A veteran Techno/House DJ, music producer, mixing/mastering engineer, studio owner, and a metal fan. He took part in organizing some of the musical events of the 90s which have been documented in Vjosa’s archives. This experience is transferred to the journals via a valuable annotation that adds context and narrative to the presented material.
I was in London as a tourist at this particular date (2’nd of July 1990), my parents were calling to congratulate me and my sister on Kosovo’s independence. The funny thing is that my next door neighbours in that building in Earls Court were also my neighbors back in Pristina who happened to be Serbian, my next few weeks in that flat passed by with this nonverbal communication between us, just a few days before the declaration of independence we were doing the usual things neighbourly things, help with groceries, got any sugar any coffee?, some small talk etc, then it all changed in a day. To me that was a weird thing since independence does have a nice ring to it, why would people not like that, why would anyone have anything against you being independent?
The musical equipment of any kind was so scarce that you would think the musical genre Math Metal was invented in Pristina.
Anyone that had any kind of musical equipment, didn't really matter if they are any good at it would be asked to join or form a band.
Drums equals five bands.
One amp and two guitars equal five bands.
Two amps and two guitars equal seven bands.
A bass guitar with an amp two guitars with amps and a drummer equals infinite bands....but impossible.
Just one band with all the equipment equals...folk music. meh
Elsewhere, music was/is a form of entertainment, for us it was food, more than just music, life itself,
Kosova or more precisely Prishtina Metal must have had its own distinct sound, bordering with industrial due to the improvised DIY musical equipment. Drums made out of plastic bins, drum head skins out of X-Ray film (to a point we had a great inside into the people’s pulmonary issues) drum sticks out of usual wood or a carved tree branch, cheap Bulgarian made guitars with the worst electronics and pickups, headphones serving as a microphone, modified cassette decks as distortion boxes and your usual hifi system serving as amps/cabinets. The distortion coming out of these cassette decks sounded awful, incoherent, you couldn’t really tell what note was playing but it sounded HEAVY, a normal riff sounded like hundred guitars playing all at once.
I guess it was the sound of the times, the sound of apartheid couldn’t have really sounded any different!
1992, around two years into the repressive regime. Anger, frustration and death metal.
From the late 80s Metal music found a lot of fans, afterall there was a small rock/hard rock scene from the 60s onwards and a lot of music was available to cater for all. Life was normal then it all went belly up.
Between us and them (the Belgrade regime) there was this space to fill, Heavy Metal filled it, the aggression and anger helped many kids deal with the hard times, a cure for depression at the very heart of its kingdom.
The usual story, a teenager with different interests, taste, ideas, fashion etc. There were pockets of metalheads in pretty much every neighborhood, you know, there is this one dude who listens to metal and has a cousin “who’s trying” to get into because a girl he likes is into Metal.
Scruffy, pumped, tall, short, thin, fat, in all shapes and sizes, some we knew with just a hi bye or a cool shirt man, yet it was lonely and boring but then the love for Metal music connected all of us, it was a common language.
I haven’t seen these flyers for about 28 years and the memory is cloudy, a friend from those days, the artist Artan B. (who recently did the album artwork for Land of Confusion) who always had a sketch book around didn’t make them, neither did Elod B. (from the band Land of Confusion). Luan Q. who played bass guitar for just about any garage Metal band and for the legendary KEK suggested it might be Tolim K. I also had the same guess, Tolim K. always used the word Welcome on flyers so I narrowed it down to him.
Many flyers from other parties and gigs are missing, there were small gigs at Dodona where many bands showcased and competed, it was weird and funny, small theatre with Death Metal bands blasting.
These flyers are great remnants of an era, not just a pass down the memory lane but more than that, they contain the essence of the industrial and dark image of Pristina in the 90s.
