With its pulsating, energetic music and socially engaged lyrics, Dubioza Kolektiv, a band from Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, has earned a special place among music fans in the region of the former Yugoslavia as well as in other countries. The seven member group that's currently on a European tour until the end of July is well known for its mix of reggae, rock and hip-hop, which best comes to life on stage in live performances. Dubioza Kolektiv have released four studio albums and one EP. Prior to the start of their European tour, they spoke with Southeast Europe: People & Culture about their politically engaging lyrics, the collaboration with musicians from the other former Yugoslav republics and the activism they are a part of in their native country.
The last Dubioza Kolektiv album, released in 2010, is called "5 minutes to 12” What was the inspiration for the title?
Everything we write, we see that it bears a direct message that refers to a specific time period or event. To us, it's essential that as many people as possible get the same message from every one of our songs. The reason for this is that none of the countries of former Yugoslavia can afford stagnation anymore. In this situation, only the local leaders have the luxury of "poetic freedom".
Like on all of your previous albums, you use the album to voice your defence of the "common man"…
We talk about things that surround us on a daily basis. In this context, the ruling elite regularly appear as the culprit because they bear the biggest responsibility for the situation we are in. On the other hand, "the weakest and poorest" are also not spared from this type of criticism. They are the most powerful force that can turn the social situation upside down rather than acting as an obedient voting machine of their favourite leader.
On the album you recorded the song "Walter", which tells the story of an imaginary character that's an icon of Sarajevo and well-known to the whole of the former Yugoslavia. You say that Walter will be back and we are all like Walter. Which features embody this character?
We believe that the most important step in the attempt to improve the situation is individual action. In this context, we tried to present Walter as a symbol of the whole society that has the power to change itself. The peoples of our region have a habit of expecting the Messiah, a new leader who will transport us into a better future and solve all our problems. At the moment when we turn to our real, everyday issues, we will realise that only we can help ourselves.
Dubioza Kolektiv is different compared to almost everything else that can be heard on the Bosnian scene. In the track "Kokuz" you sing that in the Balkans, "you cannot say you're different aloud". In this region, which are the advantages and disadvantages when a band like Dubioza collective is quite different?
The animosity or even the fear of the other and the different is something that is very difficult to understand regardless of whether it is manifested towards people from different nationalities, religion or sexual orientation… Learning the lesson of tolerance and accepting differences is crucial in order to normalise relations between people in the region.
Your albums often feature guests from the Bosnian music scene, but also from the other former Yugoslav republics. What kind of impact do these musical collaborations have on improving relations between ordinary citizens?
It is true that music or art in general cannot directly change the political mainstream, but they have great strength that can be applied to unifying attitudes and opinions.
You're one of those bands that sound great on an album, but are even better live. That's probably why you play regularly at big European festivals and have more gigs abroad than in your home country. How do people from Western Europe react to your "Balkan Funk" - are they often confused?
On the contrary, audiences in Europe find our performances, which we conceive as bilingual, very amusing. People outside the former Yugoslavia are interested in hearing something that is different from what is offered to them on a daily basis. They find our language, which we use along with English, interesting. They're especially amused by the pieces of traditional music that we use as samples in our songs.