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Veoma poznat
Published: October 16, 2005


NIGHT falls in the capital of the former Yugoslavia, and music fills the air. Everywhere.

Along the banks of the Danube and Sava Rivers, serpentine chains of music-blasting splavovi - floating raft clubs - snake into the inky Balkan night. Fortified by huge meat-kebab dinners, crowds of night owls line up to partake variously of Gypsy bands, electronic mixes, rock 'n' roll and a distinctly Serbian hybrid known as Turbofolk.

As a parade of Puma-clad feet files down the metal gangway to a club called Exile, the night's marquee D.J., the New York City-based techno producer John Selway, prepares for his 2-to-6 a.m. set.

"The most fun places to play are here, South America and Japan!" he shouts over rapid-fire industrial beats, praising the energy of the night life in the capital of Serbia and Montenegro, the name for what is left of Yugoslavia after its unraveling in the early 90's. "They're interested in new music and in building a scene!"

While the streets of post-Milosevic Belgrade may not win a beauty contest anytime soon - rusty trams, drab midcentury buildings and stately but dilapidated 19th-century edifices still dominate the gray cityscape - some glimmerings of the resurrection that Mr. Matic sees are in evidence. In Republic Square, where the ocean of demonstrators and flag-wavers made their most passionate stand against Mr. Milosevic, construction teams are busy renovating the grand National Museum. Green Wreath Square, where the main outdoor market normally operates, is getting a similar makeover.

State-run Communist-era hotels are being privatized and boutique hotels like the smart, crisp Petit Piaf have begun to appear. Style-conscious restaurants, once unheard of in a land of pork-and-potato places, proliferate.

But it's the electricity of Belgrade's street life that makes the greatest impression. "Belgrade," Mr. Matic says, "is a very exciting city for anyone who expects to feel pure human energy."

You feel it along Knez Mihailova, a boulevard of fountains and Art Nouveau details where streams of D & G-wearing women strut past showrooms of Italian furniture, and preadolescent Gypsy musicians thrill the passing throngs with virtuoso fiddling. You feel it within the narrow passages of the Kalenic outdoor market on Njegoseva Street, as neighborhood residents shout "Koliko? Koliko?" ("How much? How much?) at the phalanx of elderly women in headscarves selling all manner of sausages, produce, nuts, dates, batteries, hair dye, sweaters, rice and deodorant.

You feel it especially in crowded Kalemegdan Park, a green swath overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers that West called "the special glory of Belgrade and indeed one of the most beautiful parks in the world." Formerly the citadel of Belgrade, Kalemegdan was long the bull's-eye that foreign invaders variously charged, captured, built up and eventually lost. The Roman well, the Turkish mausoleum, the Austrian clock tower and other abandoned relics form an Ozymandian graveyard of vanished dynasties.

But come dark, a number of outdoor bars and nightclubs sprout in the recesses of the park, and the cemetery of empires is reborn as the booming, cocktail-soaked cradle of Belgrade decadence.

"Anywhere else in the world, you wouldn't be allowed to have something like this in a historical monument," a bearded film student says one night at Bassment, a club that operates against the Kalemegdan battlements in warm months. "Not Belgrade."

A German D.J. duo called Moonbootica has the crowd jumping up and down to electronic music on ground that may once have seen battles for the city's soul.

Like Kalemegdan, the rest of the White City - the literal translation of its Serbian name, Beograd - reaches the zenith of its energy at night. Propelled by some of Europe's cheapest cocktails and taxi rides, the after-dark adventurer discovers that the surprisingly friendly and safe terra incognita of Belgrade holds a bounty of hidden hipster speakeasies, raucous rock 'n' roll dives and nightclubs boasting global talent.
Pick up the glossy entertainment magazine Yellow Cab at the slick bilevel Tribeca bar (Belgraders like to imagine their city as the Slavic counterpart to New York) and you find page after page of listings for exhibitions, theater events, concerts and club nights. If the great Yugoslav unifier Tito staggered from his hillside tomb, he'd find himself in the Continent's last great undiscovered night-life scene.

On a late fall evening, some weekending Britons follow a muffled electronic beat through an undistinguished door along Boulevard Novembra 29, descend a poorly lighted staircase and emerge in a basement bar stuffed with ugly oil paintings, retro-tacky lamps and other vintage touches. To judge from the décor, it's likely that there's a grandmother in some remote Balkan corner filling out a burglary report. The name of the bar, the Association of Globe-Trotters, seems fitting: Only the most motivated travelers can hope to discover it.

