Zabranjeno Pušenje

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Zabranjeno Pušenje
Origin Sarajevo, SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, SFR Yugoslavia
Genres New Primitivism, rock, punk rock, garage rock, gypsy punk, rock and roll
Years active 1980–1990 (Sarajevo)
1996–present (Zagreb)
1993–present (Belgrade, from 1999 as The No Smoking Orchestra)
Labels Nimfa Sound
Website [1] Zagreb Group
[2] Belgrade Group
Members See Members

Zabranjeno Pušenje (Bosnian for No Smoking) is a Bosnian rock band from Sarajevo.

The band was formed in 1980 in Sarajevo by a group of friends who worked on the early radio version of Top Lista Nadrealista (The Surrealist Top List). Contrary to the then-prevalent punk rock and new wave, Zabranjeno Pušenje created a distinctive garage rock sound with folk influences, often featuring innovative production and complex story-telling, sometimes even dark premonitions of war. They went on to record four albums and tour the country extensively, occasionally sparking controversy and even getting into trouble with authorities for their (usually mild and sympathetic) criticism of the socialist system, and the habit of making light of issues considered sensitive at the time.

After the band's popularity reached new heights in late 1980s, spurred on by the televised version of Top Lista Nadrealista, the Bosnian War which followed saw the breakup of the band, with one offshoot continuing work in Belgrade initially as Zabranjeno Pušenje, later under the name No Smoking Orchestra, and the other initially in Zagreb then later returning to Sarajevo, using the original name. Nevertheless, many of the songs of Zabranjeno Pušenje have attained an anthemic status and their music remains popular across former Yugoslavia.

The original band (Sarajevo)[edit]

Early years[edit]


What would eventually become Zabranjeno Pušenje was started in 1979 by 16-year-old Nenad Janković (later to become known as dr. Nele Karajlić) and 18-year-old Davor Sučić (later mr. Sejo Sexon), two teenage friends and neighbours who attended Druga Gimnazija secondary school and lived in the same apartment building on Fuad Midžić Street in the Sarajevo neighbourhood of Koševo. Already infatuated with and deeply immersed in rock'n'roll, the two fanatically absorbed various musical influences from Yugoslavia and abroad, all the while desperately trying to achieve a basic level of technical proficiency on their instruments — at this stage Nele played the piano, an instrument he previously studied in music school for a short time before dropping out, while Sejo played the guitar. Both possessing very limited musical knowledge, despite displaying boundless enthusiasm, the duo struggled with everything from simply tuning their instruments to producing the simplest of melodies.[1]

Sejo and Nele soon expanded their setup by adding Ognjen Gajić (a.k.a. Ogi or Gaja), another neighbourhood teenage friend who possessed some basic musical knowledge having attended a music school. Though, by Nele's own admission, Ogi played the piano better than Nele,[1] Ogi decided to switch over to flute as an homage to his favourite band Jethro Tull. He managed to become comfortable on a new instrument fairly quickly, soon becoming a bit of a musical authority among this now threepiece. However, despite Ogi's arrival raising the level musical competence within the band, his indolence and absent-mindedness created issues as it became clear he's a lot less interested in the band than Sejo and Nele, leading to several heated exchanges between Sejo and Ogi.[1]

Since each of the three teenage members of the group informally known as Pseudobluz bend lived with their parents, the band rehearsals also took place in their parents' apartments. Most of the time it was the Nele's parents' place though the guys would occasionally also rehearse at Ogi's because, according to Nele, Ogi's piano was better tempered to the flute, which meant much less time spent on tuning. Also, no less importantly, by rehearsing at Ogi's parents' apartment, Nele and Sejo would be sure he'd show up as Ogi generally treated the band as nothing more than nonchalant pastime.[2]


Before long, Sejo brought in Zenit Đozić (a.k.a. Zena, later to become known as Fu-Do), his new classmate at Druga Gimnazija who recently moved to Sarajevo from Bugojno, to be the band's drummer. Adding percussions, that actually consisted of pots and pans, to their setup created new problems as the noise during rehearsals became unbearable for Nele's parents and Ogi's mother so the members set about looking for a suitable rehearsal space.

