Thursday, October 20, 2005

Happy Anniversary, Mrs Vrdoljak

Croatian singer Vanna has justt celebrated fifteen years in the business with a concert in the Lisinski hall, Zagreb. Once best known as the early-90s lead singer of ET (Electro Team), providing the female vocal on iconic tracks such as Tek je 12 sati, she's made perhaps the most successful transition to a solo career of any Croatian pop star, in the process avoiding any flirtation with turbofolk whatsoever.

Language apart, Vanna could have stepped out of any country's charts, anywhere. After going solo, she's followed the same dance-to-ballads trajectory as her colleague Nina Badrić (among the guests at the Lisinski concert, since you ask), with two deviations. First: Nina never went through an extended disco phase that prompted Ed from Popjustice to dub her Vannastacia. Second: Nina never prudently married into one of the Croatian media families, headed up by the eminent Croatian film director Antun Vrdoljak.

Mr Vanna is better known as pop-video director Andrija Vrdoljak, and as Antun's son. Vrdoljak senior's most famous film was the Partisan war movie U gori raste zelen bor (1971), while his last project was the Second-World-War-and-aftermath saga Duga mračna noć - extended into a mini-series for Croatian television - following Goran 'most famous non-sporting Croatian' Višnjić's Ivan Kolar as a war hero who fights with the Partisans on the opposite side from his best friend, is mistreated by the post-war socialist regime, and finally sent to the notorious prison camp of Goli otok. It's an ideological flip-flop and a half.

Besides his artistic commitments, Vrdoljak Sr acts as honorary president of the Croatian Olympic Committee. More significantly, from 1991 to 1995 he was the head of Hrvatska Televizija, an organisation he described as the 'cathedral of the Croatian soul'. He began his tenure there in September 1991 by overseeing the easing of several hundred Serbs and politically 'unacceptable' Croats from their television jobs. The track record led some, like Croatian Helsinki Committee chair Žarko Puhovski, to doubt whether Vrdoljak should be primarily remembered for his cinematic achievements.

None of this, of course, reflects on Vanna, who adds yet another field of cultural expertise to the media empire of an already renowned and experienced family. Isn't he a lucky man, that Andrija?

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