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Groovy times in Novi Sad

silvia | 04.08.2006 08:38 | Art and Activism Caravan 2006 | Culture | Free Spaces | Social Struggles

Rhythms of Resistance is a growing network of percussion(samba) groups around Europe which shows up to many demonstrations to various issues as well as coming up with their own actions. In Berlin the samba band is quite active and I give with this article an overview about my workshop I did in Novi Sad, North of Serbia, Voyvodina
Pictures will follow during the next days

The day before the workshop started we meet with our hosts. They came from 2 different organisations, Cultura Nova, which organises in a two weeks period a big alternative festival, struggles for an social center and generally wants to wake up youth, re-politicise them and squat buildings. The other one is Volunteers Voyvodina, the have more than 200 members, mainly young people and organise workcamps, help out with cultural events and things like the art and activism caravan. We were introduced in general basic knowlegde about novi Sad, for example that it is ruled but a very nationalist party and that they are taking place every year several neonazi marches, to the expactations they have from us and they prepared us for an hard partying week.

After this we checked out a beautiful spot, where the samba workshop could take place, in the famous fortress, where recently the musicfestival "Exit" has ended and it was the first time for me on the trip that I immediately knew, the week will become a great sucess for everyone. nobody would be annoyed by our "noise" and the view was fantastic.

since the AA caravan presentation took place as usually in the morning of a normal working day, not many people showed up. I was very dissapointed after my experiences I made with a very small size of participants in Belgrade and Tirana, when just 7 people came afterwards to me and showed interest. Because normally after the first workshop half of the crowd is about leaving because it turns out not to be what they expected.

I was a bit anxious becuase I heard that our host groups showed to the young people of Novi Sad videos of radical actions samba bands also took part in with molotow cocktails and black block, so many just responded after this: We don´t want to be involved in politics like this. But this is probably understandable after all the war experiences Balkan people made in the last 15 years.

but I talked to the 7 people who were there, that samba itself is actualy an concept which celebrated happiness on demonstrations or can be used as an non-violent tool in anti-capitalist struggles and after all, I´m just here to share my knowledge about drumming and its up to them what they gonna be do afterwards with it and first aff all we learn to make good music together and have fun. Maybe that convinced people, in the afternoon about 20 persons showed up. We started with some games to learn our names and some rhythmic games I also have done in Plav. But this time the group in general was older and more disciplined. The age was from 14 to 30 years, many students and capoiera people showed up as well as a whole bunch of young metal kids who all wanted to learn to play the snare. So after 2 hours we started to learn our first rhythm, it was "Plav" the new invented one by the kids in Plav and it is(not yet) an official tune of Rhythm of Resistance. It sounds a bit cheesy but happy and is very easy to learn. So everybody went home quite happy and the next day everybody showed up again except of two very girlygirlies.

the next workshop day a started with showing videos and pictures from several actions all around europe, played some tunes and also much material a recently received from the new founded Rhythms of Restistance Band in Sofia, Bulgaria.

I did this on the one hand to release people from the fear, that our network is just playing on actions where half of the inner cities are burned, and on the other hand also to show that there are already other people in eastern europe doing similiar things. Because all this activism seems sometimes very strange to the people from all the countries we travelled in, and the western/eastern boarders still exist strongly, also in the alternative scene. I don`t want to be a missionar founding sambabands like Mc donalds does this with franchise companies, but I also like the idea of not just making music together but engaging the people to use their new knowlegde to rise up their voices against injustice.

After this theoretical part we went off again 15 minutes from the place where we stayed to the grass of the fortress in the blistering heat of the noon.

We started to learn custard and people turned out to be very talented. they learnt incredible fast and it was a very nice atmosphere also for me giving the workshop.

the next day we improved custard, changed some instruments and learnt in half an hours time "hedgehoge". this rhythm turned to be out on the whole tour to be very familiar to the people, also when I improvised somewhere music it often ended up in a very similiar rhythm. Maybe its very balkanspecial.

