This seemingly crazed swarm of football strip-attired Bosnian bees pumped out a stunning set of rap, rock, ska and funk, pollentating the slightly small (but perfectly formed) audience with their nectar of positivity in a hive of energy. I’d heard some tracks before, but it was on the word of a trusted friend who’d seen them many times that we watched this avant-garde act, who were formed in 2003 by sons of workers and peasants. It is said that an early version of the current band even had to practise in the dark due to a lack of electricity during the Bosnian War. Their socially and politically conscious songwriting defines the band’s ethos. In fact, during the introduction of one song, Brano Jakubović (keyboards and sampling) explains that most of the band, due to their different heritage, should actually hate each other.
The three rules of attending a Dubioza Kolektiv gig did not include the first rule of not mentioning the band (in fact they want you to download their music for free on their website dubioza.org or from the file-sharing site, Pirate Bay). Rather they plainly state their inclusion of everyone and non-tolerance of fascism, including specifically some British politicians. I’ll gloss over their views on imbibing substances!
Audience participation is key. Against my wishes, I found myself clapping along with the second song. It is known that not even a children’s entertainer at my own child’s birthday party nor child singer can encourage me to participate in anything like waving or clapping. But they did. I was also found skipping down the long corridor to the toilets. Participation not only of the dexterous kind was also required – in the form of voting habits. Most foreign bands these days make reference to Brexit (The Hives teased us last year at Victorious that they might never be able to play here again) and Dubioza Kolektiv were no exception. I’ve heard that the game goes like this: those that voted for Brexit move to one side, against Brexit stay on the other. The idea is that the Leavers were not to be ridiculed; rather the Kolektiv encourages us to love them too, such is their inclusive nature. This didn’t happen in Portsmouth, or rather Southsea to be geographically correct. There were no Leavers present!
After a two hour set with no support, it was as if they took me away, sheathed me with their Baltic honey, and I departed a different person. Performing in multiple languages, it was as if they spoke to me. Not in my language all the time but in the shared language of music. I could translate their intentions. Positivity and fun. Their love of traditional music pervades their upbeat tempestuous mashes of electronic folk music with grunge guitars and a ska-like sax (I’m always a sucker for a horn section or a sax). There was a lot of love from the Southsea audience, as is usual for The Wedgewood Rooms. Everyone jigged all night with a huge smile on their face and I, for one, cannot wait to see them again.