Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Miscellaneous Update Day

It's Dan Republike today, which Jugoslavija Yugoslavia Jugoslawien is naturally commemorating.

Irena Maryniak, writing in Eurozine, is casting an eye over Polish representations of migration. Anglo-Polish diasporic media, and, of course, the figure of the famous plumber.

Continuing the diasporic theme, via Global Voices Online, an insight into how Armenian diaspora televoting works.

Croatian headline of the week is 'Sve je isto, samo playbacka nema' (It's all the same, only there's no playback'), from a Jutarnji list retrospective on the annual Zagrebfest. Musical story of the week, meanwhile, is probably the arrival of the reunion tour by the Macedonian rock group Leb i sol.

And don't miss the Bosnian Film Festival (starting tomorrow with Ahmed Imamović's Go West) if you're in London.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Severina's Rainbow Tour: A Croatian Story

Ask showbusiness manager Zoran Škugor, as Večernji list did on Monday, and he'll tell you that Severina's flop in the diaspora is due to her lack of a 'Croatian story' compared to Miroslav Škoro and Marko Perković Thompson, who literally and metaphorically perform their ethnicity at every opportunity:

'She doesn't number herself with the schlager singers [zabavnjaci] nor among the representatives of Dalmatia, but she has more and more of a pop-folk accent [na narodnjak]. [...] I'm sure that now she'll turn towards Serbia as much as she can and it's no wonder she chose Goran Bregović to write songs for her.'

(And look what happened when he was only her arranger.)

Severina's successfully toured Australia in the company of other Croatian singers, though (usually involving fetching pictures of Seve cradling a koala) - and the complaint that Croatia (diaspora included) is too small a market for Croatian singers is hardly new to autumn 2006. Indeed, two weeks ago Severina's manager Tomislav Petrović depicted the tour's national neutrality as an advantage:

'Unlike performances organised by Croatian parishes where musicians usually play two or three sets during the evening which also includes dinner, this time it's a real concert tour. We don't think that [church-organised] type of performance is bad, but Severina has outgrown it.

'[...] I didn't ask whether they [Arx International] are Croats, Serbs, Slovenes... Kazakhs. Their nationality really isn't essential to the job, and so far they've fulfilled all the conditions we agreed. Personally I don't have a problem on that question, and I even see that Croats are already working with Serbia in a big way. It's ultimately out of place to talk about the nationality of the people organising the tour, just as it's out of place to talk about whether Severina will be singing in America to Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks... or Kazakhs again? Severina will sing to everyone who goes to her concert.

It's been clear for some time that Severina also belongs to Serbian showbusiness as far as the media there are concerned: add up her invitations to TV Pink awards shows and the extent of her coverage in Serbian tabloids like Svet. As a 'regional' star, she's surrounded by yet more sets of people and firms looking to promote, represent and generally make money out of her image.

Throughout spring, Severina was receiving (and taking part in) the musical version of the debate: if it's Croatian, can it be anything else ex-Yugoslav? And if it includes anything else ex-Yugoslav, can it be Croatian at all? The collapse of her American tour perhaps reflects the offstage version of the same problem (and in fact, there are a few hints that 'Štikla' didn't help Severina's standing with the Croatian diaspora). Can a Croatian singer have another ex-Yugoslav audience? And if she has another ex-Yugoslav audience, can she be Croatian at all?

Political circumstances and the structure of the media have changed since Doris Dragović fell foul of the same questions in 1999 with her (in)famous performance in Montenegro for New Year's Eve. (At the invitation, it tends to be forgotten, of a Croatian priest.) Nonetheless, the answer to whether Severina is just a Croatian star continues to be summed up by the British comedy catchphrase: 'Yeah but, no but'...

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Showbusiness Ethnopolitics: Severina's Rainbow Tour

When I heard Severina was off on a tour of North America this November, I wondered briefly whether the schedule would touch down in Washington DC, where I spent most of last week at a not unrelated conference.

No such luck, and while I was in Washington, it turned out that the entire tour had been called off, ostensibly due to incredibly poor ticket sales - only several dozen at each venue, and as little as 20 tickets (or even just 8?) in LA.

Croatian tabloid 24 sata has been almost gleeful about the whole thing, reporting Severina's landing in Atlanta, bomb threats to the venues in Vancouver and Los Angeles and the eventual cancellation of the whole schedule through a reporter already accompanying Seve on her rainbow tour.

