Bosnian rock band brings political message to Turkey


Politically active band Dubioza Kolektif uses music to spread a message about the importance of political awareness.

By Zeynep Cermen for Southeast European Times in Istanbul -- 20/02/14


Members of the Bosnian band Dubioza Kolektif use their music to encourage fans to become more engaged in public policy. The group performed in Istanbul last week. [Çiler Geçici]

The six members of Dubioza Kolektif, whose messages captured the hearts of people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, describe their mission as socialising and mobilising youth and introducing them to public affairs.

Istanbul hosted the well-known Bosnian band as part of the Shining Stars Festival last week. They perform an upbeat blend of reggae, dub (a subgenre of reggae), hip hop, Bosnian folklore and rock. Their lyrics promote peace and tolerance and criticise nationalism and injustice.

Hours before their weeknight concert at Istanbul's famous Imagination Coffee, located on Istiklal Street, the hall was full of the band's Bosnian and Turkish fans.

"Our goal has never been to become famous rock stars," said Brano Jakubović, Dubioza Kolektif's DJ and keyboardist, told SETimes. "During the first part of 2000s in Bosnia, people, especially the youth, were very apolitical. They wouldn't even know who was the prime minister."

After performing their music in the shelters during the Sarajevo siege, the band members decided they wanted their music to serve as a platform where everyone would discuss politics.

"So that we would be a mediator establishing some kind of engagement between the youth and the politics," Jakubović said. "Young people would come to the concert, and while expressing themselves freely through music they would also listen to the politics and start to get used to the politics. Little by little they began to raise their voice on what should be done to have a better life."

Band members say their emphasis on political awareness has been just as important as their music.

"Usually we have been invited as guests to political debates where we discuss elections or the political situation," said bass guitarist Vedran Mujagić. "Through our music people in Bosnia began to express their political opinion aloud.

"When people in Bosnia witnessed the members of a rock band who talk very openly against the people in power and see that they don't get arrested or killed, they started to talk about politics," Mujagić added. "This is our biggest mission."

Speaking about the common characteristics of Bosnians and Turks, Jakubović said both have tremendous patience.

"They wait, they wait, and then they explode," he said, referring to last year's Gezi Park protests and equating them to the recent anti-government protests in Sarajevo and Tuzla. "Bosnian and Turkish people have an incredible amount of power."

In order to be heard by the government, the band has been organising protests, concerts and forums.

"Any kind of way you can imagine, we tried to raise our voice. ... These riots of united people of Bosnia is very unbelievable story. People came together without questioning their background for the first time because of their empty stomachs," Jakubović said.

"This is the lesson for future governments in Bosnia," Mujagić said. "This is the warning for them. If they would mess things up in the future the same things would happen for them."

Mujagić observed that protests are more frequent in Turkey than they are in Bosnia.

"In our country the government used to ignore people until now. But now they are learning the meaning of a democratic society," he said. "The beginning of the protests was very peaceful, with hunger strikes or camping in front of the government institutions. In one moment, people realised that this doesn't work. [The violence] started spontaneously."

Answering a question about media coverage and freedom of speech, the group members pointed out that during the protests Bosnia's main TV channel aired the Turkish serial The Magnificent Suleyman.

"I know that during the Gezi Park events one of the mainstream Turkish media broadcast a documentary on penguins," Jakubović said. "So you see, every country has its own penguins."

A Bosnian woman in her late 20s, Shija Brown, who attended the Dubioza Kolektif's performance, told SETimes the band's lyrics represent a powerful stand against injustice.

"I have been living in Istanbul for 10 years. I am very excited to listen to DK. I love their lyrics. It is not possible not to be affected by their words," she said.

The band is well-known in Bosnia for its support of the country's first grass-roots civil society group Dosta, which organised a protest concert before the 2006 general elections.

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In 2008 the band played the songs of its newly released album "Firma Ilegal" in front of the Bosnian parliament protesting the corruption allegations within the government. In 2010, in an effort to increase youth voter turnout, the band organised concerts in major Bosnian cities and encouraged people to go to the polls for the general election.

The crossroads of music and political activism have been seen in Turkey as well. Gorkem Baharoglu, a musician, singer and graduate of Bahcesehir University said that during the Gezi Park events the songs that were specifically composed about the protests had "a tremendous impact on people to better understand the reality."

"People who did not attend the Gezi protests due to different reasons realised the reasons of the protests more easily through the songs," Baharoglu told SETimes. "In that context, the rhythm and the melody delivered the message in an easy way. Otherwise, without music, trying to give a political message is almost the same as forcing people to watch the TV mute and then ask them their opinion about the picture."

How significant is it for contemporary artists and musicians to spread messages about political awareness and activism? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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