Saturday, September 09, 2006

All Must Have Prizes

Eight or nine years back, no summer weekend on HTV would be complete without a live prime-time broadcast from one of the many pop and folk music festivals hosted by practically every municipality with a picturesque town square and a co-operative mayor.

Marko Polo Fest Korčula, Slavonski Brod's Revija nove domoljubne pjesme (Review of New Patriotic Songs), Pjesme Podravine i Podunavlja (Songs of Podravina and Podunavlje): the only things more numerous than festivals seemed to be articles and columns asking whether every small town in Croatian needed a festival of its own.

The proliferation of festivals has calmed down somewhat since then, but looks to be creeping back again this year: Trogir acquired its own event dedicated to the late composer Zdenko Runjić, Etnofest Neum returned after a rained-off 2005, and this weekend the Festival kajkavske popevke reinvents itself with a competitive element for the first time.

Krapina's contribution to the regional festivals map has gone through several incarnations since its premiere in 1966: a serious attempt to nurture light music in kajkavian dialect, a suspiciously nationalist gathering (according to 1970s socialist cultural administrators), an annual memorial to the Yugoslav regime's repression of Croatian culture (according to their 1990s equivalents), and an excuse for showbusiness singers to sing in (for many) an exotic dialect and dress up in national costume.

The first few editions of Krapina didn't even admit performers who came from outside the kajkavian-speaking area. Like most regional festivals, things are a little more pan-Croatian these days: alongside the local regulars, the 2006 line-up features not only the Međimurje ethno-musician Lidija Bajuk, but Zagreb pop songwriter Rajko Dujmić and the Herzegovinan singer Ivan Mikulić.

Aside from his ventures into central European schlager, Mikulić has also experimented for some time with deriving pop music from the folk singing - ganga and rera - of his native Herzegovina. His first attempt at it was 1997, when he wrote several songs for the short-lived Mostar group Mobitel, but we've heard a lot more about Herzegovinan folk-pop since then, first via Mate Bulić's music, and then all through this spring via a little song about a štikla.

Mikulić's own application of the technique, Igraj, igraj, nemoj stat', won the Melodije Mostara festival this year with, apparently, the most elaborate choreography seen on a Croatian festival stage. (Would that include the dance spectaculars traditionally ordered up by HTV for their Sunday evening entertainment shows?). Igraj, igraj continues to pick up airplay here and there, which is more than could be said for Štikla.*

Rumours seem to have started already that Mikulić has, to put it kindly, a better chance than most of walking away with the festival's inaugural prize. They'll be proved right or wrong in six or seven hours' time. The Gazette, for its part, is more concerned that any combination of popevke and Herzegovinan melos can only have one imaginable result, as proved this summer by Slovenian semi-turbofolk singer Rebeka Dremelj and her Štikla-impersonating Ribica.

* And you can just about sing 'Hajde da se volimo' over the chorus, if you really, really want to.

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