Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here

Thirteen years ago, ex-boy band member Ivan Gavrilović was immortalising the joys of fast cars and the first wave of Serbian turbofolk with his cover of 2 Unlimited's No limits, 200 na sat (200 km/h).

Now, via Belgrade 2.0, documentarists Dušan Šaponja and Dušan Čavić have tracked him down to his new life 'killing bugs for a living'.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Yo (Y Yo, Y Yo) Soy Betty La Fea

Ugly Betty completists in Croatia have a treat in store: four different versions of the show have been or will be appearing on Croatian television, across the three national channels.

HTV has the US series, RTL has gone ahead with a Croatian/ex-Yugoslav version called Ne daj se, Nina (Hang in there, Nina), and now Nova TV plans to broadcast the original Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty la fea (I'm Ugly Betty) and its Mexican offshoot, which will be the first soap opera to be dubbed into Croatian instead of subtitled.

With thirteen more Betty franchises to choose from (at last count), do we have an idea of how Croatia's soon-to-open digital spectrum might look...?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday Footballblogging

It's jagshemash from Kazakhstan to Croatia, Andorra and England in the World Cup 2010 qualifiers: half of all three teams' Euro 2008 qualifying group have been drawn against each other again for their next outing. Their new opponents include Ukraine, Belarus, and of course the reluctant homeland of Mr Sagdiyev. (With dozens of Staines Town fans dressing as Sasha Baron Cohen's other character Ali G last week to cheer their team to a shock FA Cup win over Stockport County, expect a run on the moustache market before the Kazakhs arrive at Wembley.)

It'll mean another guaranteed encounter for British comedian Russell Brand with the 'terrifyingly simplistic call-and-response mantra' that put the wind up him at Wednesday night's game - Brand thinks of it as 'a needlessly fascistic form of chanting', and the Gazette suspects it knows it better as 'U boj, u boj, za narod svoj!'.

Chances are, it'll also mean another excuse for the Croatian team to put three goals past an overrated western-European rival, and increase their chances to have another verse of the country's unofficial footballing anthem Neka pati koga smeta named after them.

Baruni's 9-year-old hit has been dusted down for every tournament since 1998, when their manager Miroslav Rus wrote the song to celebrate Croatia's World Cup run where the Vatreni (including one Slaven Bilić) knocked Germany out 3-0 in the quarter-finals. Or as they remembered it:

'Rekli su nam da smo spori, pa su Njemce poslali
A mi smo im dali tricu, pa su kući otišli

('They said we were slow, so they sent the Germans
But we scored three against them and they went home

Almost a decade later, the song has become a rather less self-deprecating equivalent of England's Three Lions - although the latter never had occasion to metamorphose into a handball version (Croatia took gold in the 2003 World Championships), a Davis Cup final anthem, or a tribute to skiing siblings Janica and Ivica Kostelić. As the Gazette is sure to be reminded, that's probably because England hasn't even been in a position to sing one. Indeed, if a version about 'pa su došli Englezi' ('so the English came') isn't in the works yet, it's only a matter of time.

Literally, 'Neka pati koga smeta' translates as 'Whosoever it troubles, let him suffer' - but, football being football, 'F*** you if you're bothered' might be more like it.

Musicologists could point to 'Neka pati koga smeta' as the point where Baruni (formed as a neo-tamburica band on the model of Rus's previous project Gazde) cast off the folk waistcoats and crossed whole-heartedly into electrification. For the fans, it's proof that Croatian World Cup campaigns get the anthems they deserve: '98 is legendary on both counts, but Croatia's underwhelming follow-up at World Cup 2002 was accompanied by a just as underwhelming anthem involving pop singers Claudia Beni and Ivana Banfić. 'Hrvatice vas vole' ('Croatian women love you') might have lent credence to the saying that football is a continuation of war by other means (insofar as in both cases women kiss men goodbye to go to a far-off country, pray for them, and cry until they come back), but didn't inspire anything more than an early exit in the group stage.

A new generation of players in 2006, and a new generation of music: rapper Nered was brought in to sing 'Srce vatreno' (Fiery heart) with the Zaprešić Boys collective. Croatia... well, that's where the theory falls down, since they didn't make it through the group stage then either.

Nonetheless, they'd better have a good one lined up for 2010...

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Rat Savezu!

Welcome another new Balkan blog: Bosnian Football Culture shares the experiences of a Turkish anthropologist in Sarajevo researching how Bosnians make sense of the complicated politics of football.

