4 September 2003, Vreme

Obituary: Branko Vukojevic (1956-2003)

The Captain of the Yellow Submarine

Branko Vukojevic, the founder of Serbian Rock and Roll Criticism, died on Saturday 30th August in London, following a serious traffic accident

Today, watching the first story of the now cult omnibus 'The Fall of Rock and Roll' (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0158610/), would not only give you a good laugh, but also perhaps a sense of amazement at what appears to be an unerring anticipation of events that would soon embrace us all. But that would be wrong. For Branko Vukojevic, the writer of this story, this was not a case of correct anticipation, but a case of, yet again, recognising reality sooner and clearer than the rest of us. As many times before and better than the rest, Branko knew how to cut across life, identify causes and present consequences. He always used humour to effectively neutralise the unbearable clash with the tragic side of reality.

Prior to his film debut at 33, Branko was already an established writer with some fifteen years of experience in Rock and Roll and popular culture. From the very start, his talent was in full evidence. His first, albeit co-authored article on the then very popular Yes (http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/default.asp?oid=1527), enthused the then editor of Dzuboks, the cult Yugoslav Rock and Roll monthly, to declare the text as the most in-depth and competent article ever written by a Yugoslav Rock and Roll journalist. With the sights set so high at the beginning, Branko had no choice but to spend a decade formulating and implementing his own agenda and challenges. He never waivered. Gifted with a refined sensibility, Branko had a visceral understanding of currents and trends in the ever changing popular culture – so much so, he could define and shape them himself. No wonder then, that he set all the standards. When, only 19, he became Dzuboks's Editor in Chief, he took it upon himself to raise the next generation of writers so they at least reach the same level. Armed with a smile and patience, he did not have to wait long for the results. Only a few years later, he would do it again, during his brief, but crucially important, tenure at Ritam (the Dzuboks equivalent in late 80s), where he led the next generation of talented Serbian rock and roll and film critics.

And then, when the bullets stopped being just single shots (reference to the Yugoslav Civil War in the 90s), when we had forgotten the names of the first innocent victims, he packed his bags and left for London, where he took up Web design and computer animation.

Much as Branko avoided the limelight, he will always be remembered as the leader of several generations of creative people, now fully integrated into the world around us. The world which he taught them to view neither arrogantly, nor condescendingly. If any of them took the famous Yellow Submarine for part of their way, then they could not have wished for a better captain.

For those of us fortunate to have met him, we had the honour of knowing a man of infinite brightness, warmth and wisecracking spirit. Those who were priviliged to have become close to Branko, had the grace of being touched by a soul of a wonderful human being. The rest of us will have the pleasure of re-discovering him from his tracks. Luckily, there are so many, there is little chance of getting lost on the way.

If he were with us today, we would have celebrated Branko's 47th Birthday. We will still be here, gathering the scattered pearls of his being while he, I am sure, will be taking his 'stairway to heaven'

Momcilo Rajin (A very close friend of Branko's. A Dzuboks veteran, Moma is still very active in Serbian press.)

Translation and comments in italics by Predrag Popovic