Monday, January 29, 2007

Hard Rock Domovina

Last year's winning Eurovision song Hard rock hallelujah has been given a somewhat tongue-in-cheek new lease of life by Croatian pop DJ Zlatko Turkalj - as a band-aid get-together encouraging listeners to choose domestic music. According to the text that rolls Star Wars-style over the introduction to the song's video:

'In an age of general globalisation we need to stay our own, to give more appreciation to what we Croats are musically recognisable for: from unrivalled klapa song, indomitable and inspirational tamburica, brilliant schlagers, high-quality pop [zabavne] music with a long tradiion, to rock, pop and dance which recently get more recognition in the [rest of the] world than at home.'

Turkalj's version of the song, premiered on his Turki party show as part of his Slušaj hrvatsko (Listen Croatian) campaign and titled To je tvoje (It's yours), involves cameos from various well-regarded Croatian singers, mainly at the respectable pop end of the pop-rock spectrum - so that's names like Mišo Kovač, Tereza Kesovija, Gabi Novak, Arsen Dedić, Tony Cetinski, Vanna, Nina Badrić, Boris Novković and Indira Vladić, rather than the patriotically-preoccupied singers who might have come up with the idea off their own bat. (To be fair, Miroslav Skoro figures in the To je tvoje line-up too, but that can generally be said for any band-aid.)

Indeed, it's perhaps a wonder that Marko Perković Thompson didn't take it into his head to make free with Hard rock hallelujah (Lordi being one of the rare acts who make more of an on-stage spectacle than him) - especially since he has previous rock-schlager form with his cover version of Abba's Super trouper five years ago. (Iza devet sela (Behind the nine villages) is a charming fable of 'vuci, vile i hajduci' (wolves, fairies and bandits) and why one should always turn right instead of left, even at the crossroads.)

Thompson has other business on his mind this week, though: his promotional visit to a Frankfurt record shop to sign copies of his Bilo jednom u Hrvatskoj (Once upon a time in Croatia) album was called off, possibly because of threats from diaspora Serbs, possibly because of fears that local teenagers from both diasporas might conduct a re-enactment of the brawl at the Australian Open, or possibly because organisers realised that the shop simply wouldn't be big enough to accommodate demand.

Still, it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good; he still found time for lunch with Mate Bulić.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bora Djordjević on Epicentar: Aftershocks?

Despite threats from a group of Zagreb war veterans that they'd intervene to prevent the transmission of Mirjana Hrga's Epicentar talk show when she interviewed the Serbian rock singer Bora Djordjević, there's been little sign of recriminations after last week's show was successfully broadcast.

The major charge laid against Hrga's Nova TV colleague Petar Vlahov when he went to interview Ceca Ražnatović in January 2005 was that he hadn't asked her the key questions - her attitude to the aggression against Croatia and her response to accusations of involvement in the conspiracy against Zoran Ðinđić - which would have transferred the interview out of the realm of entertainment television and into the field of big-P Politics.

No such allegations could apply to Hrga, who put Djordjević over the political barrel for 25 minutes on last Sunday's show, starting with the question 'Are you a Četnik?' (Djordjević: 'Absolutely', although the two speakers arrived with rather different understandings of četništvo, with Djordjević maintaining that it stood today for 'being proud of what you are'.) Half an hour later, Hrga's audience were well-informed about Djordjević's performances in Serb-occupied Knin and his insistence that conversations about Srebrenica should also remember 'the number of Serbs who died' - and were left under no illusions what Hrga's most vocal guest, HSP (Croatian Party of Right) leader Ante Djapić, thought about it.

(The only shame for viewers who might have liked to know a bit more about the Serbian elections is that Epicentar's other Belgrade guest - Sonja Biserko from the Serbian Helsinki Committee standing in for an unavailable Nataša Kandić - got no more than six or seven minutes of screen time: a quarter of the space allotted to Djordjević.)