In fall 1980, in accordance with the newly passed law in SFR Yugoslavia that required new high school graduates to immediately serve their mandatory Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) stint, 19-year-old Sejo who three months earlier graduated high school had to report to the army, which meant being away from Sarajevo and the band for a whole year.[3] With Sejo temporarily gone, the band got a new member — Mustafa Čengić (a.k.a. Muče or Mujo Snažni), an old school guitarist who already experienced a small measure of local prominence having played with Prvi čin, a Sarajevo carbon copy of Deep Purple. Muče brought with him Mladen Mitić (a.k.a. Munja or Mitke) on bass guitar. They were occasionally accompanied by Mirko Srdić (later to become known as Elvis J. Kurtović), Zoran Degan (a.k.a. "Poka"), Boris Šiber, Samir Ćeramida, etc.

Through his connections, Muče managed to get the band on the bill of a December 1980 new music showcase at Dom mladih named "Nove nade, nove snage", organized by the famous Sarajevo rock promoter and enthusiast Želimir Altarac Čičak.[4] It would be the band's first ever live public performance. Shortly before the show, the band changed its name to Pseudobluz bend Zabranjeno Pušenje and after some time simply dropped the first part.


Their first recording, "Penzioneri na more idu zimi" (Retirees Take Their Vacation In Wintertime), was made for Radio Sarajevo in early 1981. From May 1981, Karajlić and an occasionally a few other band members became additionally involved with the Top lista nadrealista radio segment, which aired weekly as part of the Primus programme on Radio Sarajevo's channel two.

They performed around Sarajevo for two years before beginning to record material for a debut album during fall 1983 in producer Paša Ferović's modest studio. The shambolic recording process took seven months before the album named Das ist Walter got released by Jugoton in April 1984 in the small print of 3,000 copies, clearly indicative of the label's extremely low commercial expectations. The line-up was altered and now Nenad Janković's younger brother Dražen Janković (a.k.a. "Seid Mali Karajlić") was on organ and Predrag Rakić (a.k.a. "Šeki Gayton") took drums. Although it was publicized that Nenad Janković and Davor Sučić wrote the first album material, the fact is that Mustafa Čengić (lead guitar) and Mladen Mitić (bass guitar) were unpublished composers of a large portion of it, and also greatly influenced and contributed to all song arrangements. Though the album was initially released in 3,000 copies, the final count was 100,000 copies sold, setting a record for exceeding the initial release by 30 times. In autumn 1984 they embarked on a 60-concert nationwide tour, making them one of the biggest Yugoslav rock attractions after just one album.

During that tour, at their concert in Rijeka (on November 27, 1984), Karajlić declared, referring to an amplifier that had just broken down, "Crk'o Maršal. Mislim na pojačalo." ("Marshall croaked. I mean, the amplifier."), which was recognized as a pun on Marshal Tito's death, landing the band in trouble. They were criticized by the media and a campaign against them resulted in the canceling of their concerts and the removal of Top lista nadrealista from the air.

In this atmosphere, the band recorded their second, double album Dok čekaš sabah sa šejtanom (While you wait for dawn with the Devil)in the infamous SIM studio and released it in July 1985. Songs were written by Mustafa Čengić, Sejo Sexon, Nele Karajlić, Mladen Mitić, Seid Mali Karajlić and Elvis J. Kurtović. The album was solid, but was boycotted by the media and the following tour had a rather disappointing conclusion as the following year Šeki Gayton and Mustafa Čengić (Muče) left the band in search of a more secure means of making a living. Mladen Mitić left in late 1986 after contributing to the development of the third album.

For the occasion of the recording of their third album, Pozdrav iz zemlje Safari (Greetings from the Safari land) released in 1987 by Diskoton, the rest of the band was joined by Predrag Kovačević (a.k.a. "Kova" or "Kowalski"; from "Elvis J. Kurtović & his Meteors") on guitar, Faris Arapović on drums and Emir Kusturica played the bass guitar on 3 tracks. All songs were written by Sejo Sexon and Nele Karajlić.

Kusturica co-authored two songs. Diskoton censors had some objections and the song "Our Proposal for the Eurovision Song Contest" had to be renamed, since the song included comments on the depressed state of the economy and the lack of freedom of expression. The album again included a number of hit songs and returned the band to stardom. The following tour, which included 87 concerts, was the largest Zabranjeno Pušenje tour thus far and the band was by that time regarded as one of the Yugoslav rock institutions. In January 1988 the band received a gold record for 100,000 copies sold.