In the end of this rehearsal I asked people about their expactations for our final event, which would take place on Saturday and the other AA groups would also prepare something. the reaction was quite diverse from: We don´t want to play at all at the street, it`s embarassing till "we just play". I told them that it is a missed chance to raise the voice because pretty much attention would be on us and so they finally can mention things which is normally not possible. some people said, they hate politics in general, others wanted to do an action against the corrupt state and in the end we agreed of making a banner and hand out flyers for the need of an social center in novi Sad, where youth can get active without paying money or just can meet without the pressure of public space.

the next day we discussed quite long the layout of both, banners and flyers and the content. Everybody got pretty excited about this topic, they asked for our experience with stuff like this in our countries and started to plan various things for the future. aLso they are aware that is is pretty difficult to get a house, its not impossible, also squatting is not illegal in Serbia so signs are good for somethings going to be happen in the next time.

After our discussion we practised again what we learnt before and to march, what was in the beginning very strange for both of us.

the next day everybody brought fancy cloths and even the very cool metal boys couldn´t help themselves and dressed themselves up very glamarious.

I really liked the way people came toghether in such short time and worked so hard and at the same time with so much fun on one topic.

So the action went pretty well, actually it was very impressive. We decided not to play before we arrived at our official starting point to keeps the surprise. But all the car drivers and the pedestrians we met on the way might have thought they are heavily tripping. Such queer and weird people with all the little drums was quite an image even for a half open-minded city like Novi Sad.

At nearly 7 p.m we finally arrived, for sure too late, but things like this are always "nema problema" in Serbia, a mentality which I really liked.

We started immediately to play, people got very curious and some others handed out our flyers.Soon the mischief bird and the clowns with their mobile protest against visa arrived on the square and everyone was busy for the next hour. sometimes the sambaband started to play again, then the attention was more on the clowns or on the bird again and after a while we had a little demonstration crossing the main square of novi sad and ending up in the backyard of cultura Nova office where also lots of cafes are established.

We played for a short while, people started to dance and especially the roma people who just came there for the presentation of the film about thei community without power. shich video people made this week, loved our music. Everybodys face was so happy and excited it was a great pleasure for me to maestrate.

after we finished a symbolic house was built and I had to arrange also silkscreen printing what was also taking part in this yard. at the same time the videoscreening started, people have made incredible got videos during the last 2 weeks in Belgrade and novi sad.

after this great sucess my participants, which had actually long time left this "status" and just became my fellows, decided to keep on playing. what a great chance that we stayed one week longer in novi sad. Bad Luck for Banja Lucka o the other side. But we were to exhausted to start in a complete new environment and al prefered rather to establish things here.

So we had one week more. We learnt "Kalashnikov", people started to maestrate on their own, we built out own little instruments out of old pots and tins and cans, played toghether with capoeira instrumentsused as agogo, which sounds incredible, played, played like mad and most people showed up every day, even more people joined during the last week.

On thursday we had our second "action" which came up very spontaniously by the Romapeople, living in a community called "Bangladesh" without power. they decided to start their first street protest in the center of Novi Sad. the mischief makers went there supported by Coen and johan and made a banner with them. We met tehm then in the late afternoon and had a little demonstration again crossing the main square. Before we learnt a shouting break and we shouted " da lim nas struje" (Give as electricity) The Roma people were pretty happy about having the samba there, we shouted and played together. In the end the video group set up a videoscreening at the end of the road, showing the film again and again. In the meantime, some people were singing and taking over the drums, others tried to explain the problematic about not having electricity, but I have to admit, that the general interest by serbian people was not that high, many didn´t pay attention or laughed. So we started again marching through the chic wannabe touristic center with all the nice caffes and brought the topic directly to the people sitting there having a drink. It was great fun and I also liked the idea of disturbing the public order very much. Many people didn´t know how to deal with us and unfortunately we had to stop at 10, because of a law. And the roma people didn´t want to make any trouble during their first protest, but they will pretty sure keep on protesting until the get electricity and the samba people wanna keep on playing and also supporting them. It was 2 very impressive weeks with very nice people and I hope when I will come back in the future to novi sad I will hear abig big percussion orchestra playing againnst some stupid neonazis, until they dissapear forever. thanks to all the nice people which made the weeks so good as they have been!!!!!!!!