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Gino Yevdjevich

Gino Yevdjevich is the lead singer of the Bosnian-Bulgarian punk rock band Kultur Shock. He was a rock musician in Sarajevo when the Bosnian War broke out. During the war, he played a major role in rewriting the musical Hair into a new version called Hair: Sarajevo, AD 1992 which played in Sarajevo for three years to standing room only crowds. Yevdjevich now lives in Seattle; he moved there in 1996 when a theatre produced his play Sarajevo: Behind Gods Back. His band Kultur Shock has a new CD called F.U.C.C. the INS


Other segments from the episode on June 3, 2002

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 3, 2002: Interview with David Newman; Interview with Gino Yevdjevich; Commentary on language.


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: David Newman discusses the history of the Jewish
settlements in the West Bank and Gaza

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

One of the most controversial issues in the Middle East is the future of the
Israeli settlements in the territories of the West Bank and Gaza. The
Palestinians do not want Israeli settlements in a Palestinian state. My guest
David Newman says nothing causes as much heated debate in Israel as the future
of the settlements. Newman has written extensively about the settlements and
their history. He's the author of a 1991 book about the settlements in the
West Bank. He's a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, and the editor of the
International Journal of Geopolitics. He's also the chair of the Department
of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. I
asked Newman to describe the Israeli arguments on each side, starting with the
argument that Israel should keep the settlements.

Mr. DAVID NEWMAN (Columnist, Jerusalem Post): The arguments for keeping the
settlements are obviously made by the settlers and the supporters themselves.
I would say there are two types of arguments. First of all, there's a sort of
a religious ideological argument, which the settlers use to justify why
they're there in the first place. They argue that the land in 1967 was not
conquered or occupied, but it was liberated, it was returned to its rightful
owner, that God gave them the land and this ancient land of Israel should be
occupied by Jews and not by other nations. And, therefore, they have created
settlements as a means of preventing any future territorial withdrawal from
these areas.

The other argument is the security argument. The security argument says we
have to have the West Bank to maintain Israel's wider security and that we
can't afford to give it up to any form of foreign control, be it the
Palestinians or other, and the settlers say that they are maintaining that
security profile in the West Bank.

GROSS: For the Israelis who believe that the settlements help Israeli
security, how do they think they help it?

Mr. NEWMAN: Well, I think it's true to say that most Israelis do not feel
that the settlements contribute to security. The settlers used to argue that
by us living in the West Bank, we prevent security problems taking place in
Tel Aviv and Netanya and Jerusalem. And, obviously, this has not been the
case in the past 18 months with all the suicide bombers and so on. And even
more so the settlers who went out to show that they control the area, they
control the environment, now find themselves completely controlled and
besieged by the environment themselves. Their wives, their children are
scared to travel on the roads. They have strong fences around the
settlements. And, in fact, the army have to put in extra troops to provide
their safety. So, in fact, many Israelis would argue not only do they not
contribute security, many would argue they're even a security hazard.

GROSS: In the minds of people who think it contributes to security, how does
it contribute to security?

Mr. NEWMAN: The people who think it contributes to the security think they're
giving a sort of cordon sanitaire to the main Israeli population centers, and
that by having settlements in outlying areas, therefore this prevents
terrorism or military attacks taking place inside Israel proper.

GROSS: Now let's get to the argument on the other side for Israelis who don't
think that Israel should stay in the settlements. Why do they think that the
settlements aren't helping Israeli security?

Mr. NEWMAN: Again, there are a number of reasons here. First of all, there
are those who are ideologically opposed to any form of settlement in land
which they believe is occupied and which does not belong to Israel by any sort
of sovereign or international recognition. And they also do not believe that
these settlements contribute to security because isolated settlements do not
prevent the incursion of suicide bombers or even of armies, and we've seen
that recently with the bombings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and Netanya and all
the Israeli metropolitan centers. The notion that single settlements could
contribute to security was an old notion. It was probably relevant in the
1920s and 1930s when the earlier Kibbutzim was set up in outlying areas. But,
of course, technology of warfare has changed. And an individual settlement
does not really provide any additional security to the state as such.

GROSS: What is your understanding of what the settlements signify to

Mr. NEWMAN: Oh, it's very clear that the settlements, more than anything
else, signify to the Palestinians the continuation of Israeli control and
occupation. In other words, every house that is built, or every settlement
that is expanded, is for the Palestinians some form of proof that they are not
going to get their independence because their land, as they perceive it, is
being taken away by these Israeli civilian settlements. And so for them
settlements more than probably any other single thing signifies for them that
they are not going to get an end to occupation.

