Instant Karma: In the rhythm ‘n’ blues hell

The Buddha is watching you!

Instant Karma is one of the most consistent and oldest bands in Serbia. Being very independent, the band remained faithful to the blues and different from the others even during the Great Vojvodina Pop Invasion of the 1990s. Today, following the release of their album “The Buddha from the Roof”, after 30+ years, the boys from Zrenjanin are well into their mature age, but have never sounded better. We are talking with Aleksandar Janković, the band’s frontman, about today’s music scene, the lack of rebellion and desire for freedom in young people, and how to navigate through the materialistic world.

Instant Karma

You emerged during the Great Pop Invasion in Vojvodina in the 1990s, along with other similar bands like Veliki Prezir, Eva Braun, Oružjem Protiv Otmičara and Obojeni Program. Yet somehow you always had that fiercer, rhythm and blues charm. Where does the love for the blues come from, considering that you often describe your performances as “the rhythm and blues hell”?

Blues appeared very early in my life when I first heard of the music of the Rolling Stones. I was interested in where that dishevelled sound came from and why they took their name from a Muddy Waters song. After that, I started researching the origin of the blues. The Yardbirds and Dr. Feelgood had a huge influence on me. Later, I became a big fan of John Lee Hooker. I still collect old blues records. As for the pop wave in Vojvodina, I think it emerged mainly because of the breakup of Yugoslavia. The music scene, as we knew it, had disappeared and a parallel had to be created on the Belgrade rock scene. Vojvodina always had something to offer. Instant Karma was founded in 1987 and our first single was „Dim nad Gradom“ („Smoke over the City“). Our first performance was on the Stereovizija music show. We were still high school kids back then.

You’re big fans of the British music scene of the 1960s and 70s, and you have stuck with that look from the very beginning.  What do 30 years of navigating through the restless Serbian music scene while being uncompromising look like?

Well, I am a big fan of John Lennon and the Beatles. His music has influenced me a lot but not only the music but his personality too and his whole story is quite magical to me. Secondly, Lennon exerts a strange influence. It makes you grow up and maybe all of this does sound like a utopia, but I believe in it. I was so glad that people of my generation, like Stone Roses and Oasis, who lived in England at the same time, share my opinion. As far as the image goes, it dates back to the 1960s. A lot has happened on the Serbian music scene in the last 30 years. Many good things and many good bands have emerged. The 1990s were absolutely crazy. We had no money, but we had plenty of crazy energy. And there was hope…

Kids are not rebellious and everything boils down to money. Still, I believe in revolution“

Why did you call your album „The Buddha from the Roof“?

A lot of people have asked me that. We named it that because it sounds good and because everybody thinks there is a deeper meaning to it. Maybe there is, but for now, let it be a mystery. One day I will tell you the real story about the Buddha. For now… Let him sit on the roof and observe all of us.

How different is the music scene today compared to your beginning? And what about the atmosphere in society?

When we started, we lived in a country called Yugoslavia. We gained a reputation in Serbia but we also left a small mark in the former country. We were children when we started and back then it seemed to me that the whole world was mine. Then came the damn war! We were the first to do anti-war concerts back in 1991. Surprisingly, a strong rock scene was formed during those years. We had gigs all the time, playing clubs. We were the “other Serbia” and we had the strongest rock scene. There were fast bands of Serbia, good bands of Vojvodina and there was cooperation between artists and rebels. Then the year 2000 came. Maybe we expected a lot from it. I don’t know. My beliefs remained the same. In fact, I can proudly say that Instant Karma recorded its best albums right after 2000. I am referring to the album “Metamorphosis” from 2001 which is our Sgt. Pepper.

Is there enough of rock rebellion among young people today?

I’m sorry to have to say this, but no, there isn’t.  Kids are not interested in rebellion and freedom. We live in a material world. However, the world is changing and I believe in revolution.

What will happen after “The Buddha on the Roof”?

Buddha continues to live. This album has 14 songs and we have released two singles from it so far. There are at least five more to release. The album got fantastic reviews all over the region and Instant Karma is on a mission. The next video single will be released by the year-end and all we want to do is to play live. After all, Instant Karma live is the pure rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm ‘n’ blues hell. And that’s the life I have chosen to live.

By Žikica Milošević

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