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1996: Serbia Calling

Copyright © by Alan Grant

From November 1996 to March 1997 Belgrade and other Serbian cities were rocked by major opposition rallies and daily demonstrations following an attempt by the Milosevic regime to steal the results of local elections. In the end the government capitulated and the demonstrators won, but the Milosevic regime was to survive through another war, this time in Kosovo, which lasted until October 2000. Since then B92, one of the few sources of independent and opposition news and comment on the radio during the wars, has become a major media corporation, with a national television frequency and a publishing arm. In his book on B92 Matthew Collin recalls the period of the demonstrations.

"At radio B92, the music spoke of hope and reached for victory, creating a feedback loop with the spirit of the streets: the lithe caress of St Etienne's Nothing can Stop Us Now; the inspirational charge of Curtis Mayfield singing Move On Up; the insurrectionary techno of Underground resistance, whose fearsome electronic rhythms called on the "brothers and sisters of the underground" to "wreak havoc on the programmers". B92's head of music Gordan Paunovic captured the mood: "Now people really feel they can do it, they can finally change things. The time has come."

The whistles and the drums, the uproarious racket which permeated the cityscape until long after dark, combined the Dionysian abandon of Brazilian samba parties with the hedonistic excess of rave culture which had recently erupted in Belgrade's clubs. "The whistle is used as a mood amplifier," suggested student protest organiser Lazar Dzamic. "A sonic doping, a satiny audio whip for the flagging muscles of the committed participants. Its very presence brings the resonance of a great party, a crowd with a common aim, totally positive, and an energy on the edge of control. "

This is Serbia Calling: Rock 'n' roll radio and Belgrade's underground resistance. Matthew Collin. 2001.
[pp. 107-8 / Serpent's Tail]

January 2007
Tim Judah

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