GROSS: What do opinion polls in Israel now say about opinion on the

Mr. NEWMAN: I think what you find is that opinion is divided depending on
what particular question you ask concerning the settlements. There is, of
course, sympathy towards the individuals in the settlements who are injured,
who are maimed, who are killed by bombings and shootings, particularly if it's
mothers of children. But on the other hand, I think there's a growing--I
wouldn't say consensus, but a growing percentage of the Israeli population who
say that if and when we get back to the negotiation table and we draw some
form of future boundary and there is a contiguous territory on the other side,
the Palestinian territory, then we cannot allow the existence of settlements
to be the one obstacle to implementing that peace agreement.

GROSS: Can you give us an overview of the number of settlers on the West Bank
and Gaza and the amount of territory that they cover?

Mr. NEWMAN: Well, if we talk about the West Bank and Gaza Strip without
including East Jerusalem, then we're talking roughly about 200,000 settlers.
That does not mean 100,000 families, of course, because a vast majority of
these settlers are religious families, young families with many children, so
it's probably talking about between 30 to 40,000 households as such because
many of them have young families and so on. Many of the population are
religiously motivated and very ideologically committed to their cause and
therefore they've come to this area, not because of any political opportunism
or not simply because of the economic incentives which they have benefited
from to build their houses in these outlying areas.

GROSS: So--and how much territory would you say the settlements cover?

Mr. NEWMAN: Well, each settlement on its own doesn't cover a large amount of
land. But, of course, settlements have their planning blueprints which allows
them to expand on the wider areas of land in the future and, in fact, when in
the past they've spoken about a settlement freeze they've usually referred to
the construction of new settlements but not the expansion of existing

In addition to that, the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are
planned and organized along the lines of municipal and regional councils as
happens inside Israel proper, and this allows the government, or the planners,
to control much wider areas of land than those which are occupied by
the houses themselves.

GROSS: I don't understand why. I mean, can you explain that?

Mr. NEWMAN: Because what happens is the country is divided up into regional
municipal councils and the regional councils include within them land which is
not part of the settlements themselves. And, therefore, the regional councils
can in some cases have planning and zoning controls over the land between
settlements and not just within the built-up area.

GROSS: And are there Palestinians living in that land?

Mr. NEWMAN: Yes, what happens is there's a totally dual landscape in the West
Bank. Unlike inside Israel proper, where the regional councils cover all of
the people in the area, in the jurisdiction area itself, what happens in the
West Bank is that there are regional councils for the Israeli settlements and
a completely different parallel planning setup or framework for the
Palestinian townships and villages. So there's a sort of dual space in which
you have two parallel planning regional systems operating in the same space at
the same time and that obviously gives rise to a lot of conflict over zoning
and planning.

GROSS: David Newman is my guest. He's chair of the Department of Politics
and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and he's editor
of the International Journal of Geopolitics. He's done a lot of research on
writing on the subjects of Israel's boundaries and the settlements in the West
Bank and Gaza. We're talking about the settlements.

Let's look a little bit at the history of the Israeli settlements in the
occupied territories. The settlements begin after the 1967 War. How do they

Mr. NEWMAN: Well, they begin on a very limited scale because for the first
10 years after the Six Day War there was a Labor government and that Labor
government did not want to settle the whole of the West Bank. They were not
influenced by the religious or the historical motivation which the later
settlers were. And they devised a plan called the Alon Plan which was
basically a security settlement plan in which the government said, `We're just
going to create settlements, the old type like the kibbutz and the Mashow,
along the Jordan Valley,' because at the time the Jordan Valley was seen as
providing the future security boundary of the state of Israel. But that same
government did not create settlements in the interior areas, in the
mountainous areas, where the vast majority of the Palestinian population
reside until this day because they saw this as being some form of a future
agreement by which it would be an autonomous area linked to the state of

GROSS: How did Israeli settlers start moving into that interior area?

Mr. NEWMAN: It basically started after the October '73 Yom Kippur War when
some of the more ideologically or religiously motivated groups decided that it
was time to start pushing the government to settle in the heartland of the
West Bank, particularly as they saw and continued to see this area as being
the religious heartland of the ancient biblical sites. At the time the
government of Israel was opposed to it, but the seeds were laid at that time.
And once the first right-wing government of Menachem Begin came to power in
1977 they then got the green light, particularly the Gush Emunim, religious
nationalist settler movement, to move ahead and start creating settlements
even in the interior areas.

GROSS: So the religious nationalist settlement movement was a movement of
people who believed that God had given the Jews that land and that therefore
the Israelis should go and inhabit it?