In October 1988 the band released their last album before splitting up - Male priče o velikoj ljubavi (Small Stories About Great Love). The songs were mostly written and produced by Sejo Sexon. For this album, Jadranko Džihan (a.k.a. "Dinka") played keyboards and Darko Ostojić (a.k.a. "Minka") was on bass guitar. The album also featured opera singer Sonja Milenković, violin player Dejan Sparavalo and Goran Bregović as backing vocal and guitar player. The album was an average success. The band embarked on the tour with Bombaj štampa and the rest of Top lista nadrealista crew (those who didn't play in the band already). The tour (a combination of theatre and rock and roll, after an idea by Sejo Sexon) was a great success and regarded as the best tour of 1989 with around 60 concerts and more than 200,000 visitors.


In the early 1980s, when the rest of the ex-Yugoslav popular music scene followed the trends of early 1980s Europe (chiefly punk rock and new wave), Zabranjeno Pušenje were part of a unique rock movement centered in Sarajevo that forged its own path. This movement, for the most part, centred on simple, youthful, garage rock, with folk influences and a distinctive Sarajevo urban feel called Novi primitivizam (New primitivism).

The songs range from punk rock to rock, frequently arranged to feature trumpets and saxophones, adding to the band's unique sound, along with many samples and soundbites from the period. Zabranjeno Pušenje captured the feel of Sarajevo, its idols and local heroes along with tales of love and loss, in a distinctive and often humorous way. Very visual and cynical, the band's lyrics were progressive enough to show the last stages of Yugoslav socialism (songs "Dan republike", "Srce ruke i lopata", "Abid", "Guzonjin sin"), alternate clubs ("Pišonja i Žuga u paklu droge", "Javi mi") as well as providing morbid hints for the upcoming war ("Kanjon Drine", "Zvijezda nad Balkanom").

They secured their place in the history of rock music in the former Yugoslav countries. The band released four albums before the ensuing war forced most of the members to relocate.


On several occasions from 1987 until the breakup of the band, Emir Kusturica played bass guitar in the band.


  1. Das ist Walter - 1984 (That is Walter)
  2. Dok čekaš sabah sa šejtanom - 1985 (While you're waiting for dawn with the devil)
  3. Pozdrav iz zemlje Safari - 1987 (Greetings from Safari land)
  4. Male priče o velikoj ljubavi - 1989 (Small stories of big love)


In the second part of 1989, Karajlić and Sexon, the band's leading duo, were getting on increasingly colder terms and the Yugoslavia-wide tour with Bombaj Štampa and Top lista nadrealista during early 1990, though hugely commercially successful, only exacerbated their fractured business and personal relationship.[5] The band broke up in late summer 1990 when Sexon informed Karajlić about no longer being interested in playing with him.

In April 1992, the Bosnian War began. Karajlić, an ethnic Serb, fled to Belgrade, Serbia where he reformed the band named Zabranjeno Pušenje. Sexon, an ethnic Bosniak, remained in besieged Sarajevo, taking part in the wartime spinoff of Top lista nadrealista before fleeing to Zagreb, Croatia in 1994 and also reforming a band named Zabranjeno Pušenje. For a few years during mid-to-late 1990s, two parallel bands named Zabranjeno Pušenje existed. In early 1999, Karajlić hooked up with film director Emir Kusturica, himself former member of Zabranjeno Pusenje in mid 1980s, and they modified the name of Karajlić's Zabranjeno Pušenje to The No Smoking Orchestra. Playing off of Kusturica's popularity and high profile, the band was occasionally billed as Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra.

Zabranjeno Pušenje (Zagreb)[edit]

The Western part continued to perform in 1996 and has recaptured some of the original group's success. They also later embarked on a European tour and by 2004 had released five new albums (three studio and two live albums). In 2006 the band created the complete soundtrack for the Bosnian movie Nafaka with guest musicians (mostly actors from the movie, as well as the female choir Arabeske). Later that year, the band released the double album Hodi da ti čiko nešto da, their first double album since Dok čekaš sabah sa šejtanom.

In 2006 they returned to Belgrade and played a successful concert at the Beer Fest.



