Emir Kusturica and the No Smoking Orchestra | Copernicus Center | International | Chicago Reader

Emir Kusturica and the No Smoking Orchestra Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Sat., July 10, 8 p.m. and Sun., July 11, 8 p.m. 2010

Founded in 1980 in Sarajevo, Zabranjeno Pusenje (Serbo-Croatian for "No Smoking") were part of a cultural resistance movement called "New Primitivism"; inspired by everything from Jethro Tull to the Sex Pistols, they combined brash, simple garage rock with touches of Balkan folk. The story goes that in 1984 they were playing a show in the coastal Croatian town of Rijeka when an amplifier failed and front man Dr. Nele Karajlic said, "Crk'o Marsal" ("Marshall croaked"). He was referring to the Marshall amp, but this was only a few years after Yugoslavian leader Marshal Tito died of cancer—tensions were mounting in the fracturing nation, and criticism of Tito was still taboo. The satirical TV show the band members were involved with, Top Lista Nadrealista ("Surrealists' Top Chart"), was canceled, and they had trouble getting gigs. It's been suggested that they enlisted filmmaker and fellow Sarajevan Emir Kusturica as a bandmate to head off media criticism and political pressure: though in his homeland he's drawn fire for making films that allowed foreigners to imagine that Yugoslavians were all crazy, quarrelsome peasants, he was also bringing prestige to the Balkans by winning awards in western Europe for When Father Was Away on Business and Time of the Gypsies. The group's roster has changed many times over the decades—at one point it included Kusturica soundtrack collaborator Goran Bregovic—and when Yugoslavia fractured in the early 90s, Zabranjeno Pusenje did too. Kusturica, a self-identified Serb, stayed with Karajlic's version of the band, which settled in Belgrade and took the name Emir Kusturica & the No Smoking Orchestra. Since then they've developed a style they call "Unza Unza Time," a mix of rock, Romany music, and Balkan brass with a distinctive two-four rhythm—the name evokes the sound of a guitar playing a traditional folk dance or a sort of Serbian rumba. The nine-piece lineup on this tour, which includes Kusturica on guitar and his son, Stribor, on drums, augments rock instrumentation with saxophone, accordion, violin, and tuba. Expect a lot of songs from the soundtrack to Kusturica's 1998 film Black Cat, White Cat, including "Pit Bull" and the widely covered "Bubamara" ("Ladybug"). On Friday Kusturica will give a talk on at the Alliance Francaise, 54 W. Chicago, at 6:30 PM; it's $10, $5 for members. —Vera Videnovich

Price: $30, $25 in advance, 18+

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