Mr. NEWMAN: Yes, they believed that this was part of the biblical divine
promises to the people of Israel, to the fathers, Abraham and Isaac and so
on, and they saw the war of 1967, the Six Day War, not as a war of defense or
control or occupation, but they defined it as a war of liberation in which the
land returned to its rightful owners. And once it was returned to its
rightful owners, they therefore argued that no government had the right to
give this up to any foreign rule in the future.

GROSS: You say that from 1984 on, there was agreement in Israel's coalition
governments to freeze all further settlement activity in the territories. And
yet the settlements continued to grow. Let's start with the agreements to
freeze settlement activity. What was behind those agreements?

Mr. NEWMAN: Well, because settlement is one of the most contentious political
issues, there are those, as I said before, who believe that you must have
settlement in order not to have any form of territorial withdrawal whereas the
left wing in Israel and the Labor parties believe the settlements are a
hindrance or an obstacle to future political agreements. Then whenever
coalition governments were set up, they always had to find some form of
compromise or agreement over policy relating to the settlements. Because a
right-wing government would have said, `Let's continue to build them.' A
left-wing government would have said, `Let's stop building them and let's not
give anymore resources to them.'

So the compromise which was made in 1984 and in a number of subsequent
coalition governments was that settlements would be frozen. In some cases
they allowed a very limited number of new settlements to be built. In other
coalition agreements, they spoke about a total freeze. But in retrospect,
what has happened is that it only meant a freeze on creating new settlements,
not on the consolidation and expansion and extension of the existing
settlements. And basically since 1984 until today the settler population has
grown from 30,000 to nearly 200,000, the vast majority of which has taken
place within the existing settlements which had been set up in those early

GROSS: How are settlements handled in the Oslo peace agreement?

Mr. NEWMAN: In the Oslo peace agreements, again, there was meant to have been
a freeze on any further or future settlement activity. And settlement was one
of the five issues together with such other heavy issues as Jerusalem and
refugees which were put off for the five-year interim period to be negotiated
and finalized when the final agreement was drawn up. It was very clear that
from a Palestinian perspective they expected settlements to be evacuated as
part of the final agreement. From an Israeli perspective, it wasn't clear
what their policy would be in this regard.

GROSS: There was a survey published by Peace Now in March that said 34 new
Israeli settlement sites had been built in the West Bank since Sharon was
elected. How have new settlements managed to be built, considering that there
had been freezes on them?

Mr. NEWMAN: Well, I think it's a question of defining what exactly is a new
settlement. A new settlement does not necessarily mean every hilltop which is
occupied by a few tin huts and two or three families who are determined to
make a political point, to sort of make a political protest at the idea that
settlements would be evacuated in the future. I think it's very important to
make the listener understand that settlements today are not sort of a few
small huts or shacks on an outlying hill, but in fact are communities,
townships with houses and roads and infrastructure and services and schools
and commercial centers and industrial centers. In that respect, new
settlements have not been built. But in the sense of political demonstrations
of putting up a few huts on a hill, this has happened whether the government
supports it or doesn't.

GROSS: My guest is David Newman, chair of the Department of Politics and
Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, and editor of the
International Journal of Geopolitics.

We'll talk more after our break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is David Newman. He is the chair
of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the
Negev in Israel, and he's editor of the International Journal of Geopolitics.
He's written extensively on the settlements and we're talking about the
Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

What has been the role of Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in
settlement-building? He is a former minister of housing in Israel.

Mr. NEWMAN: Ariel Sharon in the past was probably one of the ministers most
responsible for creating the infrastructure of the settlements in the West
Bank. Particularly when he was housing minister, he was very positive toward
the settler movement and they saw him as an ally in their objective of
creating as many settlements as possible to control as much territory and land
as possible to prevent future withdrawal. So in that sense, Sharon would have
a problem in evacuating or making an agreement which would necessitate the
evacuation of settlements and, in fact, he continually repeats that any
agreement that he makes will not necessarily include the evacuation, certainly
not of all the settlements, and he probably would prefer not to evacuate any

On the other hand, Ariel Sharon was also defense minister in the early 1980s
when he actually commanded the evacuation of the Israeli settlements in
northern Sinai which was part of the implementation of the Israel-Egypt peace
agreements at Camp David. So I think there's an ambivalent attitude here. I
think Sharon is a pragmatist in all the areas of policy. And should a
political agreement be reached under his leadership in the future which would
necessitate the evacuation of some of the settlements, I have little doubt
that he would find the means of doing so.

GROSS: How did the evacuation of the Israeli settlements in the Sinai work,
and is that something that Israel could possibly use as a model if they did
evacuate settlements in the West Bank and Gaza?

