TITO ON ICE will wrap up the Berlin edition of the independent art and music festival Easterndaze as the “late show bonus track” part of a double feature presentation with the spanish documentary BEOGRAD UNDERGROUND, which focuses on the extraordinarily rich subcultural scene in Serbia, especially Belgrade and Pančevo, during the late ’90s to early ’00s. By chance, some of the protagonists of the latter movie also make appearances in, or contributed to the soundtrack of TITO ON ICE.
Beograd Underground will be screened on 9 October at 20:00 in Lichtblick-Kino, followed by Tito on Ice (original version with English subtitles) at 22:00. Max Andersson and Helena Ahonen will be present for a Q&A. The event also celebrates the official VoD release of Tito on Ice on Realeyz!
In the early to mid-1960’s the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was flooded by a virtual tsunami of bands inspired by beat music and by the proto-punk genre known as garage rock. Naturally most of the releases were covers of British or U.S. hits, however original compositions were not uncommon, such as the Sarajevo-based Indexi’sNikada.
An EP would typically feature two or more covers of popular foreign songs, while on the B-side an instrumental recording based on a local traditional theme might be sneaked in probably as a kind of “filler” material. Today, these mutant tunes stand out as the true highlights of the records, radiating a strange but irresistible energy, as in Kaleš Bre Anđoand Napuljska Gitara by, respectively, Delfini and Crveni Koralji (both Zagreb bands).
Although there is no evidence that the Marshal personally approved of any of these musical expressions, many pop songs were written and performed in his honor during the last decades of his life and beyond – among them the 1980 hit Druze Tito, mi ti se kunemoperformed by Zdravko Čolić.
The late 1970’s to early 1980’s is still by many considered the golden age of rock and pop music in the countries of former Yugoslavia. Coinciding with the death of Marshal Tito and the beginning of economic crisis and destabilization which, within a decade, would lead to the disintegration of the federal socialist republic and the outbreak of civil war, this period saw an extraordinary output of exceptional music and cultural activity.
Not being a part of the Eastern Bloc, at this point Yugoslavia was probably the only european socialist country where these essentially anti-establishment and partly western-influenced subcultures – punk and post-punk – were widely tolerated, often released on major labels and covered by both press and TV. And maybe not just the only european socialist country – let’s not forget that the Sex Pistols were effectively banned from playing live in their democratic homeland UK during most of their existence…
Voted the second best Yugoslav rock album of all time by the critics, the compilation LP Paket aranžman was released in 1981 on the label Jugoton. No less than three tracks from this legendary Novi Val record appear in TITO ON ICE, featuring two of the most famous Belgrade bands, Električni Orgazam and Idoli. One year later, the latter would release Odbrana i poslednji dani; the only album to receive a higher rating than Paket aranžman in the same critic’s vote. The song Poslednji dani was originally to be titled Maršala with explicit references to Tito, but had to be changed in a rare instance of record company censorship.
Both albums have been re-released by Croatia Records.
On the other side of the spectrum, two very rare recordings never released on vinyl or CD come from the Novi Sad bands Luna and Obojeni Program, respectively. Also featured on the movie soundtrack is the prominent Zagreb band Film, and from the more punk-oriented scene of Rijeka the brilliant Termiti – authors of the classic Vjeran Pas, later re-released by Dallas Records.
The first time I heard Laibach‘s cover LIFE IS LIFE, it hit me like a cluster bomb. The authoritarian streaks hidden in mainstream western pop culture are mercilessly exposed. Arguably the single most subversive piece of popular music ever recorded, it was an obvious choice for the TITO ON ICE soundtrack but unfortunately had to be dropped because the authors of the original song, the Austrian pop group Opus, refuse to give anyone their permission to use it. That’s how dangerous it is.
However, Laibach have made numerous powerful interpretations of iconic songs and one of them found a permanent home in the movie. Which one will remain a secret until the world premiere… but it involves a certain Swedish hard rock band named after a geopolitical region.
Laibach is a music group and also a founder of the art collective NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst), formed in the early 80’s in Trbovlje, Slovenia, then still a part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
“The cover version can be seen as a cynical populist tactic by artists lacking in originality, a gesture of contempt or as a respectful example of good taste and seriousness. Laibach’s open rejection of originality makes the first view irrelevant and the new originals are too ambivalent to be either entirely contemptuous or totally respectful. A Laibachised song is sometimes more kitsch, sometimes more serious and sometimes more emotional than the “old original” it is based on. Laibachisation re- and de-animates a song, reviving it for long enough to dispatch it again.”
— Alexei Monroe, author of Interrogation Machine