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(At Least) Six Parties In Search Of A Coalition

The votes are in after yesterday's election in Croatia: HDZ have 61 Sabor seats, and SDP have 56, not counting the 5 seats voted for by the diaspora which will all but certainly go HDZ's way once they've been counted. Nonetheless, both HDZ's leader Ivo Sanader and his SDP counterpart Zoran Milanović say that they're in talks with other parties to form a government (if only Milanović had been this self-confident when he took over the party leadership in June, he might not be scrabbling for allies now at all). is playing the numbers game: say SDP brings the urban liberal HNS and Istrian IDS on side. That should give them 67 seats, since Javno found an extra SDP one behind the sofa. HDZ ought to have 66, counting the diaspora, so on comes another round of hunt-the-coalition-partner. The far-right HSP are down to one seat (their leader Anto Đapić), and presumably not even HDZ would have the cheek to make an offer to Branimir Glavaš's Slavonian regionalist party HDSSB after Sanader spent most of last year getting its leader tried for war crimes. Which is exactly why SDP wouldn't dare ask him into government: although, given some of the PM candidate Ljubo Jurčić's off-colour comments during the summer, maybe all bets should be off. The pensioners' party HSU (as tracked by Dr Sean's Diary) have only one seat too, and will probably be auctioning it off to the highest bidder already. The peasant party HSS (5 seats) and shadow-of-their-former-selves liberals HSLS (2 seats) got Sanader out of trouble in 2003, but then there are the five seats for ethnic minorities (who might give SDP a leg up, but then again, might not).

Maybe anyone who can make head or tail of this deserves to run the country...

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Friday, November 23, 2007

The Votes Are Not Quite In

There's high praise for Slaven Bilić, the manager of the Croatian football team, in Jutarnji list, where Vlado Vurušić applauds him as a model of 'Croatia as it should be' - making him 'the least typical manager Croatia has ever had.'

Bilić has a law degree, has dreamed of playing guitar with Bill Wyman, 'uncompromisingly suspended three important players [...] for sneaking out before the first qualifier against Russia to go drinking with some Dara Bubamara', and 'forced a nation which has often let itself be led by laughable and small-minded racism to love a dark-skinned Brazilian, Eduardo da Silva'. Although, if his work ethic is 'part of the mentality which, he once said, he obtained precisely by living in England' (Bilić is an ex-West Ham and Everton defender)... then please can we have him back once you've finished?

And if he's a socialist who even HDZ loyalists (read: much of the Croatian footballing establishment) have rallied around, shouldn't someone tell Zoran Milanović before Sunday's election?

Celebrity endorsements are nothing new for SDP (though you'd be best advised not to mention Severina in 2003), nor for HDZ, who went as far this year as to add singer Miroslav Škoro to their party list in Slavonia (Jutarnji list's latest poll predicts that he'll get in). The leading Croatian Serb party SDSS is usually a bit more circumspect, but now that Croatia shuttles its dvanaest bodova at Eurovision across the border as often as it does, there may be hope yet - or so the party apparently thought when it signed up Eurovision winner Marija Šerifović for a secret concert at the Zagreb Velesajam during its campaign.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

All Change At HTV

The game of musical chairs which has been going on at HTV since Vanja Sutlić took over as director of the Croatian broadcaster has finally extended to the Entertainment department, where Aleksandar Kostadinov has resigned.

Marija Nemčić has already been replaced as director of HTV by Domagoj Božidar Burić (the husband of Nemčić's predecessor), and Hloverka Novak-Srzić (director of programming in the late 1990s) returned from an mixed year at Nova TV to become HTV's new news editor.

Jutarnji list speculates Burić has already nominated Kostadinov's successor in the shape of TV presenter Mirko Fodor. With the autumn schedule well under way, the immediate tasks ahead of Fodor (or anybody else) will be to prepare the department for the digital era (HTV3 for entertainment and sport, and HTV4 for rolling news) - and to reform HTV's flagship Dora project so that it produces a Eurovision finalist again...

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New York, New York, It's A Wonderful Town

And Marko Perković Thompson probably thinks so after a remarkably positive write-up of his New York concert in the Washington Post.

Unlike the New York tabloids' sensational depictions of a 'Nazi rocker', the Post went along to St Cyril and Methodius church and found:

'he sang a lot of fervently nationalistic, mid-tempo rock songs, most of which sounded like Iron Maiden doing Eastern European folk. And he harped again and again on his favorite themes: love of God, family and Croatia. Especially Croatia, which in his music sounds like a place abused for centuries and still under siege.'

Of course. maybe it depends on which diaspora group which journalist happens to talk to...

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Another Rainbow Tour

Over and above the problems in New York, local papers in other cities on Marko Perković Thompson's tour schedule are also reporting protests: that now makes difficulties in Toronto (where the concert has been moved from the original venue to a secret location, due to be revealed in Croatian churches on Sunday morning), Cleveland, and Melbourne, where Thompson is supposed to perform at a football club's social on 28 December.

Thompson's management - no doubt conscious of how little English-language material on the singer is out there - have responded on his official website with English translations of 18 songs which make up the majority of his most recent set list. Only a handful of the numbers from his Maksimir concert are missing from the list, although the omissions do include his Neka ni'ko ne dira u moj mali dio svemira (Don't let anyone touch my little part of the universe), where he made his most direct response to his domestic critics.

At least the tour seems to be more successful than Croatian music's American adventure in 2006, Severina's ill-fated rainbow tour.

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