the mastermind behind the band’s sporadic and high-selling reunions (and apparently also the owner of the band’s name), preferred to hire a Balkan brass ensemble and a traditional Balkan drummer instead of a classic rock rhythm section of drums and bass.
This gives the songs a folkloristic guise, but it also makes you think of the trumpet festival in Guca.
In other words, the Bijelo Dugme songs are „Serbianised“, which actually contradicts the all-Yugoslavian image of the original music. Moreover, because of the new musical „costume“ one misses the fancy and filigree interplay that the former rhythm section offered in many pieces.
The audience, however, was not bothered by these new interpretations. The musical garb was also the only new thing to be heard. The songs played that night had all been well known for decades.( A new song would probably have caused confusion and destroyed the nostalgic mood.).
So there was a potpourri of hits, most of which are still played every day on the radio in the various successor states of Yugoslavia.
However, the song „Pluni i zapjevaj moja Jugoslavijo“ („Spit on it and sing, my Yugoslavia“), which was performed that evening with reggae sounds, can hardly be heard on the radio any more, most likely because of words like this:
On your feet Yugoslavia, sing so that you can be heard,
whoever does not listen to this song will hear the storm“.
In 1986, this song was meant to convey optimism in the sense of a continued existence of the multi-ethnic state during the state crisis at that time.
Today thousands of ex-Yugoslavs living in Germany sing it here.
And an astonishing number of young people with roots in today’s successor states who were not even born when the mntioned state collapsed.
When the ghost ship reappears on the horizon, there will probably be as many enthusiastic listeners again. And I`ll be probably there too.