Now she's back in Zagreb, the root of the problem seems to be resistance from the Croatian diaspora towards her performing in larger concert venues (the Atlanta concert was booked for the CBS Center) rather than diaspora clubs owned and operated by Croatian emigres - and/or a semi-organised campaign against a Croatian singer's tour being operated by a Serb-American firm Arx International. (Arx's upcoming attractions include concerts by Indira Radić, Kemal Monteno, Zdravko Čolić, Bijelo Dugme and Rade Šerbedžija - hardly a narrowly Serb line-up, although there's of course no sign of the usual Croatian-club diaspora performers, who operate through other channels.)

Arx's Miloš Marić has since told the Serb-American magazine Objektiv that he believed sections of the diaspora sabotaged the LA and Vancouver legs in particular by refusing to accept advertising or posters, as did a Serb radio station in LA 'which did not want to run the ad because Severina is a Croat'. However, he praised the Croatian Chronicle newspaper for prominently advertising the tour, and emphasised that:

'Of course I can't talk about a boycott from the entire Croatian community, because I don't believe the people who work in those media have that much influence over the whole community or that the entire community in those cities is homogeneously negative.

Marić's colleague Žana Jovanović Savić has also blamed the diaspora, including a Croat radio station in New York whose editor 'openly boycotted us, describing our collaboration as unnatural.'

The same line, perhaps unsurprisingly, comes from Serbian tabloid Blic - although no mention there, or in the dependably outraged Kurir, of the Serb radio station in LA.


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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

News from the Back Garden

Via East Ethnia, some exciting news from the Gazette's own back garden: a London sevdah group, joining the Bulgarian/Romanian/Macedonian/Greek/etc folk ensembles already active in the capital.

London Sevdah formed in May 2004, and aims 'to promote Bosnian music heritage (sevdah music) throughout London, United Kingdom and globally.' Unfortunately, I've just missed their performances at the Museum of London, but here's looking forward to their next...

Turning to a rather larger interpretation of back garden, Diamond Geezer questions how Britain ended up with two Remembrance Day silences and how the day ought to be commemorated full stop. (Conclusion: certainly not with a live classical-crossover performance from All Angels and a GMTV host...)

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Severina On Schedule

Yet another Večernji list interview for Severina, who's had a busy week - in between performing Moja štikla in a rock arrangement during a big Boris Novković concert in Zagreb, and rehearsing her role as Baroness Castelli in a new production of the classic Croatian play Glembajevi.

Next she'll be off on a tour of North America, where the Congress Theatre in Chicago is apparently billing her as the 'Croatian Madonna.' (That's the 21st-century singing one, not the 1st-century praying one, whose Croatian incarnation is already quite well spoken for by a certain Tatjana Matejaš.)

Otherwise, Severina has little to add to last week's interview with VL which finally indicated the contents of her made-in-Belgrade album. As she says this time:

'The new songs shouldn't be compared with 'Štikla' [...] Maybe what the album does have in common with 'Štikla' is that those little amateur orchestras from Županja, Daruvar, Solin, and Kaštel will perform on it, like the ojka singers from Sinj and the Matić brothers performed on Štikla. And on one lovely tamburica song Zlatni dukati are also appearing for me.'

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Oh No, Not More Borat

The Gazette wasn't best pleased at the idea that Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat movie would be soundtracked with an assortment of mainly Romanian and Macedonian Roma music, but Ilko Čulić in today's Jutarnji list is rather more enthusiastic. In fact, he's holding out hopes that the CD might turn out to be a big break for bands such as Mahala Rai Banda and Kočani orkestar:

'One shouldn't at all reject the possibility that the film's huge success might be reflected in multi-million sales of the soundtrack album, which would completely change the western perception of Balkan music or east European music in a wider sense. Film hits sometimes have a heavy influence on activating musical trends, and the best example is the soundtrack for Tarantino's Pulp Fiction which stimulated a worldwide revival of surf and twang music.'

We'll have to wait and see on that one, but there's no disagreeing with Čulić that the Borat producers mised a trick by overlooking a certain conceptual punk band from Rijeka:

'There are a whole lot of songs in the opus of Rambo Amadeus which could have been made for the aural illustration of Cohen's stunts, and an even better choice could have been Let 3, who share with Borat other similar preoccupations beyond false moustaches.'

