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Day 8: Sweet Home Sarajevo

By Folk Combo, Jan 31 2015 03:44PM

On how Folk Combo landed on planet Bosnia, hassled around with some 'policija' and found a sweet bohemian island in Sarajevo.

We drove the Villa into the majestic mountains of Bosnia. We found ourselves on a road surrounded by stone giants, huge walls of rock and steep ridges. The sky was clear and filled with stars and the full moon illuminated the white winter scenery. The crown of the mountain popped out against the black canvas of the night, reflecting a mystikal blue light. The surroundings combined with the music of the Rennaisance turned this drive into a sort of mysterious dream. We were like two astronauts, gliding with their space vehicle on the surface of some strange planet. Via numerous tunnels with ice stalactites on the ceiling, we drove deeper into the heart of this mountain planet. After going up again we reached a point were we had a good view over the area we just crossed. We went out of the car and it was freezing cold. We had a beer and a smoke and gazed for a while upon the incredible scene. We could see only a few lights of life, dispersed over a huge space, probably miles away from each other. This must be a harsh and difficult habitat for human beings to live in.

We continued our journey towards Sarajevo. Just before we reached the city, around 2 o'clock in the night, a police car appeared in the rear window and signalled us to stop. Two cops stepped out and asked us for "dokumenti". Neither of them spoke English and they had some trouble explaining to us that we were speeding. Eventually, they wrote our speed on a piece of paper, showing a ridiculous number that was clearly a fraud. We realized that these guys were trying to squeeze us for some money. Sure of our innocence and refusing to play along this game we showed them our TomTom with speeding-alarm. 1-0 for Folk Combo! In the meantime, they kept speaking in Bosnian, probably trying to think of other ways to continue their little scheme. Then one of the cops pointed at the indicator lights. One of them didn't work at that moment and they thought they had us. They demanded 20 euro's or the same amount in Bosnian currency. We emptied our pockets, pretending to look for something to give them. David fished a note of 20 kunas (=1 euro), left from Croatia, out of his pocket and showed it to the cops. They looked quite annoyed, waving away the note as it were some dirty thing. They asked us where we were going. "Romania", we lied. "Why Romania?". We are muzikanti. "Ahhh, muzikanti!", and then we could go, because they know all too well, musicians don't have any money. We were both very satisfied with the conclusion of this story.

When we finally got to Sarajevo we were welcomed by a pack of street dogs, barking agressively at the Villa and chasing us down the road. We drove around a few times, since cops were also swarming around the streets and we had enough of them for one day. Finally we found a place to sleep for the remaining hours of the night and the next morning we woke up and went out to explore the city. About 50 meters from the Villa we found a hostel/jazzcafé: The Pink Houdini. We went inside and it was a basement bar, decorated with posters of jazz legends, a big projector screening concert footage of Chet Baker on the wall, and on the tables you could find books of photography, music and art. The man who owns, created and personifies this bohemian island introduced himself as Beko Teka. He offered us a bed in his hostel in exchange for a music performance. Beko is a true free spirit and the type of relaxed guy that does exactly what he feels like. In the following days, he would ask us on several times: "would you like to... try the instruments?", meaning, come out and play guys. One night at the Houdini, we were asked to play together with the regular jazzband. This spontaneous and unprepared formation was later coined: "The International Confusion Band" by The Professor (bassist Ivo); because nobody knew what was going to happen. It was a great experience and we were very impressed by these excellent musicians. They joined us, without blinking, head first into our folk repertoire. On saturday we played another gig, this time in our regular settings. Since we didn't had a proper stage that night, we had to sit between the guests trying not to knock over their drinks while we were playing. It went well and we got a good response from the audience.

We payed a visit to the library and the music academy where we met a professor of etnomusicology and learned a bit more about the folkmusic of Bosnia. This music is just like the community: a mix of cultural identities. The historical centre is very Oriental and everywhere you look you find little bazars, restaurants and coffeehouses. On Sunday we had a nice walk to the hill to get a good overview of the the city. We met two young guys along the way, who showed us how to get to the 'high part' and after a little chitchat with these friendly boys we continued our hike. At the viewpoint we had a beautiful panorama of Sarajevo. After spending the days in the crowded and tiny streets, we could now breathe in the space from a different perspective.

Sarajevo is a city which inspires many reflections: having such a difficult recent history the people seem to be looking forward to a new era to come where differences are diluted in a good coexistence, although for the outsiders the city speaks in other directions. There are cemeteries in unexpected places, big temples that state the presence of loyal parishioners, spontaneous ambulant markets where one can find products from vegetables till controversial memorabilia like pens made of used bullets, making the visitors look at Sarajevo with high respect. The air is heavy in some ways, specially looking at the mountains around the city where only 20 years ago a siege of 4 years took place, the longest of modern history. As a living example of that time: it is still dangerous to walk around in some hills due to undetonated mines.

When we got back at the Houdini, we played a private concert for Beko, Irena and two bartenders and got invited by Irena to watch a play at the National Theatre of Sarajevo. The play was in Bosnian, so we didn't get a single word of the story, but it was still an interesting evening and a new way of experiencing theatre. The next day, after one more stroll around the town to take pictures, we bought a book with sevdalinkas (trad. urban folk music) and some bureks (Turkish pastries) for the road. We packed our stuff and said goodbye to Beko and the other Houdini's, leaving with a sweet taste in our mouths, thinking of the great people we met and the best cake that we have ever tasted (see picture of this tri leče!). Bye bye, sweet home Sarajevo!

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