DJ Coolmann was a member of German hip hop group 5 Sterne Deluxe and, together with Mario von Hacht, he recorded as Visit Venus as well. You can still see him djing all over the place and he’s back in the studio again. We had a long talk with him where he talked about going to America with 5 Sterne and a lot of other things. Then he talked about how the time he spent in Sarajevo was one of the most memorable events in his career.
It must have been around 1999 when Heinzi of Sunshine Entertainment from Vienna told me that we could fly out to Sarajevo because somebody had booked us to dj over there. So I flew to Vienna on a Thursday and we djed that night. We had another gig on Friday and so we didn’t get any sleep before five in the morning. Our flight to Sarajevo was scheduled at nine. I thought that I could catch up with some sleep during the flight but then I realized that it only took us 45 minutes to reach Sarajevo.
When we walked down the stairs to the runway after touching down in Sarajevo, the first thing I noticed were KFOR troops. I had always thought that they were similar to UN peacekeepers… Far from it! They all were about 6’2″, maybe a little taller, masked and dressed in black. Six of them were standing next to our plane, holding machine pistols…
Half of the airport building was destroyed; the right half had been hit by a bomb and was completely gone. We got our luggage straight from the plane and had to carry it to the airport building on our own. There we got picked up by a driver who would take us to the city center. The airport is pretty far away from the city and to get there, you have to drive down a street which is lined by wasteland on both sides. Our driver explained that this street was called “sniper alley.” During the war you always got shot at on that street… Since Sarajevo is located in a valley, radio- and tv stations had to be located outside of the city to be able to broadcast and they were completely destroyed. Everything we passed looked like the photos one had seen of WW II.
Sarajevo consists of two parts. Up to a certain street, everything looks European; you’ve got old buildings and a pedestrian zone. Then, suddenly, everything changes and you’ve reached Sarajevo’s oriental part with flat roofed buildings. There weren’t any new buildings or high rises to speak of in the city center. The only high rise you could see, about fifteen stories high, had a hole the size of about two stories on one and of about four stories on the other side. That was the government building which along with the tv- and radio stations the Serbs had attempted to destroy. The rocket they had used must have been too powerful since it had flown straight through the building. However, half of the mountain behind the building was missing and it looked just like a quarry.
We eventually arrived at a small guesthouse and everybody seemed to already know that we were in town. On our way to a restaurant to get dinner, people were approaching us with 5 Sterne records, asking for our autographs. You could see bullet holes and shell bursts which had been fixed with red tarmac everywhere. Our host explained that these were called Sarajevo Roses, reminders of the war. The whole town seemed to be red. But what can you expect if you keep shooting at it for two years? Plates with the names of people who had died could be found on the walls of many houses. Still, everybody who was accompanying us was cheerful and cordial. Through our music we got accepted in a way which probably wouldn’t have happened if we had been tourists.
After dinner, we went to the venue where we were supposed to dj. It was an old post office, half of it bombed away. There weren’t any windows left. The club was located in the basement. The guy who owned the pa, some active JBL speakers, told us that he had the best sound system in the whole town. We weren’t exactly certain if we should be playing War by Edwin Starr or Fight the Power by Public Enemy, since we didn’t know if anybody would feel offended. However, people kept requesting those tracks and we ended up playing each one five times. I was really impressed about how everybody had such a positive attitude after the war and all that bs. At some time during the night, we were asked to drink moonshine. Now I know what the Indians meant when they were talking about firewater! I had a slight cold but that was gone afterwards…
Before we returned to Vienna, we got breakfast at a bakery in the oriental part of town really early in the morning. We went through the backdoor and got recognized immediately. “They are the Germans who djed last night. Good to see you!” Well, Heinzi is Austrian, but who cares. Austria doesn’t really feel like another country to me, everybody is speaking German… Anyway, I asked the baker to put a few things into a bag for us. What we got was something akin to the size of a big shopping bag, made out of paper. We told him that it was way too much for us to eat but he simply ignored us and asked for €2. We wanted to give him €5 as €2 obviously wasn’t enough. He just said “it’s €2, thank you”, sounding slightly annoyed. It felt kind of rude to pay so little money, especially since it was way too much bread for us to eat… We thought that people would have found out if we had thrown half of it away at the hotel and so we took what we couldn’t eat back with us to Vienna, where we fed it to the ducks.
If it wasn’t for the music, I’d never come there. The flight from Vienna to Sarajevo which took a mere 45 minutes made me realize how close one had been to the war. I really hadn’t been aware of that…
Interview (c) Albert Ruppelt
Translation (c) Tim Schnetgoeke