Bajaga and fans celebrate 40 years since “Positive Geography” album and first concert in Skopje


On April 6, Serbian and former Yugoslav rock band Bajaga i Instruktori repeated their first concert held in the Youth Cultural Center in Skopje, held at the same location 40 years before, in 1984.

Two members of the original 1980s lineup joined the frontman Momčilo Bajagić “Bajaga” on stage in Skopje – guitarist and vocalist Živorad Milenković  “Žika” and keyboardist Aleksandar Lokner. All three veterans in their sixties provided a remarkable, professional performance with ease and grace, alongside three other experienced musicians who are about half their age.

The  audience in the Skopje  Youth Cultural Center (MKC) was quite diverse too, and included fans ranging from silver haired rockers and urban ladies who had been teenagers during the 1980s, to contemporary teenagers who might be their kids, representing generation Z.

While the music quality was constantly high, it took several songs for the  audience to warm up and start to massively sing along and shout. A reason for this was that this concert of a major regional rock band was completely “dry” – due to issues of  dysfunctionality of the MKC, which includes closing of the bar and the restaurant, no drinks could have been purchased within the Center or in the vicinity.

The concert program reflected the ‘original’ program from 1984. At the start Bajaga and the band announced that they will only play songs from their first album “Pozitivna geografija” (Positive Geography) as well as his other songs made by that time. However even with those limitations, the playlist included quite a few legendary hits or cult classics which had consistently supported the  band’s popularity over the subsequent four decades. The song included major hits like “Berlin,” “Poljubi me” (Kiss me), “Tamara,” “Marlena,” as well as humorous  “Tequila, guerilla,” “Mali slonovi” (Little elephants), and “Papaline” (Sprats). The band also performed far less popular “Znam čoveka” (I know that man) and “Kosooka” (Slanted eyed girl).

During the decades after their original publication, some of the songs gained new meanings because of changing context. For instance “Berlin” was at first about Bajaga’s father, who as a 16-year old Yugoslav partisan really intended to carry the antifascist fight up all the  way to Berlin, and includes slogans from 1944. However when performed it brought up a whole new set of associations after the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989.

Other socially engaged songs from the  same album and concert include antimilitarist “Limene trube” (Tin trumpets), which seems to predict the role  of the  army in the  bloody breakup of the Yugoslav Federation, or “Pustite me, druže” (Comrade please let me go) about  police brutality – abuse of teenagers by street cops.

Reenacting the  behavior of the band during their first tour, Žika also played the role of pompous announcer, again using a megaphone to address the audience. However unlike in 1984 he didn’t round up the visitors from the entrance hall, and in general the band members didn’t mix with the audience (at their first concert in Zagreb they even played the role of  box  office staff).

Mitrović, Bajagić and Lokner at the Skopje concert, April 6, 2024. Photo by Meta.mk.
Mitrović, Bajagić and Lokner at the Skopje concert, April 6, 2024. Photo by Meta.mk.

Since in 1984 Bajaga i instruktori lacked their own material for a full concert, they filled in the gaps with several parodic songs, like the punk-rock version of “Chibu – chiba” a 1969 hit by Croatian-Macedonian schlager singer Ljupka Dimitrovska and her husband Nikica Kalođera. Žika Mitrović sung the female vocals on this song, as well as on the humorous “Papaline” which pokes fun at the accents used by high class people from Zagreb and Belgrade through a song about two lovers from these cities. Some other half baked joke songs with humorous lyrics from that tour  were also played.

Momčilo Bajagić Bajaga was born in 1960. He started a career in music at 15, and as 18-years old he joined Riblja Čorba, then-one of the most popular rock bands in Yugoslavija. As a guitarist and songwriter he takes credit for some of their biggest hits from the  period between 1979 and 1984. His  “Kad hodaš” (“When You Walk”), “Dobro jutro” (“Good Morning”), “Evo ti za taksi” (Here’s some cab money) become anthems of the urban popular culture in the region, and the band played them also at the Skopje concert.

In parallel, Bajaga was composing songs that didn’t fit the hard rock concept of Riblja Čorba, including light humorous experiments that combined different world music styles and motives, associated with various locations. Such songs formed the backbone of the album “Positive Geography.”

In a 2009 interview  with journalist Aleksandar Rezina, Bajaga said that the album and the new band came about thanks to the encouragement by producer Kornelije Kovač. This career turn was very risky, as during the first few years with the new band he was earning ten times less than he would be as a Riblja Čorba member. However he was bored by the interpersonal conflicts in that band, including the ego trips of lead singer Bora Đorđević, and also believed that Instruktori make a good team.

Živorad Milenković – Žika is also one of the legends of former Yugoslav rock scene. He was protagonist of one of the most popular songs by Bajaga i instruktori “Život je nekad siv, nekad žut” (“Life Is Sometimes Grey and Sometimes Yellow”) from 1988, while during the 1990s he was cofounder and lead singer of the alternative rock band Babe.

At the end of the concert Bajaga invited his loyal fans to attend the upcoming great concert in Belgrade Hippodrome on August 31, promising the repertoire will include all their favorite songs from the four decades of band’s work.

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