|Origin||Belgrade, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia|
|Genres||New wave, art punk, reggae fusion, post-punk, dub music, experimental music|
|Labels||Jugoton, Croatia Records|
|Angel's Breath, DDT, Disciplina Ki?me/Disciplin A Kitschme, Doktor Spira i Ljudska Bi?a, Katarina II/Ekatarina Velika, Elektri?ni Orgazam, Profili Profili, Suncokret, Rimtutituki|
|see the members section|
?arlo Akrobata (Serbian Cyrillic: ; trans. Charlot the Acrobat, a Serbo-Croatian language version of Charlie Chaplin's name in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) were a seminal Serbian new wave/post-punk band from Belgrade. Short-lived but extremely influential, in addition to being one of the most important acts of the Yugoslav new wave scene, the three piece left an indelible mark on the entire music scene of former Yugoslavia.
Spawning from the progressive/hard rock group Limunovo Drvo (Serbian Cyrillic: ?; trans. Lemon Tree), founded in 1977 by guitarist and vocalist Milan Mladenovi? and guitarist Dragomir Mihajlovi? "Gagi", after several lineup changes, moved towards new wave music, with the arrival of bassist and vocalist Du?an Koji? "Koja" and drummer Ivan Vdovi? "VD". After performing as an opening act for Pankrti in April 1980, Mihajlovi? left the band and the remaining three members changed their name to ?arlo Akrobata. Subsequently, the trio recorded four tracks which were released on the 1981 compilation album Paket aran?man, now considered to be one of the most influential releases in the history of former Yugoslav rock music. During 1981, the band released their debut album Bistriji ili tuplji ?ovek biva kad..., after which, owing to irreconcilable differences between the band members, the band ceased to exist. The album received critical recognition and is regarded as one of the most notable albums of former Yugoslav rock music.
After the band disbandment, Mladenovi? with Vdovi? and Mihajlovi? formed Katarina II, which changed its name to Ekatarina Velika after the departure of the latter two, and Koji? formed Disciplina Ki?me, changing its name to Disciplin A Kitschme in 1995. In 1992, Ivan Vdovi? died of AIDS, followed by Milan Mladenovi?'s death from pancreatic cancer in 1994.
In 1978, Milan Mladenovi? (guitar, vocals) and Gagi Mihajlovi? (guitar) formed the progressive/hard rock band Limunovo Drvo, with bassist Goran "Maksa" Kovin?i? and drummer Du?an "D?ind?er" Dejanovi?. The lineup did not last long and the band experienced frequent lineup changes, including bassist Mikica Stefanovi? as well as Kovin?i?'s and Dejanovi?'s respective returns. Despite never achieving stable lineup, the band still managed to string together a bit of an active presence on Belgrade's underground music scene, performing at the ?arkovo and ?eleznik guitar festivals, at Novi Beograd's Blok 45, the Belgrade Youth Center, as well as staging two solo concerts at the SKC. During this period, the band also recorded a few demo tracks at the famous JM Sound Studio in Zagreb owned by Janko "Truli" Mlinari? and Petko Kantardijev.
Still, Limunovo Drvo never managed to put out an official release although they were reportedly close to recording an album for Suzy Records, but the band broke apart before that could be realized. Songs performed by Limunovo Drvo include "Da li se se?ate?" ("Do you remember?", "Sedmi krug" ("The Seventh Circle", "Oko moje glave" ("All Around My Head"), "Limunovo drvo" ("The Lemon Tree"), "Ne veruj" ("Do Not Believe") and "Gubitak (Ne?to u nama)" ("The Loss (Something Within Us)").
At the end of Mladenovi?'s and Mihajlovi?'s creative wits, the two were joined by Du?an Koji? "Koja" (bass, vocals), who had previously played with a number of underground Belgrade bands, moved in alternative and punk circles gathered around the SKC, where he used to conduct public forum debates related to new wave music, and Ivan Vdovi? "VD" (drums, backing vocals), a drummer of jazz music origin, performing with numerous Belgrade bands including BG5 and Suncokret, which brought a change in their musical orientations by adopting a new musical direction inspired by the emerging punk rock and new wave scene. Koji? and Mladenovi? previously played in a band Izvan Vremena, having their first performance in 1978. Upon his arrival in Limunovo Drvo, Koji? also brought along his and Milan's mutual friend Nenad Krasavac "Kele" who had become the band's unofficial manager. In April 1980, the new Limunovo Drvo lineup opened for Pankrti at Belgrade SKC, performing a set of new and rearranged older songs, after which guitarist Mihajlovi? decided to leave the band and the remaining members decided to continue working as a trio, changing the name to ?arlo Akrobata.
