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Kultur Shock

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Throw together a pair of Bosnians, a couple of Bulgarians, three Americans, and a bassist from Japan and you’ve got culture shock. Or at least Kultur Shock, the Seattle-based band who freely mix punk and metal with Balkan brass.

Leader Gino Yevdjevich became a professional musician in his native Sarajevo when he was 16, making a good living playing commercial music. All that changed in 1991, when the war in the former Yugoslavia began. With no money and precious little food or electricity, the local artistic community made art for itself — and found it well received as locals braved snipers and bombs to get out of their houses.

However, he left for the U.S. in 1994 under the sponsorship of singer Joan Baez and ended up in Seattle starring in a play with music about the Sarajevo conflict, Behind God’s Back.
The band Kultur Shock came after the play closed, playing acoustic music in restaurants. Advised by Krist Novoselic (who has his own Croatian roots in the Balkans) to play louder, they began doing so — and found themselves thrown out of the restaurants.
After a brief hiatus, they returned to play Seattle clubs with guitarist Mario Butkovich, who’d been persuaded to move from his new home in Portland. Brad Houser (New Bohemians, Critters Buggin’) took the bass slot, with Amy Denio and Jessica Lurie filling out the horn section.
In 1999, they recorded and self-released Kultur Shock Live in Amerika, which documented the outfit at the first full stage of their development. While the music they played was all traditional, the treatment of it certainly wasn’t, with loud electric guitars complementing the twist-and-turn horn lines. It was, Yevdjevich admitted, “a party album,” and though often impressive, it didn’t do them full justice.

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