Ljubljana Je Bulana: Pankrti, Slovene Punk Rock

Music is highly important in human society. It shares emotions as well as ideas. One of such ideas became punk rock.

In the hardest times of Slovenian as well as Yugoslavian history, music played a great role in defining people’s conscious thoughts. It had been promoting ideas of freedom and independence even before they became usual in society. Panktri, with their first single “Lublana je bulana” established all this.

In the times of propaganda and totalitarian regimes, mass media are usually highly controlled. People can read news and watch TV, but they are shown the one-sided opinion from the same paradigm, in simple words, from the same point of view. Such a situation was in Yugoslavia as well as in all the socialistic, communistic states.

Oppositions were under pressure, but musicians did not attract so much attention. So, they promoted ideas of independence in people’s minds as well as political freedoms. Moreover, the first albums of punk pioneers in Slovenia were released in times of Tito’s death, so the political situation melted down at that time. Maybe, if not music, Slovenian would be living in Yugoslavia still but not in the European Union. How did it happen? Let’s find out!


To begin with, Panktri is a punk rock band from Ljubljana. Their most active period was the late 1970s and 1980s. Therefore, they proclaimed themselves as “The First Punk Band Behind The Iron Curtain”. This was taken from their song “Behind the iron curtain old broads pull red beet”. Furthermore, the statement is true because they are one of the first punk music groups formed in a communistic country as well as one of the most important rock bands in Yugoslavia.

The story started pretty usual, Gregor Tomc and Peter Lovšin were living in Ljubljana suburbia and one day decided to create a band. That was in 1977. Of course, they were influenced by the punk bands from the United Kingdom, such as Sex Pistols, The Clash, or The Ramones.

Tomc and Lovšin became the main influencers and songwriters. Lovšin became the lead singer in the band, whereas Tomc chose the name of the band and became the band’s manager. They were practicing in Kodeljevo’s music school, and the first concert was held on the stage of Moste High School. Furthermore, in the very beginning, they were playing covers of songs of Sex Pistols, The Clash, and New York Dolls.

The fame and national love came when such they started to write their own material. The first popular songs were “Za železno zaveso” (Behind The Iron Curtain), “Anarhist” (Anarchist), and “Lublana je bulana” (Ljubljana is Sick). The last one became the name of the first single as well.

In its turn, the first album was named “Dolgcajt” (Boredom) and released in 1980. This became the crucial point in the history of the band as well as the history of Yugoslavia (the year of end of Tito’s regime). After that, they got the status of cult punk all over Yugoslavia.

The second try was even more successful. The second album, called “Državni ljubimci” got the award of the best Yugoslav album of the year!

The third album was named “Rdeči album” (Red Album). This was the pun allusion on the first album of The Beatles that was called “The White Album”. The red color represents the symbol of communism. Moreover, they included a punk cover version of an Italian communist revolutionary song Bandiera Rossa (Red Flag).

The last album became Sexpok, produced by Tomo in der Muhlen at SIM studio, Zagreb, and released in 1987. Furthermore, that became the year of the last concert in Tivoli Hall, Ljubljana, named “Zadnji pogo” (The Last Pogo Dance).

The members of the band felt that there was going to be a big change. Public opinion was transforming, and there wasn’t a more need to promote ideas of freedom. So, they decided to break up.

Ideas and Rock Music in Slovenia and Yugoslavia

As we mentioned before, ideas were the most important in the last decade of Yugoslavia. Just take a look at the number of popular rock bands throughout several decades:  

·         1960s: Kameleoni, Bele vrane, Faraoni;

·         1970s: Boomerang, September, Oko, Mladi levi, Srce, Čudežna polja, Izvir, Jutro, Predmestje, Prelom;

·         1980s: Pankrti, Lačni Franz, Buldožer, Martin Krpan, Janez Bončina, Jani Kovačič, Niet, Berlinski zid, Borghesia, Buldogi, Kuzle, Lublanski psi, Otroci socializma, Via Ofenziva, Hazard, Pomaranča, Šank Rock

Moreover, Slovenia was the most famous as a Yugoslav center of punk rock. Except for Panktri, there were Niet, Lublanski Psi, Čao Pičke, Via Ofenziva, Tožibabe, and Otroci Socializma. This is the obvious factor that Slovenia was the most democratic and independent of all the republics of Yugoslavia.