In June 1980, the band performed at a series of multiple acts free concerts, mostly featuring the newly formed new wave and punk bands, organized at the Belgrade SKC under the supervision of Neboj?a Pajki?, after which, ?arlo Akrobata (labeled as Akrobata ?arlo), along with Elektri?ni Orgazam and Idoli were recognized by the D?uboks critic Mom?ilo Rajin as "one of the most exciting new acts".". Rajin stated that Vdovi?'s drum playing style was "reminiscent of Stewart Copeland of The Police", Koji? bass playing as "a true example of simplicity and bareness to the essence of playing his instrument", and Mladenovi? as "matured into a true band leader". Soon after, the three bands were labeled by the music critics as the core of the emerging scene, consisting of the newly formed Belgrade punk rock and new wave bands centered on SKC, which they called the "Belgrade Alternative Scene" or "BAS". During November, with the performance of the song "Ona se budi" the band competed at Subotica Festival Omladina, the event where the representatives of both the Belgrade and Zagreb new wave scene had met for the first time, claiming second jury prize behind Film.
By the Subotica performance, during autumn 1980, the band had already made their first recordings, the songs "Ona se budi" ("She is Rousing"), "Oko moje glave" ("All Around My Head"), "Niko kao ja" ("No One Like Me") and "Mali ?ovek" ("Little Man") at the Belgrade Druga Maca studio, owned by the former Indexi keyboard player Enco Lesi?, who had also made recordings of the other two "BAS" bands, Idoli and Elektri?ni Orgazam. Eventually, in coordination with Lesi? and Idoli manager Dragan Papi?, the Jugoton executive editor Sini?a ?karica came up with an idea of releasing the recordings of three bands in a compilation album, rather than releasing separate maxi singles. During the recording sessions of the three bands, the Druga Maca studio was visited by the young PGP RTB television directors, Boris Miljkovi? and Branimir Dimitrijevi? "Tucko", who were at the time working together on the Rokenroler (Rockenroller) television show, and in the following couple of weeks, they recorded several music videos for the songs of the three bands, all featuring the same style: a minimalist barren white chroma key scenery surrounding the band members.
The recorded music videos, including the video for the song "Niko kao ja", appeared in the third episode of the Rokenroler show, originally broadcast on New Year's Eve 1981 on R, being the debut television appearance of the three Belgrade new wave acts, as well as the first presentation of the Belgrade new wave bands to a nationwide audience outside. The show became the most notable of all the Rokenroler episodes as well as the most notable work of the two directors. The show also marked one of the first serious attempts of introducing the mainstream music video in Yugoslav media. Following the show's broadcast, in January 1981, The D?uboks magazine journalist Neboj?a Mir?etovi?, in the text "The Ultimate Breakup with the Apathetic Seventies", in the context of the unreleased material promoted by the music videos, stated that the show marked the "beginning of a rainbow at the end of which we would find a jar full of beautiful music waiting for the record labels to release it". During following month, in the same magazine, Ivica Vdovi? was polled by the readers as the 10th best drummer, and Du?an Koji? as the 9th best bassist of the year 1980.
Despite the intended release during the late-1980, due to the lack of vinyl material, the omnibus compilation album featuring the debut recordings of ?arlo Akrobata, along with the recordings of Elektri?ni Orgazam and Idoli, Paket aran?man (Package Deal), was released in February 1980 by Jugoton. Despite the fact that initially all three bands were not content with the release itself, especially the album production, owing to the technical limitations of the studio itself, the half-year delay during which the three bands had evolved musically, the release proved to be one of the most influential albums in the history of Yugoslav rock music. The album received positive critical reaction, with the D?uboks magazine critic Mom?ilo Rajin, in his review of the album, comparing the release with notability of the Grupa 220, Bijelo Dugme, Prljavo Kazali?te and Pankrti debut album releases. The album was not a commercial success, initially being sold in about 10.000 copies with the 20.000 being sold with the subsequent reissues. However, the songs from the release, including "Ona se budi" and "Niko kao ja", were listed on the greatest Yugoslav rock songs lists on several occasions.
