Solo female vocal artists aside, let’s check out the (post-)Yugoslav all-female bands rocking the stage since the 1960s.
We are kicking off with Belgrade’s Sanjalice (1965–1969), the only band from a bunch of 1960s Yugoslav all-women beat groups that back then managed to record some songs. Actually, they released several best-selling EP singles and played over a 1000 gigs. This song is accompanied by rare Radio-Television Serbia archive footage of the girls playing on a truck driving through streets of Belgrade.
Sanjalice – Venac oko zvezda [original: Girotondo Intorno Al Mondo by Sergio Endrigo, Italy 1966]
Lutke (1965–1968) were the second female beat band to appear in Zagreb, Croatia, in the mid-sixties. They released no records. That is until they decided in 1990s to have a reunion and start playing those old hits again. Consequently, their first official album came out in 2005 from which this next song is taken.
Lutke – Bye bye godine [Bye Bye Years] (VIS Lutke CD, 2005) [original Bye Bye Love by Everly Brothers]
Soul to break
While we can’t strictly call them bands, there were several amazing all-women vocalist groups around in the socialist Yugoslavia. One of the first were the Chains, the early 1960s soul attraction from Maribor, Slovenia. A quartet that catapulted Alenka Pinteric into the orbit of her successful solo career, The Chains seem to have never released a record. They made a comeback in the mid-80s, but allegedly one of the members could not appear in their music video due to illness, so here are the Chains as a trio:
The Chains – Drive my car (1986) [Original by The Beatles]
These days, Yugo Disco is experiencing a rather strong revival and here’s one of the examples of its progressive take on gender issues. “I’m single, so what!” sing Olivera Krpan and Snežana Stojanović in this rare TV performance. They released only a couple of 7” singles around 1980 as Duo Snoli, but it was more than enough to gather a small cult following.
Duo Snoli – Prava prilika (single, 1979)
Releasing crazy disco versions of the famous Yugoslav rock hits of the 1970s and early 1980s on an album entitled Disco Rock and representing Yugoslavia in 1982 Eurovision contest, Aska were also one of the first mainstream vocalists who introduced (a peculiar sort of) rapping to the Yugoslav audience through a hit single Katastrofa, performed here as part of the 1984 New Year’s Eve TV Special.
Aska – Katastrofa (Katastrofa LP, 1984)
Šizike were the real deal though. Closer to what passed as hip-hop culture back then and heavily supported by the incredible production of funky breaks from the Master Scratch Band, Šizike released not only a great full-length album, a valuable rarity, but also this cool video.
Šizike – Don’t Stop (U zemlji čuda LP, 1984)
“First true female sound”
The time finally arrived in 1986 for a proper Yugoslav all-women band to release a record with their own authored music and lyrics. The honor went to Slovenia’s Tožibabe and their supporters at the FV Label who printed Dežuje, a 7″ EP containing a few minutes of raw yet heartwarming hard-core punk. We give you however their video for Moja Praznina, released the same year on a hard-to-find compilation vinyl of Ljubljana hard-core scene.
Tožibabe – Moja Praznina (Various: Hard-Core Ljubljana LP, 1986)
The first all-female band releasing a full-lenght album in Yugoslavia were Opatija’s Cacadou Look. The album was called Tko Mari Za Čari and was released in 1987. They were soon termed “The Yugoslav Bangles” and in this late 1980s TV appearance you can check out for yourself why.
Cacadou Look – Baum Bam Bam (Uspavanka za Zoroa LP, 1989)
It seems completely unfair from today’s perspective that Novi Sad’s Boye were not the ones rewarded with the first record for a Yugoslav all-women band. Starting in 1981 as a quartet and going strong until the late 1990s, Boye have probably been the most influential and inspirational all-female band in the region, even though they, after mid-80s, regularly kept company with one or two male musicians. After their synth phase, which resulted in several brilliant, yet obviously unreleased demos, and after their fuck off to Jugoton label that had wanted to turn them into a sleazy pop group, Boye’s first single from 1987 brought forward their rockish indie side. The cover announcement read “The First True Female Sound” and – as it still feels – rightfully so. Here’s Boye’s first single and most influential track:
Boye – Dosta dosta dosta [Enough, Enough, Enough] (single and eponymous album, 1988)
Here’s another favorite from their 1993 Boye se ne boye [Boye Aren’t Afraid] album recorded in the Netherlands.
