When I was nineteen years old, I discovered the magic of Morse code.
Like all young men living in the former Yugoslavia, I did my military service after secondary school
where, as part of my training, I learned how to send and receive coded messages in a series of on-off
tones. The receiving part of the process, in particular, required intense concentration as you would
focus solely on catching each beep, without thinking about the actual content of the message. It is only
after the transmission is complete that the moment of magic occurs, as you look at the piece of paper in
front of you and realize that the series of random dots and dashes you have been scribbling down
frantically for the past few minutes actually form a meaningful sentence.
In 2012, coming off a failed film project that was very personal and therefore even more painful to me, I was looking for a way to rediscover my enthusiasm for my creative work. That led me to revisit the back catalogue of my music from what I often used to refer to as ‘my previous life’, as prior to writing film scripts, I was a songwriter. As I looked at those songs dating back to my adolescence, going through my university years and the outbreak of war in Yugoslavia, to my life in exile, I experienced something I had not experienced since my army days. What I realized, with the same amount of amazement I felt every time I had jotted down a coded military message, was that the songs I had written over an almost fifteen year period formed a clear narrative.
It was a narrative that not only reflected this sequence of events in my life, but the lives of an entire generation of people from the former Yugoslavia. It started off with the intoxicating promise of our youth before dark clouds swarmed ominously on the horizon as the prospect of conflict became increasingly tangible. This was followed by the violent disintegration of the country, unspeakable crimes and loss of life, and a mass exodus of people, uprooting hundreds of thousands of us and transporting us almost overnight into new realities. Starting a struggle to rediscover our inner compass and redefine our identities that is still ongoing.
I wrote this story in fragments as it was unfolding, writing instinctively with indignation and defiance, with anger or a broken heart, often without realizing what the meaning of my words was. Looking at them in 2012, almost twenty years since I wrote my last song, I finally understood them fully and, as a result, felt them more strongly than ever. What I decided was to rerecord these songs, not as an exercise in nostalgia or attempt to turn back time, but to tell this story from this position of awareness, incorporating all the characters who played key parts in each of these different chapters of my life.
This led me onto an incredible emotional journey these songs hopefully reflect during which I reconnected with some of my dearest friends and supremely talented collaborators with whom I had not had any contact in over twenty years. For more detailed stories, please see/click on individual songs. BUKA I BES was the name of the last band I had in my previous life, formed with Jelena Miklja (now Damjanović) and Miodrag ‘Tommy’ Stanković in Belgrade during my university years. The Serbian ‘I’ was replaced by Spanish ‘Y’ to reflect the heritage of my creative and life partner, Nadia Romero.