The release of Paket aran?man was soon followed by the release of the Mi?a Radivojevi? movie De?ko koji obe?ava (Promising Boy), for which the band recorded three songs, with Goran Vejvoda on guitar and the actor Aleksandar Ber?ek on lead vocals, which appeared on the movie soundtrack. The recorded songs, for which the music was written by Koji? and the lyrics by the screenplay writer Neboj?a Pajki?, were performed in the movie by the fictional musical group VIS Dobri De?aci (The Good Boys), with Koji? acting the guitar player role, Vdovi? the drummer role and Ber?ek the lead vocalist and film's starring role. The songs "Slobodan" (a popular Serbian name, literally means "free"), "Balada o tvrdim grudima" ("The Ballad of Hard Breasts") and "Depresija" ("Depression), however, were never officially released. In March of the same year, ?arlo Akrobata participated the Pozdrav iz Beograda (Greetings from Belgrade) concert organized in Zagreb as a promotion of the Belgrade new wave scene, and a live promotion of Paket aran?man, on which the band also promoted their debut single "Mali ?ovek", with "Ona se budi" as the single B-side, released prior to the event.
In April 1981, the band entered the studio in order to record their debut studio album, which was intended to be released though PGP RTB. However, during the recording sessions at the PGP RTB Studio 5, the musical editors of the record label, the composer Aleksandar Pilipenko and Bojan Hreljac, formerly the bassist of Korni Grupa, after visiting the studio during the recording of one of the experimental tracks, the label decided to drop the release. Even though the original band's musical directions were based on a combination of punk rock and white reggae music, the outcome of the album recording sessions proved turned out to be as experimental as possible, with the British new wave styles being combined with reggae, punk sound backed with dub effects. The recording sessions were based on a kind of a system where Mladenovi? and Koji? would bring fresh raw ideas and Vdovi? would modify and shape them. Mladenovi? was into poetic and melodic aspect of the whole thing while Koji?, inspired by Jimi Hendrix style of playing, was turned to minimal lyrics and aggressive music which can be recognized on different tracks on the album and their work in general.
Eventually, in July 1981, after purchasing the recordings from PGP RTB, the debut album Bistriji ili tuplji ?ovek biva kad... (Brighter or Dumber a Man Gets When...), was released by Jugoton. The material featured guest appearances by Goran Vejvoda, Gagi Mihajlovi?, Jurij Novoseli? "Kuzma" from the band Film and Dejan Kosti? from Grupa I. The producer of the album was signed as Akpi?oto (misspelled on the album cover as Akti?oto) which represents a combination of names of the real producers: Akrobata (the band), Pile (the nickname of Mile Mileti?), ?or?e (?or?e Petrovi?) and Toni (Toni Jurij, a recording engineer from Ljubljana who was an expert on dub techniques). The album front cover was designed by the band themselves with Goran Vejvoda (who also designed the Paket aran?man cover), the front cover featuring the band with their backs turned and facing a boy to create a kind of a notion of a mirror, with the band members also contributing with their own drawings on the inner sleeve: Mladenovi?'s drawing of his girlfriend, Koji? drew a two scene caricature and added the text from Politikin Zabavnik from an article about the "acrobatic ladles" to the Vdovi?'s drawing.
The title of the album was taken from the Vasa Pelagi? book Narodni u?itelj (The Folk Teacher), from which the song lyrics for the highly experimental track "Pazite na decu I" ("Take Care Of The Children I") were also taken. Beside the experimental "Pazite na decu I" and "Ljubavna pesma", the album featured the rearranged songs from the Limunovo Drvo period, along with the new material, and the entire written material and arrangements were credited to ?arlo Akrobata, rather than the individual band members themselves. However, the fact that the album did not feature the hit songs from Paket aran?man like "Ona se budi" or "Niko kao ja", which the band considered as repetition of old material, affected the album and sales, with the album being sold in about 10.000 copies without another repressing by Jugoton. Like with the case of Paket aran?man, despite not being commercially successful, the album proved to be one of the most significant albums released in the history of Yugoslav rock music, according to a number of musicians and critics, and was also featured on the greatest Yugoslav rock albums list.
