[highlight color=Blue]Dr Nele Karajlić in interview for BalkanBeats online magazine [/highlight]

Dr Nele Karajlić, the man behind the haunting soundtracks of Emir Kusturica’s masterpieces (Underground, Black Cat – White Cat) is also the legendary voice of the No Smoking Orchestra. He was in Berlin last month for the recording of the upcoming BalkanBeats SoundSystem (BBSS) album ARIGATO AMIGO. Dr Nele will perform in BBSS’s first live act on 11 November 2017 at the Lido (Berlin), in a much awaited musical come back.

1. You have been in Berlin 7 or 8 times already for performances, but this is the first time that you come to Berlin without your band and stay here for a few days.  What is your impression?

– I thought that I know Berlin well, because I played here a few times with the No Smoking Orchestra and it was always an exciting, unforgettable experience. Yet it is utterly different if one comes to Berlin with no tasks and can completely relax. One can then get a round feeling for this city, which I believe undoubtedly ranks amongst the most important cities in the world. In fact this time I was deeply moved by the city, perhaps a feeling experienced by many artists entering this mythical place. I do not think I am the first one to have felt that.


2. We had the elections during your stay, and Alternative für Deutschland (AfD / right wing party) became the third German political party. What is your take on it?

– Whilst this cannot be good news, I do not believe we should worry too much. Indeed, their success is in no way the result of their good work as a political party, but rather a consequence of a number of converging circumstances as we have seen them develop in Europe in the last 10 years. In my opinion, much of the responsibility lies with the last decade’s political establishment. I really doubt that this sort of political movement can endanger German cosmopolitanism, especially in Berlin. German society is already impregnated with different cultures, which not only make it special but also embellish it. This is most visible in sports and music: just have a look at German football! And what about the abundance of different music styles represented here!

3. Europe, immigrants and refugees?

– I am unequivocally on the side of immigrants, not only because I was one of them (25 years ago I was made to leave my home town) but also because what moves immigrants is the same power which has always moved the whole of humanity. If one made a list of historical, important characters and separated out those who were forced to immigrate from those who spent their life in their birth place, I am sure that the first group would significantly outnumber the second, and not coincidentally.

4. Your artistic career, marked with its many successes, is something of a myth. At 18, you started with the Sarajevo band Zabranjeno Pušenje. Once Yugoslavia disintegrated, you created the No Smoking Orchestra with Emir Kusturica. By doing so, you triggered a Balkan-mania throughout the blue planet. Five years ago, you had a heart attack which you luckily survived. Nowadays, in your blooming mature years, and with your 55 springs, Dr Nele is more alive than ever. What is your secret?

– It is true that I took a step away from the music business for a while. The heart attack you mentioned made me realise that the life of a rock star is just like a marathon: you have to be physically fit and prepared for it. This was not the case for me. So during this break, I had the great opportunity to express myself in other fields: theatre, TV. I also wrote a few books which soon will be translated into German. Yet I am now coming back to my first love, music, curious to see if we are still in love.

5. Unreliable sources have informed us that you intend to join forces, merge talent and pull stamina with the notorious Berliner collective BalkanBeats SoundSystem ?! What is that all about?

– A fortuitous meeting, a splendid synergy, a shared artistic vision. I think that as an artist, if it happens to you to stumble across another artists who has a similar perspective, you ought to stop and explore that. BalkanBeats is a fascinating experiment, and my whole life has been one big experiment. So why not try to do something together?


by Slavoljub Gazibarić  ⎜Berlin 25 September 2017