When the special measures got imposed on Kosovo by the Belgrade regime that meant that the schools and all other institutions closed their doors to Albanians. The obvious target of Belgrade’s politics was to destroy the educational system and with an absent education system people regress naturally, both culturally and intellectually, thirty years on these scars still remain in our society.
The repression forced us (Albanians) to create our own parallel institutions, in order not to miss on the education and thanks to the brave people and families (Hertic family in Kodra e Trimave/Vranjevc being one of them) who donated their houses and converted them into makeshift schools we kind of managed to keep the educational system up and running.
Talk about parallel life, we have been there, done that, got the T-shirts.
Talking of T-shirts, our high school was relocated at Kodra e Trimave/Vranjevc, a neighbourhood in the outskirts of Prishtina with a very bad reputation.
It wasn’t that easy being a Metalhead, long hair, leather jackets and all, passing by gangs in the street and trying to keep your cool.
What’s that in your T-shirt, one guy asked? What does it say? Are these the insignias of your gang? What is that long hair?
We would just try to find a nice way to ignore these tough looking dudes, we were afterall a bunch of scruffy kids from the centre of the town who didn’t really understand the language of gangs, we were listening to all these Satanic bands with plenty of blood and gore but in reality we were these Eurokrem grown kids (a cocoa bread spread brand in Yugoslavia) A slap would have been enough, let alone anything more, but more did happen, a friend got jumped and there was simply nothing you could do about it. Better a friend with a broken hand than a whole bunch of us stabbed and with broken jaws. You pass the gangs and you are OK then a Police patrol stops you, harassing you etc.
Once this dude wanted to cut my friends' hair by force but in that luck, this other long haired dude with a Slayer T-shirts appears out of nowhere, his name was Agim, much older than us, in his late 20’s, a tough dude from the neighborhood, nevertheless he stepped in and split the fight up telling the gang DO NOT EVER EVER touch my brothers, a kind of THIS IS SPARTA moment. We remained friends with Agim, he was hungry for music and we had plenty of it.
The funny thing is, there were few of these scruffy and thin metalheads who actually joined the KLA to fight against the Serbian army. You just never know who has it in them.
Strange thing though, a neighborhood such as Kodra e Trimave/Vranjevc had all the ingredients for a Punk/Metal scene, it was poor, angry, dark, violent…you name it. It is these very conditions that gave birth to Punk and Metal elsewhere in the world. If for example the late 70's and 80s New York didn’t exist within those conditions you would have no HardCore Punk scene as it is known today, CBGB would have been just another Country Bluegrass Blues bar.
I guess the issue with RocknRoll and its sub-genres in Kosova in general or maybe Prishtina in particular is that it didn’t come so much from the working class as it did e.g. in the UK but more from the middle or even some kind of upper class (if upper class ever existed in Kosova)
Mitrovica might be an exception though as it was a mining city and Mitrovica is generally regarded as the place where Kosova RocknRoll originated, many talented musicians come or have a family connection to Mitrovica to this day.
I think that a friend (Leart Z) must have had something to do with this party, he was both into Punk and HipHop, he had a lot of respect and understanding for both Punk/Metal and Hip Hop, a bit rare for those days, I could be wrong but the writing Dath Yo (which roughly translates as Take Your Shoes off, Yo) but sounds as in Death Yo has his particular style of humor and wordplay so I would narrow this down to him, it has his humor and it was the time period when he was getting more into hip hop and loosing interest for Punk and Metal.
Computer graphics started appearing on flyers, at the time there were rarely any computer designed flyers, not many people had computers and printers at home, unless someone worked for a company who had access to a computer and a printer, but you could have done it in design shops, it was expensive but the results (at that time) were mind blowing, nevertheless preset designs and computer libraries at that time were pretty limited.
Now, that's what I call a flyer design. Best party, feel it.
All parties were very welcoming indeed. This was all Tolim's fault, he started one flyer with Welcome to the Party and the rest just followed using the same tagline.
Undo must be the invention of the century. Only if the party organisers had such a tool in those days.
