Punk rock in Bulgaria 1979-2008 (Maciej Zurowski)

UNEARTHING THE MUSIC: Sound and Creative Experimentation in Non-democratic Europe

Punk rock in Bulgaria 1979-2008 (Maciej Zurowski)

The following is an excerpt of a piece by Maciej Zurowski regarding the punk scene in Bulgaria between 1979 and 2008. You can find out more about the autor by visiting his website, and read the full piece in the UNEARTHING THE MUSIC database.


Novi Cvetya

Punk rock didn’t have it easy in socialist Bulgaria, a country in which all aggressive rock music was frowned upon. That didn’t keep Novi Cvetya (“New Flowers”) from performing punk rock as early as 1979. Based in Kyustendi, a town close to the Serbian border, the lads benefited from the possibility of listening to punk rock on Yugoslav radio. Maybe that’s why their sound was closer to late 70s Yugo-punk bands such as Paraf and Pankrti than to anything British or American. Novi Cvetya’s songs are simple, bolshy, and have a typically Balkanese tongue-in-cheek feel and sense of the absurd to them.

While Yugoslavia, an unaligned socialist country far more culturally liberal than Bulgaria, allowed homegrown punk talent to release records on the state-owned Yugoton label, there was no such option for Novi Cvetya. Even tape recorders were prohibitively expensive, but eventually, the band managed to cut a demo tape, of which 10-15 copies went into circulation. These songs and all of their later recordings resurfaced on a fantastic 2004 CD entitled Radiacija 1979-1995 in a limited edition of 1000, now a collector’s item in its own right.

Formed in 1981 in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, DDT played amateurish and tinny Oi! punk influenced by UK 82 combos such as The Exploited, as well as the obligatory Yugo-punk groups. Never the most likely band to be granted a release on the state-owned Balkanton label, a retrospective called Best compiled the bulk of their 1982-1992 material posthumously. Some songs can be heard on a myspace tribute page. File under ‘of historical interest’.

In February 1984, the Vice President of the State Council, Georgi Dzhagarov, declared that “the whole country has been disquieted by the muddy stream of musical trends sweeping away all the true values of music”. Bulgarian cultural officials launched a campaign to eliminate rock culture, especially punk culture: anyone sporting punk or heavy metal fashions in public was likely to be stopped and have their subcultural signifiers removed by the police.

However, due to the government’s incompetent execution of cultural policy and the punk rockers’ indifference towards official decrees, punk continued to exist throughout the country. In January 1986, punks scandalized an official New Year’s Eve celebration in central Sofia by appearing en masse with spiked hair, mohicans, and torn clothes. The Bulgarian press finally admitted their existence while bemoaning “serious aesthetic aberrations” on the music scene.

You can finish reading this piece in the UNEARTHING THE MUSIC database.