Review- Emir Kusturika and The No Smoking Orchestra- Hong Kong Arts Festival


By Nicole Garbellini






As I walked into the auditorium of The Hong Kong Cultural Centre the other night, I found myself physically and mentally exhausted after a very intense day. I kept asking myself how on earth would I possibly be fit to review a show if I struggled to walk straight.  It was too late to pull out, so I put myself together and walked into the Concert Hall. I just hoped to watch a show that could bring my wits (and energy) back. 



Emir Kusturica is a Serbian musician and film director born in Sarajevo. His film career began in the early 80's and continued solidly up until recently with his latest work, On The Milky Road. He was particularly acclaimed during the 90's in Europe for the movies Underground and Black Cat, White Cat, together with the soundtracks that came with all his films. Music is clearly another big passion for the Serbian director, as he formed The No Smoking Orchestra in the late 90's and had been involved, and touring around the world, ever since. He is also his own music composer, together with the other band members. 



The band and its lead are a high pillar of the anti-globalist movement (and of course I had no doubt about it after listening to one of the first songs presented during the night:  F#@& You MTV!).   Composed by nine musicians including Mr Kusturica, the music performed is a true combination of punk attitude and eastern folk sounds, together with gipsy elements. The band did not stop flaring with energy and zeal for a single minute on stage. The songs, mostly soundtracks of Kusturica's movies, were bursting with such contagious vitality that audience members stood up from their seats and started running around the hall (a very rare moment for Hong Kong I thought). 



Throughout each adrenalinic song, members of the audience (and ladies in particular) were invited to join the band onstage for an extra spark to the already sparkling concert, and each one of the musicians contributed to a show that went far beyond a music performance. It was a real cabaret show and an incredibly entertaining one. From inviting the audience over to walk around the auditorium playing tunes, the verve of the music made everyone dance or at least clap hands (including catatonic audience members like me). When performing the Juliet Song,  the band staged a real physical theatre piece and it was great to see how this lady who was invited to join the band onstage played along with it. 



A special mention goes to the violinist Dejan Sparavalo whose virtuoso made audience members shake as he illustrated different ways to play the violin. Mr Kusturica joined along contributing to the same number with his guitar instead while another guitarist, Ivan Maksimovic, spun around the stage with a lit-up guitar. 



Emir Kusturica and The No Smoking Orchestra were a real blast of energy and entertainment; an actual chill of fresh air for Hong Kong audiences. Needless to say, I left the auditorium feeling somehow more awake. 

Thank you all for not sending the reviewer to sleep. 


This show has now closed. For more information, click here. 





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