Saturday, February 03, 2007

Votes From The North, Flower From The South

When Croatian televoters gave a maximum 12 points at Eurovision to Serbia-Montenegro's representative Željko Joksimović in 2004, Jutarnji list headlined one of its articles with the apparent paradox that 'Hrvati vole narodnjake' ('Croats love folk songs').

With the victory of a song by a Croatian composer in the Slovenian Eurovision pre-selection this weekend, it might be worth keeping an eye out for headlines along the lines of 'Slovenci vole Hrvate' ('Slovenes love Croats') - a situation which, from the point of view of Slovenian foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel, would be every bit as paradoxical.

Rupel, embittered by a series of pedantic border disputes with Croatia which resulted in an exchange of diplomatic notes a few days ago, went on record earlier in the week as stating that 'Croatia needs us more than we need them' since Slovenia will have a say in Croatia's entry to the EU, and the vice-president of the Slovenian Parliament, Marko Pavliha, called on Slovenians to holiday at home on Triglav rather than on the Croatian coast.

Summer will prove which option turned out to be more attractive for Slovenians, but it turns out almost immediately that at least 44,000 of them (judging by the figures in the final round of voting) either think a Croatian songwriter can do a better job at Eurovision than his domestic colleagues or couldn't really be bothered either way. More precisely, that's Croatian songwriter Andrej Babić, who travels to Eurovision with opera singer Alenka Gotar and their song Cvet z juga (Flower from the south) four years after sending Claudia Beni to Eurovision for Croatia and two years after girlband Feminnem represented Bosnia-Herzegovina on his behalf.

In the meantime, Babić has concentrated his efforts on the Slovenian pre-selection EMA, composing songs for Saša Lendero in 2005 and 2006. Both the Babić-Lendero efforts scored highly with the public televote but poorly with the expert jury in the 50:50 weighting system employed by RTVSLO until this year (likewise other folk-pop and turbo-polka acts such as Atomik Harmonik, Rebeka Dremelj and Natalija Verboten), leading to suspicions that either Babić's nationality or the 'southern' flavour of his music might have counted against them. (The songs themselves both ended up translated into hrvatski for festivals in Montenegro and Croatia.)

However, this year's televote-only system - potentially to Rupel's and Pavliha's chagrin - produced a convincing victory for Gotar and Babić over the nearest rival, Bitka talentov casting-show winner Eva Černe, and 12 other contenders for whom spectacle was the order of the day. (Gold flags, red dresses with ">metres-long trains, a guest appearance by the Phantom of the Opera, vaguely lesbian dancers, and a song apparently set in a nuclear plant...)

Clearly, Cvet z juga hardly hides its southern inclinations, but a glance over the last few EMAs would suggest that the heart of Slovenian pop in general is currently being drawn - as in the old Doris Dragović hit Srce vuče južnom kraju - to 'southern parts', whether Croatian or even further south and east.

Severina's old Eurovision and pre-selection routines? Ask Rebeka Dremelj and Steffy (who cleverly turned up with a brass band months before Seve's album with Bregović is even due to be released). 1940s costumes and a list of as many European capitals as Flamingosi could fit into three minutes (before their pre-selection dissolved into chaos, but that's another story)? That'll be Don Corleone, third-placed this weekend. And the 'turbo polka' of Atomik Harmonik and their rivals Turbo Angels? Surely not too far away from turbo folk...

EMA quote of the evening, however, belonged to co-presenter Mario Galunič, explaining the task ahead:

'We need a song that Europe can't ignore. So that they will say "Very good! Very interesting song from... Slovakia!"'

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