Following the album recording sessions, on May 15, 1981, with the Croatian new wave band Haustor, the band performed as an opening act for the Gang of Four at the Music Biennale Zagreb festival. It was intended that both bands were to open the Gang of Four concert in Ljubljana, but the performance was canceled. At that time, the professional and, consequently, private relations within the group had been very well among its members, mostly because of the different views on the future directions of the band. Vdovi? insisted on bringing in the band Goran Vejvoda and possibly even Vejvoda's girlfriend at the time Dragana ?ari?, both of which the members of his side project Announda Rouge. Mladenovi? was mostly receptive to the idea, also wanted to add a keyboard player and Vejvoda was one of the rare young musicians in Belgrade at the time who owned a Casio VL-2 synthesizer, whereas Koji? vehemently objected to it, feeling the current lineup still had much more to offer. Koji? would later state, in the 2006 documentary about Ekatarina Velika, Kao da je bilo nekad, that the normal relations and communication in ?arlo Akrobata lasted only about six months.
According to Koji?, the band was also reluctant to promote the album with much touring as the writing had already been on the wall since the trio barely tolerated each other at this point, knowing for some time they would soon split apart. The band were also to release a new double A-side single "Bes" ("Anger") / "Prevaren" ("Fooled"), the former being an original version of the dub remix featured on the debut album and the latter being a power pop track version of a Limunovo Drvo track, which were recorded during the album recording sessions, but it was never released. In the Autumn of 1981, they got the "Smeli cvet" award for music by Socialistic Youth Of Yugoslavia, after which the band embarked on a previously booked tour of Poland, during which they also had an unplanned jam improvising session with some of the British jazz performers at the Warsaw jazz festival. Upon returning to Yugoslavia, the band performed at a farewell show Ljubljana in October 1981, which, along with the Music Biennale Zagreb festival performance, proved to be the highest attending ?arlo Akrobata concert (circa 1.000 people), after which they disbanded.
By the time ?arlo Akrobata disbanded, Koji? had already had several rehearsals with the band's manager Nenad Krasovac "Kele", who was also the drummer of the Belgrade punk rock band Urbana Gerila, as a duo under the name of Disciplina Ki?me, featuring himself on bass guitar and Krasovac on drums. Following the disbandment, Milan Mladenovi? with Gagi Mihajlovi? on guitar, Du?an Dejanovi? on drums, and Zoran "?vaba" Radomirovi? on bass guitar, formed the band Katarina II, soon to be joined by the keyboard player Margita Stefanovi?. During the following year, Katarina II drummer Du?an Dejanovi? left the band in order to join Disciplina Ki?me, and was replaced by Ivica Vdovi? "VD". In 1983, Disciplina Ki?me with the drummer Sr?an Todorovi? released their debut album Svi?a mi se da ti ne bude prijatno (I Find Your Discomfort Appealing), featuring the tracks "Mozak" ("Brain") and "Pe?ati" ("Stamps"), originally performed by ?arlo Akrobata, but never officially released. The following year, Katarina II released their debut album Katarina II, after which both Mihajlovi? and Vdovi? left the band and the rest of the lineup changed the name to Ekatarina Velika.
Both Disciplina Ki?me and Ekatarina Velika would release a series of critically and moderately commercially successful albums throughout the 1980s. The rivalry between the two bands heated up with the Disciplina Ki?me drummer Sr?an Todorovi? joining Ekatarina Velika in 1987. During the same year, Disciplina Ki?me released the EP De?ija pesma (Children Song), featuring six different versions of the title track, which featured the lyrics "Nije dobro Bijelo Dugme; Nije dobra Katarina; ?ta je dobro; ?ta nam treba; Ki?me, Ki?me Disciplina") ("Bijelo Dugme is no good; And neither is Katarina; What is good?; What we need?; Ki?me, Ki?me Disciplina"). One of the versions featured the guest appearance by Vdovi?, who had been working with Du Du A and Heroji after leaving Katarina II, on rhythm machine. In 1989, Vdovi? formed the band DDT with the former Urbana Gerila member Sr?an Markovi? "?ile" (vocals) and former Profili Profili member Miodrag Stojanovi? "?eza" (rhythm machine). On September 23, 1992, Ivan Vdovi?, being the first officially registered HIV positive person in former Yugoslavia, died of AIDS at the age of 32.
