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international news _ 23th March, 2007

Wu Tang & Beastie’s State Of Exit 2007

Text by Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)

Exit Festival general manager Bojan Boskovic chatted to Skrufff this week and confirmed that Basement Jaxx, Beastie Boys, LTJ Bukem and Wu-Tang Clan are headlining this year's event in Novi Sad, Serbia in July.

The founder of the acclaimed four-night festival also chatted about the heavy DJ emphasis Exit has always presented and said the policy of booking DJs reflected the difficulties artists faced in entering Serbia during the 'dark 90s'.

"During the dark nineties in Serbia, the dance scene provided the most vital connection with the outside world's popular culture – it was much easier to smuggle relevant DJs into the country than relevant bands," he pointed.

"The problem in Serbia is that we were effectively cut off from the world during the 90s and the regime in power then was producing xenophobia and nationalism, which led to the middle classes and mainstream culture being completely devastated," he said.

"Of course, there were a few people who still followed international music but they were smaller audiences who were dedicated mostly to underground music and let's face it – CD piracy saved urban culture in Serbia. That was the only way to keep in touch with recent global trends. So, at the beginning of Exit our line up was a mixture of older and more underground acts. But there aren't so many of those acts around so we started to build our own audiences for bands. So Franz Ferdinand, Scissor Sisters and Peaches are all now much bigger in Serbia having played at the EXIT."

Bojan and fellow Exit chief Dusan Kovacevi started Exit in 2000 when both were still students, presenting 100 days of gigs, which helped mobilize protests against the Milosevic regime which saw him being overthrown in October 2000. Hugely successful, the event moved to Petrovaradin fortress above the Danube in 2001, attracting over 250,000 visitors in 2002. Cut down to 4 days in 2003 the event was almost cancelled the following year when Bojan and Dusan were thrown into jail a month before its start, on embezzlement charges.

"There are still remnants of the former regime in business, state structures and media who don't want things in Serbia to function normally and if someone is showing that it's possible, they automatically consider him an enemy," Bojan said. "They simply don't want normal business conditions to become our reality and some of them still try to find ways to make our life harder."

Bojan and Dusan spent seven days in jail before being released though Bojan said they were treated fairly throughout their ordeal.

"The cops in the prison were just busy doing their job and I don't think they were included in any way in this dirty game. The masterminds were on a higher level, their intention was to humiliate EXIT and me personally," he said.

"But, thanks to our crew and to all of our friends and the many other honest people in Serbia and abroad they didn't succeed. Our team made a massive campaign pointing out all the irregularities in this 'legal' action. Initially the public was confused, but quickly enough we received full support. The other prisoners understood what was going on and they were very supportive," he added.

More recently, thousands of Brits and Germans have started attending the event, with an estimated 50,000 of last year's 150,000 visitors estimated to have attended from outside Serbia.

"It's true and we are very proud of it," Bojan confirmed.

"Serbia and other countries from the region are outside the Schengen Treaty so it is very hard for the young people in Serbia to travel to EU countries, if not impossible. While people from the UK and other Western countries get to know about Serbia and the Balkans first hand, rather than the black and white picture they receive from mainstream media. EXIT is a bridge between young people from the Balkans and young people from EU," he added.

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