Mirjana Hrga, for her part, has been attracting more attention than ever since the interview, at a time when one might expect the press to be focusing on the impending arrival at Nova TV of her old talk-show rival Hloverka Novak-Srzić. Jutarnji list and Globus both carried interviews with Hrga this weekend, in which she explained why she'd invited Djordjević for his first post-war appearance on a Croatian political show:

'Given that there’s radicalisation on the Serbian [srpska] political scene, and surveys are showing that Šešelj’s radicals and Koštunica’s party are getting more and more votes, it was completely logical for me to invite someone on to the show who sang to that same Koštunica for Serbian New Year, and who even without Kostunica fills stadiums and performs in front of 25,000 people. Moreover, he wears Četnik coats of arms on his jackets, he publicly declares himself as a Četnik, he promotes radical ideas… For me that too is Serbia. We in Croatia can’t pretend that Serbia is in Africa. It’s our neighbouring state, and I want to show what’s going on there, I want to say that two Serbias exist.'

As for her guests from the Croatian side - particularly Djapić and veterans' representative Mladen Pavković - Hrga told Globus that:

'I wanted Đapić, as a representative of the Croatian right wing: I wanted to confront him with some, conditionally put, right-wing political option in Serbia, but it turned out those are two [different] worlds, that Ante Đapić is a top European [vrhunski Europejac] for what the other side offers. And I wanted a representative of the branitelji, because they are the people who defended Croatia from just the sort of opinions and plans that Čorba was talking about. I exceptionally respect the branitelji, so I invited them on. I know that for them it was a painful evocation of those memories.'

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Folk Sans Frontières?

So that's Vuco in Dora, and now - if one can believe everything one reads in Kurir - a whole crowd of Serbian pop-folk singers are getting ready to play the Dražen Petrović basketball arena in Zagreb, rather than the out-of-town nightclubs and discos they've appeared in until now.

Seka Aleksić, Viki Miljković, Hanka Paldum, Indira Radić, Miroslav Ilić, Šaban Šaulić, Šerif Konjević and various others are among the names very tentatively mentioned by the Serbian tabloid, in an article calmly headlined 'Folk singers are charging towards Zagreb!' - at sufficient pace to arrive by late February or early March, according to Braco Zatezalo from Bijeljina's TV BN, which floated the idea in the first place.

The Gazette will believe it when it happens, though...

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dora 2007: He Will Rock You?

There's no sign of Goran Bare, as it happens, but the list of contestants for the 2007 edition of Dora, Croatia's contest to choose a representative for Eurovision, is still verging towards the upmarket - albeit the usual sprinkling of complete debutants and reality TV show cast members.

Several of the performers have Eurovision experience, including Vivien Galletta and Naim Ayra (both members of Put in 1993), Claudia Beni, Goran Karan, and Feminnem, who competed for Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2005. There's a fair smattering of swing (the Sick Swing Orchestra and Marko Tolja), and a couple of names who interpret 'folk music' in quite a different sense to Severina's Moja stikla: Klapa Maslina (responsible for one of umpteen versions of the Dalmatian standard Da te mogu pismom zvati) and Miroslav Evačić, an ethno musician who mixes blues and Podravina folk music, making him the mid-noughties answer to Istrian-jazz doyenne Tamara Obrovac.

In fact, the list as a whole might look like two and a half dozen attempts to define the antipode of Štikla if it wasn't for the incongruous inclusion of a certain Sinisa Vuco - a singer whose association with 'turbofolk' is even more ingrained than Severina's. Vuco's repertoire, with emphasis on the pleasures (or otherwise) of drinking, sex and supporting Hajduk Split, musically might not be too dissimilar to Marko Perković Thompson's, only with less historical mythology and much more accordion. (In fact, here are the two of them in the company of Dalmatian diasporic singer Dražen Žanko.)

