This paper examines the specific context of the punk and new wave scene in Socialist
Yugoslavia which flourished before and after Tito’s death in 1980.
After a short reflection on the different forms of political articulation in the music
scene, the article shows how the state authorities dealt with bands that were perceived
as subversive. Instead of rigid censorship like in the Eastern bloc countries, an economic
incentive – the so-called trash tax – was used to force bands to consent to the
suggestions of their record producers. Despite a few harsh, but still unsuccessful efforts
by conservative party officials to shatter the punk scene, a rather liberal strategy of
affirmation lead to the support of young musicians via the state infrastructure of the
Socialist Youth League which facilitated the development of a vivid and creative punk
and new wave scene in Yugoslavia.
Further, the article gives a brief overview of the main protagonists and centers of
the music scene. The new culture connected young people, regardless of their ethnic
or religious background or mother tongue, which put into practice Tito’s vision of
“brotherhood and unity” of the Yugoslav people, albeit in an unplanned and delicate
manner. The music scene lost its momentum during the economic and political crisis
following Tito’s death. It split into explicitly commercial acts on the one hand and avantgarde
projects on the other. With the tensions between the Yugoslav Republics growing
stronger, the sound became darker, and some bands went with the nationalistic flow.
The last part of the article presents the sociopolitical context of the new Youth culture.
The punk and new wave music served young people as an outlet for the unease
they felt, finding themselves on one side of a generation gap separating them from
the unconvincing and pale successors of the heroic partisans and founders of Socialist
Yugoslavia who were supposed to be the youth’s idols. Society had come to a halt, after
several attempts at reform and opposition had failed. The Socialist rhetoric and rituals
seemed outdated to young people. The technique of over-affirmation of empty official
phrases, used in the song lyrics, dismantled the socialist ideology which constituted the
grounding of the Second Yugoslavia. The slackening of censorship, however, did not
promote the democratization of society, but prepared the ground for the nationalist
discourse which was previously banned in Yugoslavia.