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Hundreds of Sarajevo’s young hipsters fled the city at the beginning of the Bosnian war—if they could. Steady unemployment is now causing more to leave. But a number of them stayed, and many turned to music for salvation during the siege that lasted from 1992 to 1995. And today, one thing in particular strikes a tourist from Washington: Young Sarajevans love D.C. music.

“We’re dying to get the new Fugazi CD,” says Samir, a music editor at Radio Zid, Sarajevo’s independent rock station. “But we haven’t been able to find it.”

Radio Zid is ground zero for Sarajevo’s music scene, and Zid distinguished itself as the only station to broadcast nonstop during the war. Unlike most media outlets in the former Yugoslavia, Zid has remained independent of any political party. Its offices, below a nondescript apartment complex, are a short walk from the American Embassy, and a cloud of cigarette smoke—a staple of living in the Balkans—greets you as you enter the studio, which feels like that of a college radio station.

“We try to play as much different music as we can,” says Samir. “Not just electronica or rock ‘n’ roll or punk. We also play classical music, ethnic music, whatever. We are trying to educate our listeners by playing the best possible music we can.” But while Zid’s staff is quite fond of music from D.C., they’ve found it nearly impossible to get a hold of. Local station WHFS sent Zid CDs for awhile, but the relationship came to an end when Zid’s contact left the station.

Zid staffers would love to broadcast some of their programs on the Web, or help produce and promote concerts for touring American and European bands. But their more immediate problem is getting music. CDs are expensive to import, and Zid’s tiny budget doesn’t allow for a lot of purchases. Postwar Sarajevo hasn’t inspired the launch of a spate of record shops.

“We constantly ask record labels to send us promotional copies, and they never do,” says Samir. “They don’t see a market here. But Sarajevo is the best music town in the Balkans, and European bands used to come through here all the time.”—Dana Hull

Radio Zid can be reached at Radio Zid, Sarajevo, B&H (for Bosnia and Hercegovina), Skenderija 52. E-mail radio_zid@zamir-sa.ztn.apc.org; or phone/fax 011-387-71-46-82-60.