Mr. NEWMAN: Well, I think the experience of evacuating settlements in
northern Sinai is the trauma that Israeli society and Israeli governments have
about the scenario of evacuating settlements in the West Bank. It was a
fairly violent process. There were demonstrations; settlers refused to be
evacuated. They even fought physically with the soldiers who had been sent to
evacuate them, although at a certain point, the settler movement decided,
`That's it. That's enough. If we go any further, we're going to end up with
fatalities, and it could even end up with a civil war.' And I think many
Israelis, including the left-wing governments, are very afraid that if and
when settlement evacuation takes place in the West Bank, such violence and
such fatalities will be of a degree far worse to that which existed in Sinai
in the early 1980s.

GROSS: Are there many Israelis moving into the territories now, or now that
the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has increased so much, is
movement into the territories virtually stopped? Is maybe movement headed in
the opposite direction, of people in the settlements wanting to get out?

Mr. NEWMAN: Interestingly enough, there is always movement into the
settlements. Obviously it doesn't take place at the same pace or rate that it
was happening 10 years or even 15 years ago because of the security situation,
but there are always a core of young, ideological religious settlers who are
making their first homes and who are prepared to go and live in the
settlements. Most of the expansion of the settlements, though, are second-
and third-generation settlers. Remember that the first settlers came at the
end of the 1960s, so they already have children and even grandchildren who
have been born in the settlements, who have grown up in the settlements and
are now making their homes as a second and third generation in the settlements

There is a limited movement of people out of the settlements into Israel.
They tend to take place from the less ideological core of the settlement
movement, but there is a limited movement of people who are becoming worried
and threatened by the security situation. Of course, the settler movement
tries to downplay this. They prefer it not to become a public issue, because
they don't want this to turn into a mass movement of people back into Israel.

GROSS: If, as Israel does pull out of the settlements, are there possible
scenarios that have been proposed for evacuating the settlers and relocating

Mr. NEWMAN: Well, obviously there are scenarios, because it is very unlikely
the settlers, of their own will, will agree to remain in an area under
Palestinian control or Palestinian sovereignty, and we would assume that the
Palestinian state would not want them there, anyway, and we have to be very
realistic about that point. So there are conceptions concerning how the
settlers should be relocated and based on the Sinai experience, we will assume
that many of the settlers will simply return to the metropolitan center of
Israel--Tel Aviv, Jerusalem--but there are plans to try and build settlements
in other regions, particularly in the southern Negev region of Israel, which
until today constitutes 60 percent of the country's land surface, and only has
about 10 percent of the country's population. There are still wide areas of
undeveloped land there in which the settlers, if they had the same ideological
commitment after evacuation, could, in fact, contribute to the development and
the flourishing of the one area in Israel which remains relatively undeveloped

GROSS: And it's undeveloped because it's desert.

Mr. NEWMAN: It's undeveloped because it's desert. It's undeveloped because
it is perceived as being relatively peripheral, although someone listening to
that in the United States would say, `What is a periphery in a country where
you can get anywhere within one or two hours from the center of the country?'

It's not such a major problem to develop a semi-arid area today. You can
bring piping, you can bring water, you can bring air conditioning. The major
problem is to create the necessary employment infrastructure which will enable
people not only to build their houses there, but also to find employment in
the region.

GROSS: David Newman chairs the department of Politics and Government at
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, and writes a column for the
Jerusalem Post. He'll be back in the second half of the show. I'm Terry
Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music; funding credits)

GROSS: Coming up, we continue our conversation about the Jewish settlements
with David Newman. And we meet Gino Yevdjevich, the lead singer of the
Bosnian-Bulgarian punk rock band Kultur Shock. He was trapped in Sarajevo
during the siege.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with David Newman, who has
written extensively about the history of the Israeli settlements in the West
Bank and Gaza. He chairs the Department of Politics and Government at
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. He says nothing causes as much
heated debate in Israel as the future of the settlements.

Now the issue of the settlements is a very controversial, very important issue
in Israel. Give us a sense of how it's dividing people and perhaps even
dividing families.

Mr. NEWMAN: Well, I think the best answer would be to say it divides my own
family. I, myself, have a left-of-center political position. I believe the
settlements should be evacuated, and I have a sister who's a West Bank
settler. And though we choose not to talk politics when we meet, because
otherwise, it can become extremely sensitive and the tones can be raised.

Clearly, it's a very divisive issue, because there are those who see
settlements as being the only means of preventing future territorial
withdrawal, and there are those who see settlements as being the obstacle in
the way of implementing any future peace agreement. And there are even those
who say that had it not been for the settlements, then the Oslo map would have
been a much better map and more compact map, and we would not have met many of
the problems that we have experienced over the past seven or eight years.

GROSS: Do you think your family is pretty typical, that there's a lot of
families that are divided like that?

