The Serbian clubbing scene 1994-2010

Writing an article about the Serbian clubbing scene in London made me reminisce about all the wild nights I spent in the world of Serbian pop, rock, folk, dance, and even hip-hop. No matter what club I recall as being the “first one”, someone else is bound to remember something even earlier. My memory may not be that reliable, but let’s have a go anyway!

The first night of domaća muzika I recall as a žurka-hungry teenager was at a venue in Soho called Le Scandale. On a Monday night in autumn 1994 I got a phone call from a friend saying “Idemo na neku našu žurku!” Mobile phones were rare back then, but somehow the word spread and I found myself in a club with over 200 others listening to Riblja Čorba, Bijelo Dugme, EKV, Partibrejkers... And that’s all I can remember – which means it must have been a good night. “Skandal” (as it was known to Serbs) held a few more parties of this sort, as so many will fondly remember. Wild nights indeed.

The next big Serbian party took place in the spring of 1996, at Zoo Bar in Leicester Square. It became known as Zlatni Papagaj. Run by Bojan and Bora, it was named after a well known trendy bar in Belgrade, famous for its early 80s “posh kids” clientele. London’s Zlatni Papagaj was amazing in those days even though it was not on at weekends. There was a party every Monday night and live performances almost every month, with the likes of Bajaga, Partibrejkers, Električni Orgazam, and Rambo Amadeus performing. Zlatni Papagaj still holds parties from time to time, which can be just as mad as they were back in the hey-day.

The early noughties brought a change in generations. Many of the clubbers of the early and mid 90s weren’t partying so often (old age, eh?) and the Serbian music scene in general was changing rapidly, shining a light onto new genres of pop, dance, and even turbo-folk. The first early 00s club was Kokolo, run by Tanja Jokić (DJ Shefitza). She was the first to introduce novelties such as “The Battle of the DJs”, prize draws, and a good all-round mix of musical styles. Kokolo is still going strong and has expanded to include Gypsy style nights, featuring trumpeting sounds from across the Balkan Peninsula.

In February 2004, a brand new club night took place; false modesty aside, this event marked a pivotal point for the 21st century Serbian clubbing scene. It was the first EXER Party. Venues have changed, but EXER Events has organised over 60 parties so far, featuring a variety of music to cater for all tastes. The latest, Halloween 2010, was certainly a wild night to remember. EXER Events occasionally stage live gigs (the latest was the legendary Riblja Čorba concert), and some smaller events like Demia (a rock and pop music night), Truba (trumpeting Balkan madness) and Ambasada.

In addition to regular club nights, the Serbian pub Black George in Ealing also runs a downstairs bar (Boombar) playing a variety of good Serbian music to dance to. Finally, we mustn’t forget the Paya and Horse pub in Battersea, where Kraljević Marko lookalike Paja will play a kolo for you, served with the tastiest ćevapčići.

So, there you have it. The Serbian club scene is as lively and diverse today as ever thanks to the Serbian party animals with the energy to drink and make merry. And seeing as that’s a (much envied) part of our national character, the club scene is guaranteed to continue thriving.