This one will be an easy one because the song in itself is a story. It is however based on a real place, the Tunnel Museum somewhere in the outskirts of the city of Sarajevo (BiH).
I've had the unbelievable privilege and pleasure of going on tour to Bosnia i Hercegovina two years in a row, with my good friend Bruno Deneckere. On those tours, we went to play in the wonderful town of Sarajevo. (We also played in Travnik, Konjic, Brcko, Boracko Jezero, Mostar, Srebrenica,... - check the gigs archive for 2007 and 2008 if you want to know more. Check my old blog if you want to read and see pics of both tours).
Sarajevo, as I said, is a wonderful town. There a very few places in the world (other than my home) where I truly felt relaxed and in place. Up to date they are Iceland (the country as a whole), New York and Sarajevo.
The buzz radiating from the city that lies on the crossroads of East and West (and therefore has been through a lot, politically, throughout the centuries) is energizing, almost in a 'we survived and we're still kicking' kind of way.
In 2007 the band decided to visit the Tunnel Museum, a little place where the tunnel ends (or begins) that provided life support, guns and oil to the besieged town of Sarajevo during the war in 1992-1995. The Tunnel was dug under the airstrip and therefore was guaranteed a safe passage, as the airport area was in control of the United Nations and was not being bombed. For more info on the tunnel, visit the wikipedia page about it.
When we visited the site, it was a warm, sunny day. The Museum is located near the Sarajevo airport but there was not a single airplane lifting off that afternoon. All I remember seeing was the city of Sarajevo in the distance, snuggling against the hillsides that surround it. All I remember hearing was the wind.
When we arrived the museum wasn't open yet, but a little old lady came to the door and spoke to us. She smiled constantly, while she was standing in the doorway of her shot-to-pieces house....
The bullet holes were chilling. They gave me chills ever since we passed the border and entered Bosnia in the tourvan. But, the houses we saw there - although chilling - remained impersonal, passing by them at speed. When we exited the car, the first time in Maglaj, it became hauntingly real. The ruins, the bullet holes, the half-rebuilt houses, the booby trap... Although I grew up in the WOI war zone of Ypres, that war was fought 80 years ago. The traces are almost completely erased. The bullet holes in Bosnia were from a war that just finished only 10 years before. They were practically still warm...
That's partly what gave me chills. The other thing that gave me chills, or rather goosebumps, was the intense smile, that expressed so much joy, that the old lady gave us.
It made a huge impact on me (on us), similarly to the impact playing on the town square of Srebrenica gave me.... It's almost impossible to put into words. And yet, a few months after our first Bosnian adventure the words and melody of 'The Sarajevo Tunnel' came to me.
The song tells the story of the old lady, in which I also added some fictional elements. I can't be certain that she lost her husband and one of her sons, or that she's seventy-three (since she didn't tell us). But I guess it doesn't matter if I fantasized since the story probably fits one or many old Bosnian ladies if not this one...
It saddens me enormously that there is still war based on religion in this world. It saddens me that so many people are fleeing their homes looking for safety. I saddens me that many are not surviving that journey. I know one song about survival and hope (because I guess that's what it is in a way) won't change this at all. But I do know that it symbolises the change I went through. Before Bosnia I was more focused on what the world could bring to my music, and how it would be relevant to me. After Bosnia, I felt like it was the other way around. How could my music be relevant to the world? Even if this song only affects one person, or brings some kind of perspective to their thinking, then I am very content.
I do want to stress one point because people asked me before. The song is not about taking sides. The song is not about choosing for Bosnia and against Serbia. The situation is much too complicated. The song is mostly description of that situation and how people use coping mechanisms and try to survive during wolfish times...
Read lyrics here
Marjan Debaene: Lead and backing vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion
Alex Brackx: Electric guitar
Bert Embrechts: Bass guitar
Eric Bosteels: Drums