"This place you can only find if somebody brings you here," says the bartender, Dejan, serving up bottles of Montenegrin Niksicko Beer and explaining that the owners want to limit the establishment's clientele to loyal cognoscenti. The country's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, has been known to stop in, he adds.

The secret bar phenomenon is very much a trend in Belgrade. Some, like the aptly named nightclub Andergraund, occupy subterranean spaces in Kalemegdan Park. Others, like the cocktail lounge Ben Akiba - where a lively crowd of people in their 30's toasts "Ziveli" amid loud disco and funk - are concealed in private apartments.

"Where are all the people between 2 and 6 a.m.?" playfully asks the online entertainment site, one of the rare English-language guides to the city. "They are probably hiding in some places where you can't find them."

Near Slavija Square on a Friday night, however, ranks of splendidly grimy music fans emerge from the woodwork to follow the buzz-saw sound of melodic punk rock reverberating from the outdoor stage of SKC, the CBGB of Belgrade. The every-punk-and-his-mother crowd arrives by the hundreds, chugging Lav Pivo (Lion Beer) from two-liter bottles. Two unshowered rock chicks in Converse high-tops carry a friend who has passed out and lies horizontally in their arms like a drunken log. These are the apostles of the elder statesmen of Belgrade's rock universe, the Partibrejkers.

For a place that has suffered as many privations and embargoes as Belgrade - where rock was a key opposition force during the lean Milosevic years - the locals exhibit musical knowledge as extensive as anywhere in the West. Scanning the rack of top-selling albums at the IPS music emporium, you find the White Stripes, Audioslave and other bands that grace top music magazines in America and Britain.

"They're remarkably well-informed," says Nick Hobbs, a concert promoter who has brought Kraftwerk, the MC5, John Spencer Blues Explosion and other staples of American vinyl junkies to Belgrade in recent years. "We can do things in Belgrade that we can't do anywhere else."

The result is a fertile musical landscape full of acts that would probably be alt-rock icons in countries with better record companies and higher disposable incomes: the hard-driving Lira Vega; the indie-electronic Darkwood Dub; the subversive sonic experimenter Rambo Amadeus.

On stage, the Partibrejkers tear through a succession of Stooges-meets-Kiss anthems while the throng pumps its fists and yells "Oh, Yeah!" Having endured more than two decades of the vicissitudes of their homeland - the post-Tito comedown, the wars of the 1990's, the economic and political uncertainty under the new leaders - the Partibrejkers are perhaps one more inspiring symbol of Belgraders' endurance. "When you have a strong link to the source of life," the group's guitarist, Nebojsa Antonijevic, said before the show, referring to his passion for music, "the outer situation can't deter you."

As the final number ends and people start to shuffle out over hills of crushed beer cans, the lead singer, Zoran Kostic, leans into the mike and offers a final message: "Sacuvajte svoje duse" ("Save your souls").

Punk rock fades to club beats the next evening as a slew of international D.J.'s hits town. While Mr. Selway presides over the turntables along the Sava at Exile, the Israeli trance-music guru D.J. Goblin spins to a sea of bobbing heads at the Baratuna club, and the Shapeshifters, British house-music masters, conjure their mixes at Bassment.

But it's the quiet, historical neighborhood of Zemun that plays host to the weekend's - and the season's - splashiest night-life event. There, as black S.U.V.'s idle outside, a flashbulb-popping crowd of the nation's most famous faces - soccer heroes, music idols, captains of industry - celebrates the opening of a swanky bar-restaurant called Eklektika. With its gauzy white rooms and ambient music, it feels like the sort of place where the "Sex and the City" quartet might schmooze - if their names were Jadranka, Desanka, Zoja and Kaja. But in spite of the sushi rolls and Slovenian wine, at least one V.I.P. is hiding out in a private room and waxing slightly nostalgic tonight.

"It used to be a positive thing to be a Yugoslav," says Dan Tana, the Serb-American whose namesake Hollywood restaurant is a favorite film-star hangout, with a sigh. "Milosevic did more damage to Serbs than Hitler did to the Germans."

His somber remarks, at first, seem to have sprung from the same undercurrent of wistfulness that West found so many decades earlier. "Autumnal doubtfulness," she eloquently called the mood.

Then, suddenly, Mr. Tana's face lightens. Just outside the door, ringing cellphones, clinking glasses and greetings of "dobro vece!" ("good evening!") filter through the soft-glowing, milk-white rooms.

"But I've brought many Americans to Belgrade, and they all fall in love," Mr. Tana goes on, passionately. "Our future is bright, but it's going to take time."
Zatvorena za pisanje odgovora.