Mr. NEWMAN: I don't think it's typical of the whole of the Israeli
population, but there are many Israeli families, larger families, in which
political positions over the Israel-Palestine conflict--they're divided. You
have right wing and left wing in single families, and there are a large number
of divisions. I wouldn't say it's typical of the whole of the Israeli
population, though.

GROSS: So what direction do you think Israel is heading in right now in terms
of the settlements?

Mr. NEWMAN: I think that anyone who believes that there is going to be a
return to political negotiations and some form of political agreement in which
there will be a Palestinian state and a clearly defined boundary has to accept
that on the other side of that boundary, there cannot be settlements. Their
settlements will have to be evacuated.

Obviously, the boundary, if it is to be redrawn, may include some of the
settlements inside Israel, in return for which Israel may exchange territory
by the Gaza Strip or by the Green Line as compensation. But whatever the
territory of the Palestinian state is determined to be, it is very clear that
settlements there will have to be evacuated. And I think it is not just the
left wing who see this, it is a very realistic position. It's not an
ideological position, and I think, increasingly, people in the center, people
even in the moderate right realize that if there is to be a boundary in the
future, this will be the implications for the future of settlements.

GROSS: How have the suicide bombings affected your day-to-day life in Israel?
Are you living differently? Are you taking different precautions than you did
before? Are there places that you won't go that you used to frequent?

Mr. NEWMAN: I think, to a certain extent, the suicide bombers have affected
the daily life of many, many Israelis. In my own case, maybe that's less so,
because I tend to be rather blase and some people would say even rather
irresponsible in the way I think about these things. But just the other day,
I caught myself thinking that my two eldest children, who study in Jerusalem,
they come home every weekend or every second weekend, and then on the Sunday
morning, I take them to the bus station, put them on the bus to Jerusalem.
And even I have started to get into the mind-set which says, `Oh, I just hope
they're not in the wrong place at the wrong time. They're not on the bus or
in the bus station or the cafeteria that some crazy suicide bomber is going to
come in and bomb today.'

So I think it has changed the mind-set of the Israeli population. There are
places which aren't frequented. And every time there is a bombing in a cafe
or a nightclub or a disco--so for the first week or two weeks afterwards, you
find that these places are empty, and it takes time for people to start coming
back again.

GROSS: Do you feel like it's changed your feelings about Palestinians, in

Mr. NEWMAN: I think it's clearly changed the minds of many Israelis about
their attitude towards the rights of Palestinians. You know, there are two
arguments as to why the occupation should end. One argument is because some
people say the Palestinians deserve a state. They're three million people.
And just as the Israelis--we have our flag and our emblem and our anthem and
we're proud of our state--so the Palestinians should also have their
self-determination and their state. That is an argument which is very hard to
sell today because most people have become even more hard-line towards the
Palestinians because of the terrorism and the suicide bombers.

There is another argument, of course, which says that we need to get rid of
the occupation because it's good for us, Israel, to get out of the territories
and not to have to educate a whole generation, a third and a fourth and a
fifth generation of young people in being soldiers of control and soldiers of
occupation. And I think it's the second argument which is stronger today,
whereas in the past, maybe the first arguments would have been stronger. But
there are a decreasing amount of Israelis today who are sympathetic towards
the Palestinian political claims because of the terrorism which is taking

GROSS: Well, David Newman, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. NEWMAN: OK. Thank you.

GROSS: David Newman chairs the Department of Politics and Government at
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.

Coming up, a pop star turned punk rocker from Sarajevo. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Gino Yevdjevich discusses his musical career and
being lead singer of the band Kultur Shock

My guest, Gino Yevdjevich, was a teen pop star in Bosnia. Before the siege of
Sarajevo, he lived in the city on the opposite side of the river from his
mother. He was visiting her for lunch when the siege began, and was unable to
return home for the duration of the war. When the war ended, he emigrated to
the US. He now lives in Seattle, where he's the lead singer of the band
Kultur Shock. The band is made up of two Bosnian emigres, two Bulgarians who
defected in the Communist era, a Japanese musician and an American horn
section. Kultur Shock's music is inspired by Gypsy music and other
traditional Balkan musics, as well as punk rock. Here's a track that combines
both from the new Kultur Shock CD.

(Soundbite of song)

KULTUR SHOCK: (Singing in unison in foreign language)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. GINO YEVDJEVICH (Singer, Kultur Shock): (Singing in foreign language)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: (Singing in foreign language)

KULTUR SHOCK: (Singing in unison in foreign language)

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: (Singing in foreign language)

KULTUR SHOCK: (Singing in unison in foreign language)

GROSS: When Gino Yevdjevich was trapped in Sarajevo during the siege, he and
several other musicians put together an absurd version of the musical "Hair,"
which they performed for three years.