Still, they could always team up with Mahir Cagri...

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Glad Tidings: Marko Perković Thompson

Većernji list reports that Marko Perković Thompson's third child (and first daughter) is going to be called - not Jelena, as previously thought, but Diva Marija. Just like one of the songs on his next album.

No, that isn't a mash-up of Dana International's Eurovision winner and its Croatian cousin, but refers to a 'heroine from the Croatian past' who, thanks to a certain Madame Callas, is almost impossible to google. (If she'd been due any earlier, would she have been named after Thompson's summer hit Lipa Kaja (Pretty Kaja)?)

Diva Marija joins her older brothers Petar Šimun and the topically-named Ante, which brings the Gazette to a link from Neretva River. Ivo Fabijan singing in honour of Tomislav Merčep and Branimir Glavaš, anyone?

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Severina: Tamburica and Mandolin

The Gazette goes away for the weekend, and Severina decides to tell Večernji list what's on her long-awaited post-Štikla album, about to be recorded in Belgrade with Goran Bregović and the Serbian folk/pop lyricist Marina Tucaković.

Neretva River and SeveFanClub are already on the story - in fact, if the link to the original interview with VL isn't working, SFC carries the full text as well.

After dismissing various rumours that she's married/pregnant/moving to Belgrade (which have mainly come from the direction of tabloid 24 sata - the newspaper which did the most to start the Štikla scandal in the first place back in February), Severina gets around to explaining how the still untitled album is shaping up musically: Bregović is currently 'writing the melodies and notes for those brass, tin, tamburica and mandolin orchestras from Županja, Daruvar, Solin and Kaštel' (two inland-Croatian and two coastal towns). Moreover, whether disappointingly or not:

'The new album won't be anything like Štikla at all. Although, alongside two of Bregović's songs from his version of Carmen, there'll be the tamburica and authentic [izvornih] sounds of Croatian amateur orchestras from Županja, Daruvar, Solin and Kaštel, I wouldn't call that ethno.'

(Which makes a change from the Štikla period itself, when she'd much rather have had the song called ethno than something else.)

In fact, it looks less like a different approach, more like a difference in content. Štikla involved various folk song/dance forms from Dalmatia and the Dinaric Dalmatian hinterland (Lika, Zagora, Herzegovina); the album as a whole might have more in common with the time-honoured, uncontroversial Croatian formula of tamburica and mandolin (wasn't that a Zlatko Pejaković song?), 'Pannonian' and 'Adriatic' symbols which ethnomusicologist Svanibor Pettan argues tend to (be made to?) 'appear [...] more refined, more modern, and more Western' in comparison to Dinaric heritage.

Rather than following in the, errr, footsteps of Štikla, one or two songs might actually be more in the style of one of Štikla's only serious rivals during Dora, Ivana Banfić's tamburica-pop Kad se sklope kazaljke - and indeed, we're promised one of the tracks will be arranged by Stanko Šarić from the most famous tamburica-revival band Zlatni dukati/Najbolji hrvatski tamburaši.

So far, so 1990s, perhaps. But what's that, tucked away at the end of the interview, about covering a song Bregović first wrote for the Turkish pop diva Sezen Aksu?

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Retromania: Kviskoteka

The popular Yugoslav TV quiz show Kviskoteka - the Millionaire of its day - was revived earlier this year in Croatia by Nova TV, complete with its original host Oliver Mlakar.

Now the Serbian tabloid Blic, via Seesaw, is reporting that Lazo Goluža, owner of the Kviskoteka licence for Serbia, is in talks with TV B92 to produce a Serbian version where 'questions from Serbian history, geography [and] literature would dominate in the quiz.'

It's not all fragmented national mediaspaces, though. As is the way of these retromaniac things, there'll also be an annual special in Zagreb uniting the 'winners from Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia.'

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Enthusiastic Do Kraja

Edward O's pop blog Enthusiastic but Mediocre has been running the Croatian pop-rock chart past its resident panel, which came out in favour of Colonia's Do kraja as 'one of the best Eurodance songs I’ve heard since whatever the last completely brilliant Colonia single was'.

Wonder what they'd have made of the semi-schlager - or semi-folk - zabavna chart?

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