Dubioza Kolektiv: Art and Culture in the Digital

Many artists, musicians, and creative workers continued working hard during the pandemics. It was just a matter of adaptation. While some activities were restricted, they did everything they could, or better said, everything they were allowed to do. One example is Dubioza Kolektiv, a music band from Bosnia and Herzegovina, as they decided to perform online for their fans.

Read readers, this article will be like a virtual journey through a fascinating story. I hope you enjoy it! The Fun Museums social program wants to bring many inspiring stories from all over the world, relating to arts, museums, and culture in general.

Before I start, I would like to clarify what musical style it is. Dubioza Kolektiv combines several genres. Rock, hip hop, reggae, and Balkan music are only some of the aspects of their style. So, in my opinion, they are just – unique.

(The article’s cover photo is the work of Goran Lizdek and it can be found on the band’s official website)

Where is Bosnia and Herzegovina? What is it actually?

First, I will present you some background. Bosnia and Herzegovina is quite a little known and difficult-to-explain country located between Croatia and Serbia on the Balkans. It is one of the six former Yugoslav republics. In fact, it is the most complex of all of them, as the country’s inhabitants are divided in three different religions, resulting in three different ethnical groups. Why is it like that? It is a long story that would deserve about 10 other articles. Anyway, you get how complicated is it, sure?

In short,I would like to focus on artistic and cultural aspects of that country. During the time of the second Yugoslavia (between 1940s and 1990s), the republic’s capital Sarajevo, was famous for its performing artists. In other words, Sarajevo was a kind of a creative hub for musicians, dancers, and filmmakers.

Is it still the case today? Well, the war did quite a damage, not only to the city itself, but also to its communities. Nevertheless, things are getting better in some ways.

Dubioza Kolektiv and Apsurdistan

Dubioza Kolektiv was formed in 2003. The root of their name is in the word “dubioza”, a local slang with a meaning close to “doubt”. Easy to recognise? Yes. Basically, dubioza is the everyday life, the struggle, the feeling of never knowing what to do, how to think, how to act. In fact, life is Bosnia is all about that – a lack of opportunities and prosperities leads to all kind of ideas, from moving abroad to signing up for a reality show in order to earn money for living and gain a bit of glory (read: value).

“Apsurdistan” is the name of one of their albums. It sounds like names of some countries such as “Pakistan”, and it is a Turkish suffix that appears in many country names as “the land of…” (for instance, Croatia is called “Hrvatistan” in Turkish, while Greece is called “Yunanistan”…). Most importantly, Bosnia was under the Ottoman Turkish rule for centuries so the Turkish influence on the local language is very big. The meaning of “absurd” is pretty clear, so it is easy to understand that “Absurdistan” means “the land of the Absurd”.

One little known country, a big world, and a global success

Finally, “Dubioza Kolektiv” is a group of creative musicians who are a collective, a community of people with existential doubts. Subsequently, they create songs about the reality of their communities, and they sing it to the big world.

For instance, their song “USA” is about the unhappy Bosnian natives who dream about the American dream. In other words, the song describes the reality of people who feel hopeless in their native lands, as they wish they could migrate elsewhere and start a new life there.

Now you might think that they made success with their songs in English, but they still have only a handful of songs in English. Most of their songs are in their native Bosnian language. A little information for readers who are not so familiar with the Balkans: Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian are officially different languages, but they are as mutually intelligible as the versions of English (British, American, Australian).

The song “Himna generacije” contains two internationally understandable words (of Greek origin!). The “hymn of the generation” is a song about a generation that struggles, a generation that is constantly worried, but at the end of the day, a generation that consumes.

Dubioza Kolektiv in Pula
Dubioza Kolektiv concert in the ancient Roman Amphiteatre in Pula, Croatia, August 2019.

The times of Covid-19 and the Quarantine Show

I was on their concert in Pula, Croatia, just 6 months before the pandemic. That hot summer night in August of 2019 started with a clear message: intolerant people, such as racists and nationalists, are not welcome here. Further, everyone is obliged to dance and show some good vibes.

During the first lockdown in the spring of 2020, Dubioza Kolektiv didn’t stop creating, as they started something pretty innovative. Their Quarantine Show became a household event for their fans every Monday. After the first season finished in May, they started a new season in October.

In the times when many people were worried about their mere survival and the future of their jobs, musicians included, Dubioza Kolektiv joined the efforts and started a series of online concerts. They performed from different places, they used the available technology to remain synchronised, and they even invited external guests.

Dubioza performing Moscow Nights with their Russian guests during one of the episodes of Quarantine Show

The case of Dubioza Kolektiv proves many different things about the creative work. First, they prove that you don’t need to be from a big country or a rich family to succeed. Second, they show how you should not be afraid of having your own personality. Further, you don’t need to sing or speak only in English, or exclusively in the language that your audience fully understands.

Above all, they showed how important is to innovate. The way they adapted to these difficult times is so inspiring. The Quarantine Show kept them noticed, and it brought their spirit to even more viewers.

Learn More about Dubioza Kolektiv

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