I kept on seeing this Happy House a lot, some of these parties weren't really that happy as the name suggests.
Tolim was/is a graphic designer, in Prishtina he gave Metal a face, a bag full of stencils and sprays which would cost a fortune in those times. Once while doing graphiti in the street we got jumped by a gang of skinheads but we made it out with a few bruises. He would also make flyers, one in particular was the flyer for the party that got everyone together, the stencils, the music distributed and now the flyer which made the calling that got everyone together.
Flyer was handed out on hand, no more than 150 people, in my place, in the garage where we did setup a pretty powerful set of speakers, they were a gift from my brother-in-law, a three-way system with a very noisy Yugoslav amp but it blasted Metal like nothing. It has later seen many many parties…..
No bands were playing but my double tape deck did the trick, pre-cued songs from days before, you announce one in a death metal growl then you play the song and same thing again, must have looked pretty cheesy but it felt great at the time, fifteen years old, Hell yeah.
The “show” would have not been complete without the lights designed and built by Ilir H., who knew how to turn scrap into robot lights, strobes, even build guitar amps from cassette decks. Ilir H. was the man in this, he later on managed to build a perfect sounding and professionally looking drum set from wooden floor boards.
Back to the party, a festival of hair, sweat, moshing, screaming, jumping from the furniture setup as podiums, the amps couldn’t handle it anymore, the party ended but it was an event that started long lasting friendships, just what some lost teenagers in those dark times needed.
Then from time-to-time parties started popping up and despite the name, Death Metal gave us a life, a purpose.
This flyer was the most unorthodox approach to making a flyer. I had some basic film development equipment.
Transparent tracing paper, ink, a black and white film projector, photographic paper and other chemicals used for picture developing. Tolim had the design and the hand to draw onto transparent paper. NO undo.
Projecting strong light through transparent paper with black ink onto the photographic paper it turns to opposite after full development.
It was cheap for us since we had all the tools needed.
Tolim was also working for a printing house where he was learning his craft, later on his jacket designs and stencil transfers were some of the best I have ever seen, people would go crazy about the level of detail of the designs on my leather jacket, it was mostly band logos, Death Metal band logos are rather sophisticated, a lot of patience and nerves involved to copy one, taking into account the rather primitive and arduous process of transferring designs to leather for which you had only ONE chance to do it on the first press, you mess it up you mess the whole thing and there is NO WAY to clean that up, I kindly donated my leather motor jacket to Tolim to experiment on but they all turned out great, when I moved back to London this very jacket would make a lot of people ask where I’d gotten the designs done, I remember a shop called Metalheads in Carnaby Street (London) the owner was also a bit jealous that it wasn’t one of his, so yeah, Tolim was the stencil, graphity legend at that time.
This very party is constantly praised by Ylber B. as the event that changed his life. Ylber B. in the late nineties emigrated to US and had his luck to play guitar for Sunny Ledfurd a NUMetal Band that signed to a major label, MCA records followed by a US tour with Limp Bizkit, Korn, Ice Cube etc. Sunny Ledfurd broke up in the early 2000.
As teenagers we would hang around Blues Alley, they wouldn’t let us in but there was noise, it was lively, not our music and the best would be some AC/DC or ZZ TOP..nope. But hanging around was OK to meet new people, Dardania or Kurrizi (Backspine in English) is a maze with plenty of space to hang out.
Located at the business centre in the old part of the town (built in the 80s) and nicknamed "China Town" due to its architectural resemblance of the China Town.
This was an awesome place, owned by an actor and a legendary bohème of the city Xhemil Vraniqi, he both run the club and lived in it, it had three floors with narrow and long staircase leading up to the top where there was a dance floor in the centre and raised podiums around it, but before reaching the top floor there were kind of VIP rooms in every floor and a small dispenser bars, it was quite e unique place. Many parties there, and I would sometimes lend my sound system to them, I wouldn't get paid but got free drinks and I would be allowed to hang out with "The Cool Crowd"
The place still exists but I think it might have been converted into an office, just about anything these days.