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: We took over a little theater which was in the middle of
Sarajevo. It was the weird situation. It's not just me. It's like everybody
else was trapped, too. So all of a sudden, you have all the recording artists
but, you know, very, very good-selling recording artists trapped in the one
town, because Sarajevo was, from before, a cultural metropolis of former
Yugoslavia. So all the best-selling and all--maybe the best rock 'n' roll
that was in former Yugoslavia was in Sarajevo. So no wonder people--you know,
we had so many musicians in the same position like I was. We took over the
theater, and we put out our version of the musical "Hair," which was kind of
turned upside down.

GROSS: Yeah...

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: Because--yeah.

GROSS: I can't imagine--"Hair" seems so incongruous...

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: That's exactly...

GROSS: Singing about the "Age of Aquarius" in Bosnia...


GROSS: know, when Sarajevo was under siege does not compute. I mean,
so what was your version of "Hair"?

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: Yeah. That's the beginning of irony era and of cynicism era
in my life. From then on, everything is irony and everything is
double-meaning and everything is cynicism. I rather like to make fun of the
things that I like, but then I don't like. And I loved "Hair" all the way. A
long time ago, you know, I wanted to be a hippie. I was too young to be a
hippie, though. But really, I was a hippie wanna-be when I was, like, seven.
I saw them on TV, and I really wanted to be part of that.

And then later on, of course, I was part of the punk generation, but
"Hair"--at the time, we kind of--war started, we watched "Hair" once, me and a
couple of my friends, and we laughed so hard. I was saying, `What do you mean
"peace on Earth"?' So I go, like--(makes explosion sound)--bombing around
you, like, `What do you mean "peace on Earth"?'

So what we did, we made a cover version of "Killing Me Softly," you know.
Yeah. We did "Hair." We kind of--that's the only way you can go through that
stuff. I mean, if it's rapped, if you can die in next five minutes, the only
way you can do it is to make fun of it, because, you know, that's how you're
going to survive. That's how we realized--actually, we didn't do it
consciously, and people were thanking us later on, because "Hair" was played
for three years almost every day. Every date, it was sold out. So you
know--and people were thanking us for keeping the spirit of Sarajevo, keeping
people insane and stuff. And we were actually--we did this selfishly, just to
keep ourselves alive, you know, because if you don't do that, what you going
to do? You going to, like, just go on the streets and say, `Shoot me. It's

Stand--you know, so that's what we did for three years. We kind of occupied a
little theater and run the show, with all the problems that you can have
running the show during the war, you know, having members killed. Having, you
know--every single day was a battle, actually, to go from your home, where you
lived, to the theater and back, because you never know. The show was
literally more important than our lives, I would say so, because you know,
it's just--therefore, I get my philosophy, and the Kultur Shock of philosophy
is, like, to play every single song like it's the last song in your life,
because you never know what's like the last song of your life going to be.

GROSS: Did you have electricity for the lights in the theater?

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: No, we didn't. No, we didn't. It's kind of a triple
suicide. We had electricity, and then all of a sudden in the middle of the
gig, the electricity would go down, and we would turn acoustic. And then, we
would steal the electricity from United Nations.

GROSS: How do you do that?

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: At least they were good for something, huh? Well, we
just--you know, they have their generators, they're better than everybody
else. And what we had, we had friends who were good in the stealing
electricity from their generators. So from the offices that they were having,
we were doing that and running the show. And, like, for a couple of months,
they wouldn't realize that, and then they would cut it off, and then we would
steal it from another site. So it was fun.

GROSS: So it...

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: I have to say sometimes, I had the fun of my life there in
the war.

GROSS: So did you have your instruments during the war, and were you able to
hold on to them?

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: Oh, yeah. I mean, that was a, basically, done by the
superstars, by the best-selling rock artists who were never on the theater
stage. That wasn't like Broadway musical done by Broadway perform--it was the
rock band on the stage. It wasn't the pop "Hair." It was a rock "Hair."

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: It was a very dark--our arrangements were very dark, and our
singing wasn't as happy as the hippie "Hair" also. It definitely wasn't done
originally. We rearranged everything, and we rewrote the text. It
was--pretty much, the bone of the story and initial melodies of the songs were
there. Everything else we did pretty much originally.

GROSS: Now one of the things that kept people coming to "Hair" was that there
was a scene where the actors are naked. Was that part of your version of

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: Well, it was cold, come on. I'm serious.

GROSS: Too cold for that.

