In its five years of existence and after two albums, Letu Štuke, a rock band from Sarajevo, has picked up numerous accolades and quite a following in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the neighbouring Croatia. Last summer the band, headed by frontman Dino Šaran, set its sights on Serbia - the former Yugoslavia's most populous and biggest republic, where it first appeared and was well-noted at the internationally renowned Exit music festival. This performance was followed by a successful gig in Serbia's capital Belgrade, its first ever in the city, last spring.
With their third album due next year, many people predict that of all the bands founded in the 21st century, Letu Štuke is most likely to unify and revitalise the region's disjointed rock scene and, after a long time, take the title of the new big mainstream band from the former Yugoslavian region.
"If the region was a single scene, Letu Štuke would qualify as one of its best mainstream groups. But as it is, they are only big in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia - and if there is a God, in Serbia too, after last night," said Vladimir Sudar, a journalist from the influential Serbian music webzine www.popboks.com in April, after the group finished their first gig in Belgrade's cult rock centre, Dom Omladine (The House of Youth), in front of a crowd of several hundred.
The story of the band would have started out twenty years ago had the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina not interfered with Dino Šaran's plans for a music career. Šaran survived the 1990s by playing in cafes and honing his song-writing skills, writing songs for other pop singers in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
Quite unexpectedly, an old friend Dani Pervan, a fellow Sarajevan and drummer in Croatian musician Darko Rundek's world-renowned Cargo orchestra, showed up at Šaran's door one day a couple of years ago with an offer to work together. Thus, Šaran decided to revisit his boyhood dream of having his own band.
Although there is no official explanation for the band's name Letu Štuke ("The Flying Pikes") the name does make for a little self-irony considering that its frontman's surname, Šaran, means common carp.
The band's first release "Letu Štuke" in 2005 attracted a lot of attention in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia with its blend of melancholy love songs and fast new wave songs, mixed with ethno sounds and lyrics on problems experienced in the countries of the region - crime, corruption and intolerance.
"We are a band that plays rock music with elements of hip hop, sevdalinka (a traditional genre of folk music, usually a love song, originating in Bosnia and Herzegovina with Ottoman roots), while flirting with jazz. Our goal is to spread peace and love. A pretty hippy philosophy, but realistic nonetheless. Of course, with a good degree of criticism of society and its flaws and illnesses," says Dino Šaran.
"Sunce" (Sun) a song written by Šaran and Rundek, which featured on the band's debut album, has become a regional hit and was responsible for bringing attention to the band.
"To me, Letu Štuke is in a creative sense the strongest band to appear in this century, while Dino is an exceptional songwriter. Whoever has not been introduced to the group should do so," Rundek used to say in public.
The band's second album, "Proteini i ugljikohidrati" (Proteins and
Carbohydrates, 2008) delivered a much more mature style, elevating its popularity further. In addition to "Sami" ("Alone") and "Poljubi je dok spava" ("Kiss Her While She Sleeps"), touching ballads on love and loneliness, Šaran wrote the hymn-like "Tesla," whose lyrics such as "Everyone into the street, get up off your asses, the world is within us, not in any towers," make it, according to the author, a political manifesto.
"Tesla" is a also a song dedicated to celebrated Yugoslav rocker Branimir Džoni Štulić and world-famous inventor Nikola Tesla, both of whom were people who left their country of birth, and devoted "their lives entirely to ideas."
"They did not calculate; they were not managers, but creators, idea people. I was reading the biographies of Tesla and Štulić simultaneously when something clicked in my head and I wrote the song. There are plenty of similarities between the two; each was involved with different things in their time, but they were very close on an intuitive level," says Šaran.
Frontman of the Zagreb new wave group Azra, Džoni Štulić, who has for the past two decades been living a quiet life, unrelated to music, in the Netherlands, has had a decisive influence on Šaran. Both share a love of the traditional Balkan music sevdalinka.
"Džoni is on the sevdah line. He was born in Skopje (in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and the sevdah has had a huge influence on him; I am from Bosnia and Herzegovina and of course the sevdah has influenced me. The second influence that we share is The Beatles. Džoni is a big Beatles fan, and so am I," Šaran explains.
The media unanimously declared Letu Štuke's Belgrade concert, held in Dom Omladine, a success. Many admitted that they had not expected such a high attendance, considering the band's relative anonymity in Serbia. Actor Sergej Trifunović, who has played in several Hollywood movies including the thriller "Next," gave the band additional publicity by attending their concert together with Žika Todorović, the former drummer for a cult Belgrade band Ektarina Velika, and an actor in Emir Kusturica's films "Underground" and "Black Cat, White Cat."
After this big success, Letu Štuke was offered the chance to play again in Belgrade at the Beer Fest, Belgrade's prestigious annual open-air music festival, where they attracted between 15,000-20,000 people in the wee hours of the night.
The future of Letu Štuke was perhaps best predicted by another huge fan of the band, actor Branislav Trifunović, who played in the internationally acclaimed movie "Here and There". He compared the band to the region's super-bands Azra and Bijelo Dugme. "Those bands have over twenty hits. Letu Štuke has already around 12 hits and I hope that they will join this club with their next album. No band speaks about society and love like they do. Letu Štuke are the biggest band from the former Yugoslavia region. I hope that those who have not been informed about that yet, will be so quite soon."