Rough guide through the history of Balkan female bands

Yes, it’s International Women’s Day today, not that you really care, especially if you are a woman but you might want to check out our guide through Yugoslav all-female bands rocking the stage since the 1960s

Cacadou Look: The 1980s were all about that glow


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 – Bez reči [original: Without Words by Playboys] (1968)

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. Consquently, their first official album came out in 2005 but this live excerpt is from their 1997 performance in Zagreb’s Student Centre.

Lutke – Bye bye godine (1997) [original Bye Bye Love by Everly Brothers]

Soul to break

While we can’t stricktly 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]

Releasing crazy disco versions of the famous Yugoslav rock hits of the 70s and early 80s 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 (Katstrofa 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 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 video 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 serveral brilliant, yet obviously unreleased demos, their first single from 1987 brought forward their rockish side. The cover announcement read “The First True Female Sound” and – as it still feels – rightfully so. Here, however, is Boye’s ultra rare early 90s video take on the world’s most popular sport.

Boye – Fudbal (single, 1990)

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 trio was ready for take off. 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 plays 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 yet not really punk. They are nevertheless awesome and one cannot but love the power, genuinity and determination of their early songs, such as this 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)

After a couple of EPs, which you can find on their bandcamp, Vinkovci’s Punčke are about to release their first album. It appears to me they are also about to become one of the most popular bands in Croatia. Hopefully. Not least due to a) a documentary about them, which is hitting certain festivals as we speak, b) their regular touring and reports of their persuasive performances, and c) this awesome dreamy, poppish single that came out last year:

Punčke – Petra Pan (single, 2012)

A cherry on top. Known as Ž/Buka in its former incarnation, this is the most amazing all-women band in the region at the moment. Why? Well, it’s not like this is a competition or anything, but listening to them I felt much more puzzled than with other bands. I was irritated and contented at the same time so to speak. Whether it’s post-, math-, kraut-rock or whatevah-rock one detects in their efforts, it doesn’t really matter. It feels like these sounds are here to stay. The band doesn’t seem to be getting signed, though. Perhaps there’s a plausible connection there somewhere? Anyhow, I don’t know the title to this one, but it was played live, this much is certain. Ladies and lads, we give you Žen!

Žen – Unknown (unreleased, 2011)

Further Googling

There are many groups and bands that have for various reasons been left out of this guide, so here are some names you might find interesting to flick into google search bar.

BEAT: Duo DD, Šigele, Ptice
SOUL & DISCO: Lokice, Žeris, Snoli, Cice-Mace
POP & POP ROCK: E.N.I., Katrinas, MakeUp2, Julija & Julija, Fandango, The Frajle
COOL CHOIRS: Kombinat, Le Zbor, Le wHORe
INDIE/ALTERNATIVE: Nikad dosta, Bitcharke na travi, Zla deca matere svoje, Voodoo lutke, Fregatura, Venus, Larve/Leifert, U pol’ 9 kod Sabe, Hellcats