Phunk Smugglers represents the Romanian-Serbian fusion formed on both banks of the Danube. The name is inspired by their love for funk music, and the idea of ‘smuggling’ comes from frequenting the Romanian-Serbian border. Their lineup consists of Andrada Crețu – vocals, Predrag Tasic – trumpet and vocals, Danilo Perkovic – keyboards, Vladan Jonovik – guitar, Dejan Kotarcic – bass, and Ranko Varga – drums. I had the honor of a brief discussion with the bassist Dejan Kotarčić – a fantastic individual with a life dedicated to music.
C&B: How was this group born, and what do you feel about this musical project – Phunk Smugglers? Is there anything similar on the music scene in Serbia or elsewhere?
Dejan Kotarčić: The PHUNK SMUGGLERS project was born during the pandemic from a longer collaboration of the band members in one way or another. The idea of forming a funk band has been around for a long time. We also had some songs composed over time when members collaborated on a cover project. Stylistically, the band is in the golden era of this genre, so somewhere in the ’70s with some more contemporary influences. Regarding funk bands in Romania, there are several projects that fall into this music genre (Blazzaj, Groovy Bastards, Funkorporation, Funky Misfits, etc.). They are all more of a fusion with a funk base and influences of jazz, hip-hop, rock, reggae, etc.
C&B: Why did you choose this career that required many years of study?
Dejan Kotarčić: I believe that music chose me, and playing an instrument was a logical continuation. After nearly 40 years of playing, I can say that I have no regrets.
C&B: What do you think are the main qualities of a successful musician in an industry like Serbia’s music industry?
Dejan Kotarčić: To be a successful musician in Serbia, you have to be very persistent, dedicated, and live in Belgrade because only there can you have a chance at any success. Besides these, you have to be at a very high level as an instrumentalist because there are many quality musicians from various music styles willing to play even under poorer financial conditions, just to enter the circle of “recognized” musicians.
C&B: Is the contribution of a manager/agent justified and necessary in any music group/project?
Dejan Kotarčić: The contribution of a manager/agent is absolutely necessary! In any business, there are different “professions” that are part of the same business. In the music industry, in my opinion, the position of a manager as a merchant-seller of goods – meaning, a band and the music it produces. Unfortunately, managers willing to work with bands like Phunk Smugglers are very rare in the market. The reason is that the music industry, apart from popular genres like turbo-folk (a kind of Serbian folk-pop) and folk-pop, is not widespread – meaning a lack of money in this business/activity.
C&B: How is music viewed in Serbia? Can one live decently from music after completing studies?
Dejan Kotarčić: As I mentioned earlier, in Serbia, it is very difficult to live from non-commercial music. There is no media space for music other than the genres mentioned earlier. The main stage is occupied by “dinosaur” bands, meaning bands that have existed since the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, and there is not much space for new bands. I think it’s somewhat similar to Romania.