All tomorrow’s indies
The post-Yugoslav 1990s seemed to inspire women to take up guitars and synths merely in joint efforts with men. If there weren’t for Boye, one would have hard time finding, or listening to a serious female band at concerts. Noughties, nevertheless brought about a huge change. All-women bands have been popping up all over the place ever since.
For starters, let’s squeeze in here a band that technically isn’t 100% female. It comes from a small town near Požega, Croatia, and does not at all throw shame on melodic, pop punk. Funny enough, in the beginnings Tina and Ana, who are apparently sisters, used a rhythm machine instead of drums as nobody wanted to play with them. In the end, they managed to find a drummer, and The Rock Flock was ready for take-off. However, the flight hasn’t lasted for more than a few years which is a shame because they were awesome. This one is from their debut album.
The Rock Flock – Mess (You Can’t Catch Me In Your Collection LP, 2008)
While the above flock that goes by the name of Rock arguably played punk, the girls from Vibrator U Rikverc, who are often addressing themselves as members of a punk band, most probably play all sorts of indie pop rock rather than punk. They are nevertheless fantastic and one cannot but love the power, genuinity and determination of their songs. Interestingly they formed to act as a band in a movie and kept playing for ten years. Here’s their kinky take on karaoke that even Boye might aprove of (hint: you might find an English version of this one on a certain horror film soundtrack released in Italy):
Vibrator u rikverc – Porno karaoke (single, 2009)
Punčke are one of the most amazing all-female rock bands that came from the region in the last couple of decades. It’s not hard to like their early EPs and the first two albums. No wonder they supported the Queens of the Stone Age both at Ljubljana and at Zagreb gigs in 2014. They are currently on hiatus and we hope they will be back soon. In the meanwhile, go find a cool documentary about them on Youtube and check their videos, for instance this awesome dreamy, poppish single from a few years back:
Punčke – Petra Pan (single, 2012)
A cherry on top. Known as Ž/Buka in its former incarnation, this has been the most amazing all-women band in the region for a while now. Why? Well, it’s not like this is a competition or anything, but listening to them I have always felt much more puzzled than with other bands. I was irritated and contented at the same time so to speak. Whether it’s post-, kraut-, experimental-rock, shoegaze or whatever one detects in their efforts, it doesn’t really matter. It always feels like these sounds are here to stay. Plus the lyrics are just pure gold. Ladies and lads, here are Žen!
Žen – Pusti me da hodam [Let me walk] (Sunčani ljudi LP, 2017)
There are many groups and bands that have for various reasons been left out of this guide, so please let us know what are your favorite ones! Here are some that didn’t make the final draft but you might still find them interesting:
BEAT: Duo DD, Šigele, Ptice
SOUL & DISCO: Lokice, Žeris, Rok Hotel, Cice-Mace
POP & POP ROCK: E.N.I., Katrinas, MakeUp2, Julija & Julija, Fandango, The Frajle
COOL WOMEN CHOIRS: Kombinat, Le Zbor, Le wHORe, (Z)Borke
INDIE/ALTERNATIVE: Nikad dosta, Bitcharke na travi, Zla deca matere svoje, Voodoo lutke, Fregatura, Venus, Larve/Leifert, U pol’ 9 kod Sabe, Hellcats, All Strings Detached
Bands suggested by readers
Tri kapljice (Novi Sad)
Charming Princess (Belgrade)
Written by Gregor Bulc
Cover photo featuring Boye by Goranka Matić