At Radio Skadar, everybody can go on air. Be it to tell Italian jokes in Italian or just to jam out. At Radio Skadar Club, everybody is welcome to be oneself. But there won’t be toilet paper for long.
The sign “VIPm” looks a little bit sketchy. It reminds one of a “sauna club” for “gentlemen”. But it is nothing like that. It is the Radio Skadar Club, in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica. Hidden behind the national theatre, the owner hasn’t made any effort to remove the sign from the former inhabitant.
At Radio Skadar Club, you should go to pee before 12 pm if you are fond of toilet paper. After that, there won’t be any until the next night.
The people who come to the Radio Skadar Club don’t care about that anyway. Stepping through the door, a cloud of thick cigarette smoke awaits. Although smoking is forbidden in Bars and Restaurants in Montenegro, nobody sticks to the rule, because nobody checks.
A man with short brown hair stands behind the bar, which looks improvised and serves one kind of beer. It is local beer from Montenegro.
Downstairs people have taken over the stage, improvising a groovy tune on the Bass and Drums. A girl, probably aged 16 dances with wild gestures, closed eyes and hair in her face. “Young people here are bored and Ecstasy is cheap. Very cheap. You can get it easily for about €2.50,” explains Snezana.
She works in the film industry and is often a guest here. Just two days ago she came back from the film festival in Cannes.
“When there are too many junkies, they get thrown out. But most of the time, they can stay, when they are calm.” The place is like a biotope of different life forms living in symbiosis. The girl who was dancing in the middle of the room falls down in the meantime. Snezana goes to pick her up and seat her on a chair.
“That’s Branko, he is kind of a local legend here,” says Snezana, pointing at an old man with dirty, busted clothes. Once he was a well known music reporter in Montenegro, who even had his own radio show on the public radio station. But then he started drinking and never stopped.
“And do you see this guy? He was in prison for five years, because he accidentally stabbed somebody.”
At the moment the bar is well packed. A Serbian men’s choir, which will sing at the Independence Day celebrations, are currently spending their evenings here.
A woman in a bright green skirt enters the stage. Here everybody can perform. But when people are bad, the power of the instruments or microphone just gets cut. Not in this case. Immediately one guy takes the guitar, another the bass and another gets seated at the drums.
The women starts to sing a jazz version of No woman No Cry from Bob Marley, with a voice, that makes all the other people in the room stop speaking.
“Cause, Cause, Cause, I remember when we used to sit, In the government yard in Trenchtown, Oba – obaserving the ‘ypocrites, As they would mingle with the good people we meet.”
But the Bar, which is called by locals only ‘Skadar’, is only one part of the story. It is a side business of Srdjan the founder of the real Radiostation Skadar.
Although he is only 35 years old, he looks about 50. Not only because of the big black beard, but because of his fishing hat and the sleeveless fleece cardigan in Sponge-bob-yellow. It was founded on 19th of December, “The same day when Montenegrins celebrate St.Nicolas,” tells Srdjan. In 2016 radio Skadar will turn 12.
The Radio Skadar Club was founded to fund the radio station, because it is non-commercial. “And we broadcast only the advertisements from companies or people we like,” says Srdjan.
But what is the connection between a Radio and St. Nicolas?
Always on 19th of December the great-grandmother of Sergeji gatheres the whole family to celebrate the saint. There are always a lot of people.
In the years of the Yugoslavian wars, life was not that easy. But the great-grandmother created some kind of parallel universe on that special day.
At the end of the 1990s, she passed away. “But also the years after the wars life was not that good,” says Srdjan. “But there is a possibility to create another parallel world, which is the radio.”
“Good friends we have, oh, good friends we’ve lost, Along the way.
In this great future, you can’t forget your past, So dry your tears, I she.”
His passion for music, his desire to start something new and “not just sit around and do nothing” made him start his own radio station with some friends which were “also crazy about music”. So “A group of friends, which was still optimistic about the world and believed that things can still change went to other radio stations in and around Montenegro to learn how to make radio,” says Srdjan.
“No, woman, no cry, No, woman, no cry. ‘Ere, little darlin’, don’t she’d no tears, No, woman, no cry.”
Lake Skadar is a lake in Albania. Sergeji explains, that it is however not named after the lake. He snaps with his fingers and says: “The idea just came like that. A name which has no antonym. A neutral word.” The ideas must have been: Find a word, nobody can say an argument against in the first 10 seconds, because they still think about why the hell this radio is named after a lake.
“Said, said, said, I remember when-a we used to sit, In the government yard in Trenchtown. And then Georgie would make the fire lights, As it was logwood burnin’ through the nights.”
But when they wanted to register their new radio station, Srdjan and the other founders officially classified it as a copyright infringement, because of the lake in Albania. So they left. But as they were nearly at the front door, the secretary came after them and said: “Why don’t you put the word ‘lake’ in the name? The official name of the real lake in Albania does not have the lake in the name.”
“And he was right!” says Sergeji and laughs a deep loud laugh.
“Then we would cook cornmeal porridge, Of which I’ll share with you, My feet is my only carriage, So I’ve got to push on through. But while I’m gone, I mean.”
The radio doesn’t have a commercial programme, “just a lot of music that is good for the heart.” Sometimes Srdjan and the others, who stuck with it from the beginning, interview some musicians, or create a series. But basically it is open for everything and everyone. People can just come there and go on air with every idea they have. Professionals will help them realize it.
“Everything’s gonna be all right!
I said, everything’s gonna be all right-a!
Everything’s gonna be all right!
Everything’s gonna be all right, now!
Everything’s gonna be all right!”
Often Srdjan also asks people who are coming to the Radio Skadar Club, if they want to get on air at the radio. Silvia and Michele, a couple from Italy agree. They decide to read some Italian poems. Silvia will sing and Michele will tell some classical Italian jokes.
Some years ago the studio moved to a village outside of Podgorica. The drive with the car is not long. The studio looks like a normal family home. A caravan is parked in the garden. Before they start everyone gets coffee. Michele plays with the black dog running around the garden.
The studio looks improvised, but cosy. A lamp in 60s style stands in the corner.
Srdjan shows five fingers through the window between the recording and the control room. He counts down: Five – Four – Three – Two – One.
“Un inglese che non sa come si dice in Italiano scacchi chiede all’amico italiano: “vuoi giocare a Chess?” e l’italiano: “no c’è puzza” e l’inglese se ne va arrabbiato.”
Michele insisted on telling the joke in Italian.