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: It was cold. No. Come on. I mean, being naked in my
country is not as taboo as being naked over here.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: I mean, when I came over here--I was here when I was 15, and
I really didn't realize that Christian rays in--on American medias. Right
now, like being naked in my country was just a normal thing. I guess I had a
couple of musical videos where I have naked people on it. Once, I was one of
them. But, you know, so that's not a taboo. We didn't do it because it was
cold, and it kind of made no sense in a way in the middle of the war. I mean,
if you're naked and all of a sudden bombing starts, where are you going to go

GROSS: So you had this attitude of, you know, make everything ironic, because
if you don't have a sense of humor, you're doomed. Now it sounds like you got
by just fine, but I'm wondering if you had friends who couldn't get to that
point of irony, or couldn't get to that point of being, like, a fatalist and
were kind of troubled and worried and anguished with every move that they
make, wondering, `Should I turn left or turn right? Is the bullet heading up
or is it heading down? Will I get hit or will I avoid it?' Is that going to
either paralyze you, or leave you just in this absolutely pained state of
constant neurosis?

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: Oh, yeah, sure. I mean, in our troupe, we had people who
were scared to death. And it's not just--I mean, we were friends. We were
brothers and sisters, and we really cared about each other. So we kind of, in
a way, tried to spare the people of, like, going to buy the cigarettes for us
or, you know, get us the booze from the illegal market run by the United
Nations--kind of good-willingly making fun of it.

You know, I really don't--when we right now sit and remember those days, even
those people who were scared of every single--because scared is something that
you cannot control. I thought that--you know, sometimes I was scared to
death. Maybe that's my defense. Maybe I was scared enough that, you know, I
kind of convinced myself that I wasn't scared. I know what it is to be

GROSS: What are some of the differences between playing with a band in
Seattle, where you live now, and playing in Sarajevo before the war?

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: We cannot compare, really, these two lives, because I was
lucky. I was 16 and I was lucky to succeed, and there was a big record label
behind my back. They were pretty much telling me what to do. We're playing
clubs right now. People are very close to you. You can see what they think.
You can see how they look at you. This is a completely new experience, and I
don't have television backing me up anymore. I don't have radio backing me up
anymore. Like before, you know, you released a record, you have television
backing you up, you have radio backing you up. You go, you sell out your
arena, and you take the money. That's pretty much a simple way of doing it.
Right here, you just play, and people come and see you. And more you play,
the better you are, more people come and see you, and it's kind of more
natural right now in this moment. So...

GROSS: Now is the Balkan traditional music that you've kind of incorporated
into your band now--like the Gypsy music, is that part of your tradition or is
that just a tradition of the area that you heard a lot?

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: No, no. It's part of our tradition also. It's part of our
tradition. Gypsies came from India, and they ended in Balkan Peninsula,
mostly being in Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria, in Macedonia also--actually,
mostly in Macedonia. When we were growing up, that was the music that wasn't
cheesy and it was folk, and we loved it. You know, it's like bluegrass over
here. You know, you love it because it's pure and it's full of soul and
energy and it's something that you close your eyes and sing. Gypsies are all
around us, and, I mean, you can pretty much see--the people from Balkan
Peninsula, they are dark, dark hair with a dark tan. And we are supposed to
be Slavs--red hair, tall and like--with freckles like Russians. We mixed a
lot with Arabs, with Turks. Turks were 600 years there, and also when Gypsies
came from India, we mixed with them, too. So there are all cultures which are
giving this particular musical stamp that I'm using.

GROSS: Did you do folk dancing when you were a kid?

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: Never in my entire life. We don't have folk dancing over
there. Folk dancing...

GROSS: Now see, American kids grow up--at least in my age, they grew up with,
like, Balkan folk dancing, you know.


GROSS: It's very popular here now still. So...

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: Yeah. I have to tell you the story about that. We really
like folk dancers here in Seattle, and they come to our shows. And we were
invited to Bacchanalia Festival in Portland, so we went over there, and
being natives ourselves, you know, they thought that we are natives. So when
we started playing, half of the room just get out because, you know, we
weren't what they were expecting. And then I had the political speech later
on saying, `Hello, people, let me explain to you something. When your
grandfathers and grandmothers left and when the shepherd was playing the flute
on the hill, some people still remained in the homeland. You know, they are
still there. The people still live there. And believe it or not, we have
refrigerators and running water and computers right now, so electric guitars
also. Like life goes on. You know, it's not'--but, yeah, folk dance
community is totally American stuff. It goes along totally and, you know, if
there wasn't for folk dancing, we wouldn't have a fundament of our audience
base at the beginning at all.

GROSS: Well, Gino Yevdjevich, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. YEVDJEVICH: Thank you, Terry. Thank you very much. And thanks for
having me.

GROSS: Gino Yevdjevich is now lead singer of the Seattle-based band Kultur
Shock. They have a new CD.

