The New Primitives movement

The New Primitives started in the early 1980s as a reaction to the British punk scene and the Yugoslav New Wave. The name was inspired by other pop-culture movements – New Romanticism from the west and the Neue Slowenische Kunst.


The founders of the New Primitives were a group of young men from Koševo, a Sarajevo neighborhood: Mirko Srdić (Elvis J. Kurtović), Davor Sučić (Sejo Sexon), Nenad Janković (Nele Karajlić), Dražen “Zijo” Ričl, Zenit “Zena” Đozić, Branko “Đuro” Đurić, Boris “Šibi” Šiber.... They also founded the bands, Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors, Zabranjeno Pušenje, Crvena Jabuka, Bombaj Štampa....

Their songs quickly won over audiences throughout former Yugoslavia, which was helped in large measure by the popularity the members enjoyed with their show, Top Lista Nadrealista.

The block of sketches they had been doing for the Primus show on Radio Sarajevo since 1981 became a TV show in 1984, and many likened it to the BBC’s legendary Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Top Lista nadrealista

Using stories about colorful people and absurd situations, they took the nicknames and jargon of Sarajevo mahalas (small neighborhoods around town) to the airwaves. They used humor to criticize social anomalies and created situations in sketches that were surreal at the time, but would later become realities, just like the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

The famous Goran Bregović, then-leader of Yugoslavia’s best-known rock group – Bijelo Dugme - described the New Primitives as the only authentic Yugoslav response to punk.

Given their “subversive” influence on “socialist youth,” the members were constantly monitored by security agencies.

The situation escalated after Nele Karajlić, lead singer for Zabranjeno Pušenje, stated after a concert: “The Marshall has died. I mean the amplifier.” Taken as a mockery of deceased communist leader, Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the incident almost landed the band in jail.

Even though the members of the New Primitives stopped their movement in 1987 (so that no one else could), the bands they played with continued to fill concert halls throughout Yugoslavia, and Top Lista Nadrealista enjoyed its peak in popularity right up until the war.

Most of the New Primitives bands are still active, and the movement is seen as one of the most important cultural phenomena to originate in Sarajevo.