In all other respects, though, the two singers have taken paths as diverging as the average Jeffrey Archer plotline - Thompson inclining towards the patriotic (and vowing never to perform in Serbia), while Vuco has since signed for Lepa Brena's Grand Productions and regularly appears on TV Pink or duetting with Serbian-based singers. (They include Vesna Zmijanac, Neda Ukraden, and Mitar Mirić, with whom Vuco covered Queen's We Will Rock You as Volim narodno - I love it the folk way.) For much of the 1990s, indeed, Vuco claimed that his music had been banned by the then management of Croatian Television (HTV) because of its similarity to folk from Serbia and Bosnia.

However, it looks like Vuco's performing with a 'rock composition' by Fedor Boić, rather than with one of his more narodnjački compositions. Which might be just as well. Would HTV really want to go through that again?

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Anyone For Handball?

A metro system for Zagreb might still be many years away, but the metropolis might soon share a less welcome characteristic with the Gazette's home town of London: losing out on hosting a world sporting championship because the venues weren't ready in time.

London had to hand over the 2005 World Athletics Championships to Helsinki because the British government abandoned a planned new stadium at Picketts Lock and the IAAF didn't much fancy shifting it to Sheffield; Zagreb's flagship event - in partnership with five other Croatian cities - is supposed to be the men's handball world championships in 2009, for which seven new stadia with between 3,000 and 12,000 seats each need to be built.

However, the Croatian government's decision to bypass the usual process of public tender for building projects so that the stadia can be built quicker has turned into the scandal of the week, and the government's U-turn yesterday takes the process back to square one - with proposals to reduce the number of host cities or even handle the whole thing from Zagreb, and crossed fingers that the International Handball Federation will be more patient than the IAAF.

Now Jurica Pavičić in Jutarnji list has questioned why the Croatian state puts such emphasis on sport in the first place:

'For the sake of sport, the Croatian administration is willing to amputate part of a military base and expropriate agricultural land. For the sake of sport, magnificent buildings get built which are not a realistic priority. [...] Nobody except sport has that sort of social power in our society - not science, not technology, not business, not art. Try and imagine in your wildest dreams a situation like what we have today with handball except that the reason is not sport. Try, for instance, to imagine the authorities expropriating a navy yard or preparing a special law because they want to - let's say - build a top-class brain institute.'

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Showbusiness Ethnopolitics: Epicentar

Two years ago, Nova TV caused the television scandal of the month when their journalist Petar Vlahov went to Belgrade to interview Ceca Ražnatović for his Drugo lice talk show. Now another Nova TV show, Mirjana Hrga's Epicentar, is proving that the channel is no believer in the law of once bitten, twice shy.

Hrga's show on Sunday evening is scheduled to discuss the Serbian elections, and particularly the popularity of the Radical party. Epicentar's favoured expert to provide the Radical point of view? Serbian rock singer Bora Đorđević from the band Riblja čorba.

Perhaps predictably, Hrga has since received threats from the Society of Zagreb Defenders of Vukovar, a war veterans' group whose president Damir Jašarević told Jutarnji list, using much the same rationale as the protests against Drugo lice in 2005:

'We would accept the programme only if Đorđević would talk about what he knows about the Knin prison, the missing and fallen soldiers [braniteljima]. Everything else is rubbing salt into the wound when one knows that 1,200 Croats are still listed as missing. Therefore we will use all our means to prevent the programme going out. We're not afraid of prison.'

The Ceca Ražnatović Drugo lice never made it on to the air, but Hrga seems to have stronger support from the channel, which has even been rumoured to have hired security guards to ensure that Sunday's show can go ahead.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Comeback Of The Week: Lepa Brena

It's the logical conclusion of Croatian retromanija: according to Jutarnji list, Yugoslavia's emblematic 1980s folk-pop singer Lepa Brena is planning a concert tour of Croatia, starting with Zagreb in 'late summer or September'.

Brena says that she's decided to tour Croatia because 'I see that retro is in fashion, mid-80s music, full of romance and love' - but is ruling out recording any duets with newer singers because they are 'complicated to record'. (Yes, that includes Severina, who's been talking about her new Bregović-produced album again ahead of her next theatrical appearance.)