In 1991, Jugoton rereleased Paket aran?man on compact disc, becoming one of the first CD releases in former Yugoslavia. The following year, with the outbreak of the Yugoslav wars, Mladenovi? participated the antiwar project Rimtutituki, and Koji? moved to London where, after performing in various bands, revived Discpilina Ki?me with an alternative band name Disciplin A Kitschme, releasing several albums, featuring the rerecorded English language versions of Disciplina Ki?me songs along with new material, and achieved a cult status. After releasing two albums with Ekatarina Velika, in 1994, Mladenovi? moved to Brazil where, with his friend and musical collaborator, Mitar Suboti?, as Angel's Breath, released their eponymous album, recorded with a lineup of Brazilian musicians. Upon his return, on August 24, 1994, Ekatarina Velika played what would turn out to be their last show at the Pjesma Mediterana festival in Budva, as the next day Mladenovi? was held in a hospital, and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. On November 5, 1994, Milan Mladenovi? died in Belgrade at the age of 36.
Koji? continued performing with the London lineup of Disciplin A Kitschme until 2003 when he moved back to Belgrade. In 2002, the actress and director Sonja Savi? recorded an independent documentary movie ?arlo te gleda (Charlot is Watching You), dedicated to the late ?arlo Akrobata drummer Ivan Vdovi?, which covered the story of ?arlo Akrobata and other bands from the Belgrade scene of the 1980s. The following year, Igor Mirkovi? released a book and directed a movie on the entire former Yugoslav new wave scene entitled Sretno dijete (Happy Child), which featured the story on ?arlo Akrobata, however, Koji? refused to participate in the film, dissatisfied with the fact that bands like Bijelo Dugme, a progressive rock band which switched to playing new wave music with the genre popularity, were included in the storyline. In 2005, Koji? reformed a new Belgrade lineup of Disciplin A Kitschme and resumed discography and touring activities. In 2007, Croatia Records, the successor of Jugoton, released a box set entitled Paket Aran?man featuring a remastered edition of the album, packed with the ?arlo Akrobata and Elektri?ni orgazam debut albums.
During the progressive/hard rock period of Limunovo Drvo, Milan Mladenovi? had already discovered the British new wave bands XTC and The Stranglers, a musical preference he discovered to be sharing with Du?an Koji? "Koja", upon whose arrival in Limunovo Drvo, the band moved towards punk rock and new wave. Another new arrival which influenced the new musical orientation of Limunovo Drvo was the drummer Ivica Vdovi? "VD", who was more of a jazz musical background than rock, being a fan of jazz, jazz fusion, swing and be-bop, and Frank Zappa. During the earliest period of ?arlo Akrobata, the band sounded like a punk rock band rather than a new wave band, which changed with their ambition for a more minimal instrumentation. During this second period, the band embraced reggae, ska and punk funk, with the Gang of Four debut album Entertainment! and Joe Jackson debut Look Sharp! being a major influence, as documented on the compilation album Paket aran?man. In an interview, Koji? also listed James Chance and the Contortions, The Pop Group, Public Image Limited, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix among the band favorites.
After the Paket aran?man period, the band moved towards making further experimentation which was marked as an "organized chaos" by Vdovi?, in which Vdovi?'s playing open forms allowed the connection of Koji?'s raw and aggressive treatment of the bass guitar as a solo instrument and Mladenovi? melodic guitar and vocal style. Mladenovi? would later state that he was the force in the band which could organize in a coherent whole the sounds coming from the unrestrained bass and drums, part of which owing to the necessity to play and sing most of the time, which affected his playing style. This period was documented on the band's debut and only studio album Bistriji ili tuplji ?ovek biva kad.... Following the debut track on the album, the Stranglers and Magazine-influenced waltz intro "?arlo je ne?an", the album's second track "Pazite na decu" featured the band members unexpectedly entering the studio with a few associates and switching their instruments, with Mladenovi? on drums and vocals, Vdovi? playing guitar, Koji? playing the goblet drum and shouting, Dejan Kosti? of Du Du A on bass, and Goran Vejvoda on guitar.