(Soundbite of music)

KULTUR SHOCK: (Singing in foreign language)

GROSS: Coming up, linguist Geoff Nunberg on journalese. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Commentary: Journalistic use of words such as `roil' parallels the
language of theatrical melodrama to help sell stories

New flap roils lawmakers as gov moles probe. That's journalese, a dialect of
English that hasn't changed much in a hundred and fifty years. Our linguist,
Geoff Nunberg, explains why newspapers can't resist the language of melodrama.


A journalist I know asked me why she kept seeing the verb `roil' in the
newspaper. `What's going on with this?' she said. Of course, as soon as she
pointed it out, I started noticing it all over the place. In The New York
Times the other day, I read about the factors that were roiling the British
rail system and the roiling political context of the game of soccer. And the
same day's San Francisco Chronicle had a story about anti-government protests
that were roiling the eastern region of Algeria and a business page reference
to the roiling electricity market; not to mention a headline describing Eminem
as `the roiling rapper.'

There's nothing new about roil. It's been around since Shakespeare's time as
a slightly recondite synonym for churn up or perturb. But when I did a search
in a collection of major newspapers, it turned out the verb is more than nine
times as frequent now as it was 20 years ago, even when you correct for the
changing size of the database. In fact, it's up 30 percent in just the last
year. That's a remarkable pop, all the more since there's no external reason
for it. I mean, it isn't as if the world is nine times more turbulent than it
was in 1982.

But then `roil' was tailor-made for recycling as a newspaper vogue word, a bit
recherche and poetic, but not so obscure that readers can't pick up a general
sense of disruption. It's a favorite of headline writers, not surprising
given that it has only four letters, two of them skinny ones. Migrant Pickers
Roil Watermelon Capital; Anger and Isolation Roil Israeli Arabs; Greenspan
Remarks Roil Markets. Actually, the stock markets alone account for about 15
percent of all the roil-ese in the press.

Of course, you don't hear `roil' a lot in ordinary conversation. It isn't
really a word of American English at all. It belongs to the patois of that
exotic alter-America that we read about in the newspapers, a world populated
by strongmen, fugitive financiers and troubled teens, where ire is always
being fueled until violence flares, spawning hatred and stirring fears until
hopes are dashed.

The Associated Press' Jack Capon once imagined how it would sound if
ordinary people actually used journalese in their conversations over the
backyard fence. `Joel, my concern has been escalating for weeks. What's
triggering our area youths who keep sparking confrontations?' `Well, Bill,
they certainly shattered the stillness of this affluent neighborhood with
their drug-related predawn rampage.' This is a venerable dialect. It's been
around ever since the mass-circulation penny newspapers first appeared around
150 years ago, the garish, sensational dailies that Dickens satirized in
"Martin Chuzzlewit" under names like The Sewer, The Stabber(ph) and The
New York Rowdy Journal(ph).

Granted, the language of the press has gotten more sedate in recent times, now
that most of the tabloids have folded and reporters drink Chardonnay and
cosmopolitans. And yet modern newspaper diction still evokes the language
of the theatrical melodramas that became popular around the same time as the
penny press. It's a tone which disappeared from serious fiction around the
1920s and which you don't even hear much in hard-boiled detective stories
nowadays. In fact, the only place other than newspapers where you routinely
run into verbs like `roil' is in Gothic romances and especially pornography,
where synonyms for `churn' are always in high demand.

Editors are always deploring the excesses of journalese, but for every
embellishment they manage to discourage, three new ones spring up in its
place. Along with the spectacular growth of `roil,' for example, the last 20
years have seen sevenfold increases in the use of `ratchet' and `slated.' As
tensions ratchet up, new peace talks are slated for next month.

Reporters tell you that they choose words like `roil' and `ratchet' because
they were taught in journalism classes that they should try to use action
words. Saying that the mayor's decision roiled voters feels more vivid than
merely saying that the decision troubled them. It makes it sound as if
something's actually taken place since the last edition went to press.

The facts may be the same one way or the other, but then journalists know that
what sells papers isn't facts but stories, the more dramatic and sanguinary
the better. As a newspaper maxim has it, `If it bleeds, it leads.' You can't
affect what happened at the city council meeting last night, but you can at
least describe it in the same language you'd use to summarize the plot of an
Indiana Jones movie: Embattled Mayor Rips Foes as Deadline Looms. That
headline could appear as easily in The New York Times as in The New York Rowdy
Journal. In fact, it's just the way the press makes the world sound
newsworthy. Melodrama and news: The two were born at the same moment, and
they've been talking in the same voice ever since.

GROSS: Geoff Nunberg is a researcher at Stanford's Center for the Study of
Language and Information and the author of the book "The Way We Talk Now."


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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