Aside from punk, there were such well-known rock artist as Lačni Franz (Zoran Predin), Šank Rock, Big Foot Mama, Zaklonišče Prepeva, Siddharta, Vlado Kreslin, Niet, Mi2, Buldožer, Carpe Diem, Dan D, Društvo mrtvih pesnikov, Elvis Jackson (ska punk), Orlek, Pink Panker. Later they become popular even outside of the country.

In general, the so developed rock stage in Yugoslavia came up because of political reasons. On the one hand, it was a communist country. On the other hand, it wasn’t a part of the Eastern Bloc, so it was opened to western influences. Therefore, such music of such bands as Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Ramones came into the country, and the Yugoslav punk became the first one in communistic countries.

Yugoslavia had less strict censorship than the Soviet Union, for instance. Here, musicians were allowed to include social commentary in their songs. Of course, there were some cases of censorship, for example, members of a nazi punk and nazi skinhead band called “The Fourth Reich” were arrested in Ljubljana.

In general, Yugoslav rockers were writing on such topics as social and political criticism, anti-war, anti-chauvinist, anti-fascist, anti-authoritarian, and anarchist. It was obvious even in their names: The Cry of Hiroshima, Apatridi (Stateless persons), The Dissidents, Patarenes, Marselyeza (La Marseillaise), Stress Of The State Apparatus, Sistem Organizirane Represije (System Of Organized Repression).

After the breakup of Yugoslavia, musicians were divided into two categories. The first ones participated in anti-war, anti-nationalist, and anti-fascist activities, so they were frequently attacked by the nationalists of separate countries. The other type of musicians were strong nationalists who volunteered to the army, were mobilized, and took active participation in the battleground warfare. 

Panktri’s Reunions

The first reunion happened in rejoined to play a support act for the Sex Pistols concert in Ljubljana. It was during their Filthy Lucre Tour. In 2003, Panktri were filmed in Yugonostalgic Croatian rockumentary Sretno dijete, a documentary about punk music, produced by Rajko Grlić, an Ohio University professor of film.

The second reunion happened in 2007, and the musicians play together until nowadays. They announced Pankrti’s reunion concert in the Hall Tivoli for the sake of their 30th anniversary. The tickets were sold out immediately. After this, they played in Croatia and Serbia, and their concerts created the same excitement and boom.

The interesting fact that those events coincided with the Sex Pistols reunion in 2007 as well, for the 30th anniversary of Never Mind The Bollocks, the only studio album of the band.

Overview: Music is Always for a Reason

Definitely, art is the definitive representation of human nature. Theater, cinematography, sculpture, painting arts, music: all there gives emotions. Either you understand them, or you try for a while and then understand for sure. Some of those arts, especially music, bring an idea except for only emotions. Therefore, music unites as ideas unite as well.

Yugoslavia wasn’t the strictest communistic country. However, there was an only-one party system, minor censorship, and the dictator regime. Thus, the government had not been changing for decades. So, people got really annoyed because of this fact. They wanted to find a way to express their thoughts to the public and to the government.

Luckily enough, Yugoslavia was quite open if to compare with other communistic countries. Therefore, popular at that time, punk rock from the United Kingdom found its place in the hearts of Yugoslavians. Moreover, Slovenians were the first ones to understand this. So, the ideas that were wondering in the heads of the majority found their representations in punk rock. That is how Ljubljana became the center of Yugoslav punk and rock music.

Panktri became one of the first bands to push this movement. Two friends were highly inspired by Sex Pistols created their own Ljubljana pistols. Furthermore, they were lucky enough to release their first album in the times when Yugoslavia was on the great change because the one and the only dictator passed, so people were ready to hear all the ideas of freedom. 

They played for 10 years at that time and influenced not only people from Yugoslavia but out from the country as well. The great excitement that happened at the concert of reunion proved that their ideas are still alive, and the legacy is still transmitted from generation to generation. So, if we already talked so much about them, let’s listen to their album and get the feeling of the punk revolution!

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