  1. Nikad robom, vazda taxijem (Best of 1) - 1996 ("Never under slavery, always by cab")
  2. Fildžan viška - 1997 ("En extra cup of coffee")
  3. Srce, ruke i lopata (Best of 2) - 1998 ("A heart, hands and a shovel")
  4. Hapsi sve! (Live) - 1998 ("Arrest 'em All")
  5. Agent tajne sile - 1999 ("Agent of a secret power")
  6. Bog vozi Mercedes - 2001 ("God drives a Mercedes")
  7. Live in St. Louis (Live) - 2003
  8. Nafaka OST - 2006 ("Needful Things")
  9. Hodi da ti čiko nešto da - 2006 ("Come, uncle wants to give you something")
  10. The Ultimate Collection - 2009
  11. Muzej Revolucije - 2009 ("The Museum of the Revolution")
  12. Radovi na cesti - 2013 ("Road works")

Zabranjeno Pušenje / The No Smoking Orchestra (Belgrade)[edit]

The No Smoking Orchestra playing at BKZ Oktyabrskiy in St. Petersburg, Russia on 6 October 2007.

The eastern part released one new album as Zabranjeno Pušenje - 1997's Ja nisam odavle. In 1999 the band was then renamed Emir Kusturica & No Smoking Orchestra and released four more albums and continued touring all around the world. In 1998 the band composed the music for Emir Kusturica's film Black Cat, White Cat, which won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival the same year. Since June 1999, the band has been regularly touring worldwide. They developed quite a following internationally in the process. Their popularity is particularly notable in Southern Europe (Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France) where most of their initial touring took place in late 1990s and early 2000s and in Latin America where the band first played in 2001, gradually developing a spirited fan base throughout the continent, especially in Argentina. Lately, the band has also fond much success deep into Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Armenia).

In 2005, a DVD live album Live is a Miracle of the band's performance in Buenos Aires' Luna Park was released.

In 2007, the band was involved in Time of the Gypsies punk opera that was staged in Bastille in Paris.

Since the Ušće fiasco, the band played only a few more concerts on home soil such as 2008 large open-air gigs in Kruševac and Novi Sad that went well, serving as lead ins for the concert at Belgrade Arena in late November 2008 where more than 10,000 gathered.

Though the band played Montreal twice before, summer 2010 marked their first foray into North America with concerts in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Chicago, and New York City. The highlight of the mini-tour was the outdoor concert in the streets of Montreal in front of some 60,000 spectators as part of the city's jazz festival (Le Festival International de Jazz de Montréal).


The Belgrade-based band's live repertoire includes a homage to accused war criminal Radovan Karadžić (a.k.a. Dr. Dragan David Dabić), who was arrested in July 2008 in Belgrade, on the song "Wanted Man." In January 2009 Tilman Zülch, founder and President of the Society for Threatened Peoples, wrote an open letter to the organizers of a Munich concert protesting the band's performance on January 24, 2009. He called organizers to "Stop the propaganda for war criminal Karadžic on the Munich concert stage!"[6]

Emir Kusturica and The No Smoking Orchestra performing at Budapest Park - 2014


Many other musicians have appeared on various albums in large and varying setups.


  1. Zabranjeno Pušenje: Ja Nisam Odavle [1997]
  2. Black Cat, White Cat: Black Cat, White Cat [1998]
  3. Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra: Unza Unza Time [2000]
  4. The No Smoking Orchestra: Life Is A Miracle [2004]
  5. Emir Kusturica And The No Smoking Orchestra: Live Is A Miracle In Buenos Aires [2005]
  6. The No Smoking Orchestra: Emir Kusturica's Time Of The Gypsies Punk Opera [2007]
  7. The No Smoking Orchestra: The Best Of Emir Kusturica and The No Smoking Orchestra [2009]


  1. ^ a b c Karajlić 2014, p. 107.
  2. ^ Karajlić 2014, p. 109.
  3. ^ Karajlić 2014, p. 123.
  4. ^ Karajlić 2014, p. 125.
  5. ^ Tučkar, Zoran (26 August 2009). "Davor Sučić aka Sejo Sexon (Zabranjeno pušenje): "Crk'o je Vox, a ne Marshall"". Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  6. ^ Zülch, Tilman (January 23, 2009). "Stop the propaganda for war criminal Karadzic on the Munich concert stage!". Munich: GfbV-International. Retrieved 7 June 2012. 

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