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review 03 May 12

No Compromise on Band Brand

Belgrade band Etar seeks to be itself, but also entertain and raise awareness of the scourge of drug addiction.

David Galic
BIRN
Belgrade
Belgrade band Etar. | Photo courtesy of Etar

Etar is a Belgrade band with a rare positive message and one of the few young groups that is actually willing to back up words with actions in this day and age. Having been together for quite a few years, the band’s infectious brand of pop rock has been turning heads consistently, but the band still believes that they are far from peaking and that their career is just beginning.

If you have heard their music recently, then it was probably their most recent single “Tako Disko!” (So Disco!), a very bubbly and catchy anthem full of positivity, highlighting the band’s efforts to focus attention on the negativity of drug abuse.

“The band is promoting the video on the internet and on television right now,” said lead singer Katarina Popovic, adding that the video was made with the help of the state’s Youth and Sport Ministry and the Yugoslav Association for the Fight Against AIDS (JAZAS).

“The motivation behind making this video and writing this kind of song was the negative experiences we have had with people close to use who have been addicted to drugs. Their loss of identity, lack of social activity, lack of awareness of any parameters regarding the importance of their lives, which have been reduced to the quest to consume their daily dose of whatever it is they are addicted to,” Popovic said, adding that discovering that there are over 100,000 drug addicts in Serbia also had a strong effect on her.

Despite playing together for many years, the band has yet to record and release a debut album, which they blame on the difficulty of finding a stable line-up, specifically behind the drum kit.  The band has also chosen to focus more on making good singles and then promoting them to the best of their abilities.  They claim that “the good thing about singles is that people spend more time getting to know the songs and we put more attention into promoting them properly as well.”

The band does, however, plan to wrap up the recording of their debut album soon, to present their musical, visual and socially responsible message in one complete package, Popovic noted.  

“It’s hard to even find money for a single these days, much less a whole album - that’s the truth of the matter,” said guitarist Aleksandar Mastelica.

Asked if it’s possible to break into the Serbian pop music mainstream without sacrificing its identity and musical integrity, Mastelica said that “Etar just wants to be what it is and we want to focus our energy on changing the people that we reach with our music. Writing an honest song is the definition of mainstream for us.”

One of their closest brushes with the mainstream occurred in 2009 when they participated in the Beovizija Festival with their song “Sanjaj Me” (Dream of Me). Beovizija is the festival where Serbia’s representative for the Eurovision Song Contest is selected and Etar made it to the finals that year.

“It helped us a lot because the festival was being followed on television by over five million people,” said Popovic, adding that it got them a lot of radio play and huge amounts of Youtube views and downloads of the song as well.

However, never being a band to dwell on the past, Etar promises that 2012 will be filled with more concerts all around the region and continued efforts to finally complete their highly anticipated debut album which, according to the band members, is getting closer and closer to completion.

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