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Friday, May 7, 1999 Published at 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK


World: Europe

Bombing the bass in Belgrade

Night raids on Belgrade are forcing clubbers to dance by day

By Jacky Rowland in Belgrade

The Cafe Bizarre in downtown Belgrade is packed with people. Many of them are students from the nearby university whose lectures have been cancelled because of the conflict with Nato.

It seems to disrupt every aspect of life. There is standing room only here and you have to fight your way to the bar.

Kosovo: Special Report
It is easy to forget that it is only three o'clock in the afternoon. The Nato strikes after dark have seriously curtailed nightlife in Belgrade.

Enterprising club owners have adapted to the changed situation by opening their doors during the day.

"During the day we are trying to still lead some kind of a normal life, I don't know from 10am until seven or 8pm, and then we go home," one clubber told me.

Upside-down lives


Jacky Rowland: Clubbing by day, bombing by night
Igor Pulic is responsible for the music at Cafe Bizarre. He is better known here as DJ Pooky.

He says the Nato bombing campaign has turned people's lives upside-down, but they are doing their best to stay in contact with the outside world.

"The music we play is pretty much the same as good clubs in London, New York or something. There are about seven DJs from Belgrade here, who are playing really, really good music," he said.

"We would get some records two weeks ago even though the bombing is still on, so trying to keep in touch with what's going on outside."


[ image: UK clubbers have raised money for Kosovo]
UK clubbers have raised money for Kosovo
The punters here seem happy enough, drinking beer from the bottle and talking in animated voices. Some of them are even making a half-hearted attempt at dancing. But others are not convinced.

"I don't like it. I don't like the atmosphere. It is not the same," said Zoran Stettin. "It is not that feeling, you know, when I'm relaxed and when I go with my friends and talk and dance and do the other things which I do in clubs usually."

Isolated from Europe

Night after night of air strikes has forced some young people to look hard at the general situation in Serbia. Many young Serbs who see no future for themselves in a country isolated from the rest of Europe.

"I don't see here in this country a future in the next twenty years," said Marianne Novakovic.

"And all my friends during the last years are gone to America and Europe and no intelligent person will stay here anymore. There is no-one here."

Some of the people at the club say the Nato air strikes make them want to party even harder while they have the chance. It is a way of forgetting the danger and destruction, if only for a few hours.

"Just under all this pressure, you know, when you don't have any idea what could happen the next day, next night, you might be killed or maybe some of your friends, relatives. This is maybe an escape," said DJ Pooky.

It is good while it lasts but it does not last long. When it starts to get dark the club closes and it is time to head home, sometimes to a night in the air-raid shelter.

This is the grim reality of life in Belgrade under the bombs. It is a sign of their tenacity that many people try to carry on with their lives despite the disruption.



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