Just saw this annotation by Toton, and its just so nice. I guess by trade center in the old town he means the old 'qendra zejtare' how we used to call it, just in front of M club nowadays? Anyway I was just thinking of how great it would be to do some kind of site map of all these places, that shows were they were located, for how long did they function, and tell their particular stories - because all of them had these urban stories of their own like the one Toton explained.
Possibly some notes during math classes. You can tell the degradation of the education system in these very pages. From a little girl keeping notes and being very meticulous about school projects just a few years before and down to a single notebook to keep track of classes.
This is pretty much what happened to everyone, from a normal life with dreams and unto a piece of scrap paper, taking some kind of notes during classes, it really sums it all up. Our generation has never seen the inside of a normal high school or faculty. I was lucky since I was moving between Prishtina and London and had the privilege to go to school in London and become a normal student for a few years, but my friends? My friends had to go through all the pain, evade the Police on their way to these makeshift schools, sit on mats crammed into a room. In a recent conversation a friend pointed out that he has NEVER stepped inside Sami Frasheri high school, the actual one, but he also said that situation shaped him and the rest into who we are today, jokingly adding that if the end of the world comes for all then Kosovars would be well prepared and ahead of everyone else, we are afterall masters in DIY (do it yourself)
We all know that Loca (Vjosa) was a big fan of Sebastian Bach, the lead singer of the band Skid Row. This looks like Lotzas attempt on drawing him but Bach wasn’t a guitar player but a vocalist therefore this has to be Slash from Guns N Roses, the letter S gives it away.
Must have been a pretty boring lecture.
Globally, the 90s were an interesting time in terms of music, genre crossovers, techno into punk into techno, rock into hip hop, all kinds of stuff, technology was changing towards becoming more accessible (not Kosova obviously) you had these tittle raves of about 150/200+ people, then some bigger.
DJs at the time didn’t play long mixes, beat matching or have consistency in a mix, if you were lucky a DJ might play some imported DJ mix and you would enjoy at least some of it. There was little knowledge of what was the style of mixing of the time and mega mixing was more the thing, where DJs would jump from one genre to the other, from hip hop to rave.
Nevertheless they were trying and we were letting ourselves go…
The legendary DJ James who is still very active. The phonetic spelling of O.G in here is pretty funny O.J, unless he was a fan of OJ Simpson.
People liked it but I hated it. The turbo-folk 'industry' meets rock n roll had one of its beginnings here. Not and never my thing.
I went to two Rave'ish parties here and had some good fun, went there only twice during the 90's, it wasn't really my or friends thing, I did though go there quite a lot after the year 2000, we have some good ones in there.
Not sure what he meant with Winderval but it probably sounded cool at the times, 30 years later it does sounds like a Viking party. Winderval, awesome!
Must have been one of those Raves around 1996/97.
This was quite possibly the last event I attended before moving to London to study Sound Engineering. I remember it well as this was Jericho’s first gig ever. I was helping the band, we had this Moog Prodigy synthesizer which we were trying to figure out in order to make some more complex sounds to suit the band but it wasn’t really happening. I wasn’t playing with the band though but just helping out.
Not sure about Sansara whether they had any gigs prior to this one but the band END was well into the scene and playing as often as they could. END is now split up but its former members still play in bands or have projects such as Por-No and Retrovizorja.
While in London I went to see this industrial band called Godflesh and they had the same Moog Prodigy synthesizer on stage. I so much wanted to have it back in London but the same synthesizer had a different fate, it went down with the house that got burned during the war by the Serbian paramilitary forces.
We Raved in this one. I remember the music was more consistent than at other parties, with much less stylistic interruptions by the DJ.
I can't really tell if these were jacket patches or just designs as I remember them in different formats.