Another highly experimental track was "Ljubavna pesma" which was an improvisation recorded in a single take, the practice also used in the track "?ovek", featuring the exclamation "Dru?ino" ("Camaradery") as a tribute to the band Buldo?er, in which the band wanted to play as fast as possible, resulting in the most aggressive track on the album. The album also featured the rearranged songs from the Limunovo Drvo period, "Fenomen", "Sad se jasno vidi", "Rano izjutra", which were rearranged to a raw punk sound, and the melodic "Samo ponekad", which featured an oriental solo at the end of the track. Their fondness for ska music was continued on the release with the track "O, O, O", featuring a guest saxophone solo by Jurij Novoseli? "Kuzma" from the band Film. "O, O, O" featured dub music influences which were also found in the tracks "Bes" and "Problem", the latter featuring effects made by the collision of microphones, the placing of nylon bags over the microphones and stopping the tapes with an intense echo. The album also featured the power pop songs "Ja ?elim jako" and "Pazite na decu II" influenced by the British power pop scene.
?arlo Akrobata songs have been covered by various artists. In 1995, the Slovenian group 2227 recorded the single "?arlo budi ne?an" ("?arlo, Be Gentle") as a tribute to the band. In 1998, the Serbian punk rock band D?ukele performed live a cover version of the song "Fenomen" ("Phenomenon"), released on the Punk You All various artists compilation. In 1999, the Serbian punk rock band Plejboj, on the various artists cover album Korak napred 2 koraka nazad (A Step Forward 2 Steps Backwards), recorded a cover version of the song "Sad se jasno vidi" ("Now It Is Clearly Visible"). In 2009, the Serbian actor and musician Nikola Pejakovi? "Kolja" covered the song "Samo ponekad" and released it as a digital download single for his second studio album Kolja. In 2013, Serbian guitarist Miroslav Tadi? recorded an instrumental version of "Ona se budi" on his album Mirina.
In 2002, on the Milan Mladenovi? tribute album Kao da je bilo nekad... (Posve?eno Milanu Mladenovi?u) (As If It Had Happened Sometime... (Dedicated To Milan Mladenovi?)) appeared several covers of ?arlo Akrobata songs. The Serbian punk rock band Novembar recorded a cover version of the song "O, o, o", former Haustor frontman Darko Rundek covered the song "Ona se budi", and the alternative rock band VROOM covered the song "Problem". In 2003, on the Milan Mladenovi? tribute concert in Zagreb, the Elektri?ni Orgazam frontman Sr?an Gojkovi? performed the songs "Fenomen", "Samo ponekad" ("Just Occasionally") and "O, o, o", all of which appeared on the live Milan Mladenovi? tribute album Jako dobar tatoo!.
In 1998, in the book YU 100: najbolji albumi jugoslovenske rok i pop muzike (YU 100: The Best Albums Of Yugoslav Pop And Rock Music), the album Bistriji ili tuplji ?ovek biva kad... was ranked No. 11. In the same book Paket aran?man appeared on the second place. In 2015, Bistiriji ili tuplji ?ovek biva kad... was pronounced the second on the list of 100 greatest Yugoslav album, published by Croatian edition of Rolling Stone. On the same list, Paket aran?man was ranked No. 38.
The Rock Express Top 100 Yugoslav Rock Songs of All Times list, published in 2000, featured two songs by ?arlo Akrobata, "Niko kao ja" (polled No.8) and "Ona se budi" (polled No.62). In 2006, on the B92 Top 100 Domestic Songs list polled by the listeners of Radio B92, the song "Ona se budi" appeared on the fifth place and the song "Niko kao ja" appeared on the ninth place.
The lyrics of 6 songs by the band (5 written by Mladenovi? and 1 witten by Koji?) were featured in Petar Janjatovi?'s book Pesme bratstva, detinjstva & potomstva: Antologija ex YU rok poezije 1967 - 2007 (Songs of Brotherhood, Childhood & Offspring: Anthology of Ex YU Rock Poetry 1967 - 2007).