Meanwhile - it's obviously one of those weeks - Bora Đorđević from the Serbian rock band Riblja Čorba will be appearing on Mirjana Hrga's talk show Epicentar to discuss the Serbian elections (on which East Ethnia and Anegdote have already contributed their own lucid thoughts). For any of its readers who might have been asleep during the last seventeen years, 24 sata's article on the show gives no more or less introduction to Đorđević than that 'at the beginning of the war the Serbian singer declared himself as a Četnik and it is well known that he politically belongs to the Radicals.'

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Zagreb Slang: What Goes Around Comes Around

Today's Večernji list has a story on the latest generation of youth slang in Zagreb. In the usual Sve je isto, samo njega nema (It's all the same, only Tito isn't here) way of these things, the online commenters are pretty convinced that most of it comes from 1960s Sarajevo, Serbian films' Belgrade slang via Slavonia, and almost anywhere else other than originally from Zagreb.

UPDATE: Thanks Dejan for more on šatrovački back-slang!

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Race Is On, Don't All Rush At Once

While the Gazette was drafting its first post of the year about the Croatian pre-selection for Eurovision yesterday, the thought occurred to it that if Morrissey was really talking about Eurovision with the BBC (as if it hadn't all got improbable enough when Lordi entered), then anything's possible. Gibonni? Darko Rundek? Goran Bare?

Now it seems that Večernji list has got there first as far as Goran Bare is concerned. And one can safely say the concept of Goran Bare showing up at Eurovision is every bit as improbable as Morrissey doing the same thing.

All in all, the potential names being mentioned for this year's Dora so far include Tina Vukov, Luka Nižetić, Vanna, Feminnem, Raspashow, Emina Arapović, Ivana Radovniković, Damir Kedžo, a trio of Mladen Burnać-Davorin Bogović-Ivanka Bolkjovac (two rockers and an opera singer), and Kraljevi ulice (the 2006 runners-up) in the company of Sandra Bagarić. Respectable pop or rock musicians (or at least internationalised-talent-show graduates) the lot of them, without a trace of what one might call 'localised musical content' but would probably call either 'ethno' or 'turbofolk': suggesting that Lordi have had just as much of an impact on HTV's thoughts as, two years ago, did Željko Joksimović's second place for Serbia-Montenegro did. (One suspects that whatever the final Dora line-up is, it might as well be titled 'People the Jury Thought All Sound the Least Like 'Moja štikla'.)

Wait till Eurovision itself, and it may well turn out that Lordi's victory owed less to their position as a credible metal alternative and more to their rocking up on stage with monster costumes, battle-azes, pyrotechnics and expanding wings - a level of stagecraft which would even outdo Darko Rundek.

Who might count as too 'ethno' these days, anyway...?

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Women In The Media (And In The Charts)

The official Croatian singles chart, HRtop20, has published its chart of 2006, which actually bears quite a resemblance to any weekly chart from August/September. And isn't it funny how the Bosnian Eurovision entry comes in at no 2 on the zabavna chart, while Croatia's own representative only makes it into no 15?

Moving towards something much more heavyweight: via Bosnia Vault, MediaCentar Sarajevo has published its new book of the representation of women in print media in Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Albania. Look out particularly for Danijela Majstorović and Vladimir Turjačanin's discourse analysis of images of women in Bosnian tabloids; Mima Simić's discussion of Croatian and Serbian teenage girls' magazines and their promotion of 'active heterosexuality', Sanja Sarnavka and Suzana Kunac's in-depth analysis of the Ana Magaš murder case in Zadar; and Ivana Kronja's reflections on 'the link between political extremism and pornography' in Serbia.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

First Post Of The Year

BBC News Online has welcomed Bulgaria and Romania to the EU with an overview of their potential musical and televisual contributions to the Union. (Lots of chalga on the Bulgarian side; not so much manele on the Romanian.) On the micro level, here are some returned welcome greetings from the town of Csikszereda.

Meanwhile, East Ethnia sadly reports the death of Croatian sociologist Srđan Vrcan.

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