Tozibabe, the all-female punk band from Slovenia, emerged during a time when punk rock was still a relatively new and unfamiliar concept in Eastern Europe. Formed in Ljubljana, ex-Yugoslavia, in the 80s, the band was the first girl group in Slovenian to play their own instruments and write their own material, breaking down barriers and setting the stage for a new wave of female musicians in the region.
Tozibabe‘s music was furious, uncompromising, and scathing, with shouted vocals and members who tackled different instruments. Their songs expressed dissonance and self-determination in a society dominated by patriarchy and sexism, fighting against single-mindedness, politics, petty bourgeoisie, and for values like freedom of speech and mind. They aimed to create a better, fairer, and more tolerant society, but were often met with resistance and opposition.
Despite the challenges they faced, Tozibabe continued to make their mark on the punk scene in Yugoslavia and beyond. They were one of the few female hardcore acts in Eastern Europe, and their influence extended far beyond their own country’s borders. Their legacy continues to be felt in the punk scene today, inspiring a new generation of musicians who are unafraid to challenge the status quo and fight for their beliefs.
Now, after many years, Tozibabe are reuniting for just one concert in Vienna in October, marking a special moment in their history and a celebration of their enduring legacy. In this exclusive interview, we sit down with the members of Tozibabe to discuss their journey, their reunion, and their message to young female musicians today. We delve into their inspirations, motivations, and challenges, and explore the impact of their music and activism on the punk scene and society as a whole.
“Okrog mene ljudje • Complete Tožibabe 1985-2015“, the band’s recent wide-ranging compilation gathers material from the Hard-Core Ljubljana compilation (1985), their groundbreaking mini-LP, Dezuje, live tracks from their appearance at Novi Rock in 1985, plus previously unreleased work from their 2015 reunion show.
What inspired Tožibabe to create music that expressed dissonance and self-determination in a society dominated by patriarchy and sexism, and what message did you want to convey through your music back in your early days?
It is difficult to answer this question. We believe that Slovenia was neither distinctly patriarchal nor sexist at the time of our persistence. Maybe it was a reflection of the socialist society in which we grew up. That is why our message was also tied to other aspects of social life. We fought against single minded people, politics, petty bourgeois. We fought to become more open towards Western Europe, we wanted the subculture to get its place and become a part of the society. We fought for values such as freedom of mind and speech. We realized that equality, justice, socialism and communism are not real; they existed only on paper, and were stolen to control the masses. We fought for better, fairer and more tolerant society.
But looking back it was a work of Sisyphus. All problems are still here and present, sometimes supported and misused in the name of democracy. We’re allowed to think and speak freely, we can rebel but we are brainwashed by the media and manipulated every day by individuals, companies, governments, etc. We are on the way to transhuman society controlled and managed by corporations and politicians. We have become degraded as humans. And yes, that is NOT what we fought for.
As one of the first all-female punk bands in Yugoslavia, how did you navigate the largely male-dominated punk scene? What challenges did you face?
In Yugoslavia we had no problem being an all-female band. Wherever we went, we were well received.
Hahaha, actually we were privileged since everybody was curious to see what we did on the stage and how we played. Maybe this is still a privilege with our record being reissued, interest in us growing while getting concert invitations, all this without engagement from our part.
We would appreciate more if people read our lyrics that still holds true and discover the energy and power behind it. That is what we wish to share.
As pioneers in the punk scene, what advice would you give to young women and girls looking to pursue music and break into male-dominated spaces?
Women, don’t be afraid of ‘male’ instruments, male competition and their comments, just play and enjoy. Play your own music, write your own lyrics. Enjoy in what you do and enjoy in sharing it with the others.
It doesn’t really matter, female, male or mixed band, neither who plays which instrument nor who a singer is. Each and everyone should do what he/she wants and with whomever he wants.
Your band has left a significant mark on the punk scene in Yugoslavia and beyond. Looking back on your time together, what are you most proud of as a band, and how do you hope your legacy will be remembered?
We are most proud of gathering the courage to play, to tell what we feel and think. We keep defending the same ideas and views as we did in our early days, and we’re as we are, true to ourselves, just a bit older and slower.
Legacy…we spread and support the ideas and views that each and everyone should internalize, support and defend if we want to remain as a society, as human beings. They are universal.
Tell us a bit about the reunion show. Why Vienna and what prompted you to make it happen?
We have never thought much about reunions and comebacks. We always did and still do what we like; create and play music. When the moment comes to state something, to express an opinion, defend an idea; you do it and that’s it. There is no hidden meaning behind it. Being able to do this together after 40 years, even better. We hired a place for practice with the aim of mingling, playing, creating … In the last 7 years we have only had two concerts mainly for beneficial reasons.
Mišo’s invitation (Hardcore For Losers) to play was a surprise we took as a bit of a joke. After few e-mails and a phone exchange we could not resist his offer to visit Vienna.
Our children grew up, our lyrics sadly remains contemporary, we’re able to play for 15 minutes and like meeting like-minded people.
Apart from the show, what plans do you have lined up for the coming months? Can we expect some new music from Tožibabe?
We have no special thoughts or plans for our musical future. As long as a desire and the will exist we’re going to stick together, maybe prepare new material, maybe play at a concert. The time will tell.