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Staff of Novi Sad: From Rubinstein to Laibach

Today, Novi Sad is considered a festival city that gathers numerous tourists and performers from all around the world. However, little do people know that Novi Sad has long been the centre of music events. It’s been an important stop for touring superstars and a hometown of many famous musicians of the local scene. Some of them visited Novi Sad just to record songs, and they, despite not being born in Serbia, consider Novi Sad a mother country of their successful career.

During the interwar period, this was a relatively small city with rich cultural life, mostly because of the rich Jewish community in Novi Sad. Therefore, Arthur Rubinstein, a Polish-American pianist and one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, held a concert back in 1928. Rubinstein played at the benefit concert, after Jelena Kon, the wife of a renowned Jew, owner of the shop ‘Kod Belog Konja’ and a ban councillor, invited him. Namely, Jelena was head of the ‘Kora Hleba i Dečje Obdanište’ charitable organisation, the most famous ecumenical organisation for neglected mothers and children. Mrs Kon obviously had an exquisite taste in music, since, in addition to Rubinstein, Váša Příhoda, Dresden Philharmonic and Paul Hindemith came to Novi Sad on her initiative.

Building Kora hleba

After World War II and liberation, Novi Sad picked up where it left off – social life developed in all fields. The proof is a surprisingly small piece of Dnevnik within the Cultural Chronicles, which announces the big concert of the even bigger legend of world jazz – Louis Armstrong. Famous Satchmo performed and held a concert to remember at Sajmište, on 2 April 1965, with the beginning at 8:30 p.m. Armstrong, together with the All Stars ensemble and soloist Jewel Brown, enchanted citizens of Novi Sad, despite the high price of the tickets. The citizens were able to buy the thickets at the box office of Sajmište and Cultural-Propaganda Centre at RSD 1000, 2000, 3000 and 4000, which cost a pretty penny back then. With his Hello Dolly, the hit of the night and the lead single of the vinyl that was selling more that The Beatles’, the citizens of Novi Sad enjoyed every second of it. Later, Janika Balázs, the king of tamburitza and David Oistrakh, one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century, met in Novi Sad. Oistrakh visited Novi Sad in 1972, when he turned up at one of our old cafés at the Petrovaradin Fortress. At that time, Balázs performed for guests of the café, and the Soviet violinist, impressed with his performance, acknowledged in front of the whole café that Janika is greater virtuoso than he himself. The first Yugoslav tambura and his orchestra gained worldwide fame when they appeared in the I Even Met Happy Gypsies film, which won the Special Grand Prize of the Jury for Yugoslav cinematography at the Cannes Film Festival in 1967. This anecdote about violin and tamburitza encounter illustrates the future paths of music in Novi Sad. Novi Sad is characterised by dichotomy between two lifestyles – relaxed and alternative, gentle and grumpy voice out of which some of the biggest punk bands of the former Yugoslavia have emerged. Some of them was Pekinška Patka, after which the passage in the city centre was named – a small one, but still enough a sign for Novi Sad to remember its musical roots. It is the city of sweet tamburitza melodies, which people listen to while sitting at the table covered with plaid tablecloth on one hand, and bearer of the punk wave originated from the specific revolt and rebel against the system, on the other. We must not forget the ambassadors of Novi Sad melodies and mentality – Love Hunters, Đorđe Balašević, Atheist Rap, Ritam Nereda, Zvonko Bogdan, Garavi Sokak, and who fits Novi Sad best remains an open question, while the answer will probably be something in the middle.
Zgrada Studija M

Studio M building

Since the concept of celebrating New Year’s Eve in Novi Sad changed three years ago, diversity that the city nurtures at every corner got its new event called Доček, which has changed the habitual concept of New Year’s Eve celebration and showed that Novi Sad is the city of culture. The old concert halls such as Studio M, famous for probably the best acoustics in the former Yugoslavia, where numerous concerts took place and where famous Bajaga recorded his album for two months, revived. Instead of expected pop-rock gigs it is famous for, the good old Studio M hosted several famous local DJs for Доček 2019, including Kristijan Molnar, one of the most popular DJs on the Serbian electronic music scene. Celebration of Serbian New Year’s Eve is traditionally being held at more than fifty locations and it gathers hundreds of musicians from the region and world, which can be a problem for the fans of musicians who perform the same night, in the same city, in a short period of time, or if you’re not lucky – at the same time. Since Novi Sad haven’t had the ‘real’ concert hall until this year, alternative spaces were a solution for big events of this type – SNT, Sinagogue, Sajam, SPENS and others. Therefore, in recent years, it has become normal for the citizens of Novi Sad to listen to alternative bands, such as Laibach from Slovenia or Let 3 from Croatia, as well as Nolah, world famous DJ attraction, on the stage of the oldest professional theatre in Serbia, or to enjoy brilliant performance by Dejan Petrović playing the traditional Serbian trumpet between the walls of the old Reformed Christian Church. The Sinagogue is maybe one of the most famous spaces for concerts of classical music. However, its tradition and sevdah sometimes intertwine in mysterious ways, which resulted in performances by Božo Vrećo, Mostar Sevdah Reunion, and Amira Medunjanin, who left the audience speechless. We see the openness of the city towards music names in the fact that Novi Sad marked the beginning of the career of Atomsko Sklonište from Croatia, one of the most famous Ex-Yu bands, who had one of their first performances as a relatively unknown band at the Novi Sad Bum Festival in the late 70s and who enchanted the citizens of Novi Sad. The rest is history. When it comes to new music genres, Novi Sad gladly accepted the wave of electronic music that had its golden era in the 90s, when big rave parties with Noise Destruction and other DJs, were held at SPENS. It seems that the genre reached its new peak in the last few years. We can hear sounds of techno, house and other similar genres in many Novi Sad clubs and bars which, by the book, attract a great number of young people. The list of those who marked Novi Sad music scene and haven’t been mentioned is definitely long, which tells enough about musical sensibility in Novi Sad, which is hard to place within the framework of one music genre. From classical to electronic music, the road leads us through Novi Sad. While we think of enjoying the performance of our favourite singer, band or DJ in the middle of the crowd during the global pandemic crisis, the only thing left is to turn the video clip of some good concert up full blast. The concert held in Novi Sad, of course. Author: Leona Pap Photo: Vladimir Veličković, Jelena Ivanović