Thursday, May 08, 2008

Bikers and Nationlists Rock North Mitrovica

Live8, Rock Against Racism, Live Earth… Political agendas are often used as a good excuse to stage an evening or weekend full of live music. New solo artists and groups struggling to stake out a permanent place in the turbulent world of pop music and celebrity jump at the chance to appear alongside the big names under the banner of beating poverty, triumphing over racism and saving the planet from destruction. Fans adore the opportunity to be able to see their favourite acts while becoming more ‘aware’ of which ever issue the old music idols are championing.

It’s not for me to judge the worth of such events or the sincerity of those who attend them. However, the bikers’ rock concert which took place last night in northern Mitrovica put a very different light on the marriage of music and politics.

As a show of Serbian solidarity for Kosovan Serbs, a group of Serb bikers organised a rock concert in north Mitrovica. Here the urgency of the political situation rendered the event completely free of the kind of self-congratulatory atmosphere and the empty gestures that last year’s climate change concert was full of. The music here was about bonding a community to a nation, it seemed to have much greater power than Bob Geldof’s and Bono’s global awareness raising efforts.

The music was hard and heavy. In England I couldn’t imagine it drawing a crowd of anything other than die-hard fans. But in north Mitrovica the event was an occasion for the whole family. As you would expect with any rock concert there was a young crowd, with a few wasted older men hanging onto the good times of their youth. At the front of the stage a mosh-pit began one song into the first band’s set, but in the rest of the crowd toddlers sat on the shoulders of their parents and elderly couples stood watching the show.

Whether or not the politics behind the event was of a moderate or more extreme nature, what seemed most striking was the sense of community surrounding the event. It seemed to be an event for the whole town, not just fans of a quite extreme brand of rock music. Nationalism was at the heart of it. Serbian flags waved and were strung up beside the stage. The evening’s compair began a chant of ‘Kosovo is the heart of Serbia’. With the election only four days away it is not cynical to suggest that the whole event was intended to stir up the already popular nationalist sentiment in Kosovan Serbs which will ensure they vote for the more radical parties.
At the same time such feelings of national solidarity between Serbian and Kosovan Serbs is not necessarily radical in Serbian politics. Boris Tadic, the moderate pro-EU candidate wants Kosovo to remain part of Serbia, even if he is willing to push for EU membership without it. He differs from ultra-nationalists who want to fight the election on the single issue of Kosovo. Tadic believes in Kosovo, but is not willing to jeapordise Serbia’s progress by allowing the high emotions surrounding it to rule over all other issues.
The majority of the people at the concert seemed to be enjoying themselves like any other crowd, but the event was almost inevitably political. All the bands were Serbian and it was estimated that 1000 bikers from all over Serbia had travelled to Mitrovica for the show. It was a clear message that to the Kosovan Serbs that they are still very much part of Serbia.


Anonymous said...

hey boys, i haven't even read this stuff yet but i just watched the slideshow with the umbrellas and i'm amazed at how much you've done already! .. and i'm pretty sure it's groundbreaking...... i will read it tomoro but just to say i'm well impressed and glad that you're gettin on with the task in hand..
hope sunday goes well, what with the potential upsining and that.
love from london xxxx

ross Chalmers said...

that was me, ross, by the way

Sarah Bower said...

This gets better and better. Hope you have a quiet weekend - in the best possible way.