Monday, March 12, 2007

Glembays And Vampires Revived (But Not Kasandra)

While Severina herself is starring in Rijeka's much-publicised production of Gospodini Glembajevi (where her co-star, Galliano Pahor, was half of a duet competing in Dora this year), Croatian musicians - at least the ones Jutarnji list spoke to this week - have been assessing Dado Topić's chances for Eurovision in terms which aren't particularly favourable to Moja štikla.

Mišo Kovac is expecting a top ten or even top five finish for Topić on the grounds that 'all in all, we've got good-quality assets up our sleeve, unlike last year when we sent turbo-folk into the world', and Vladimir Kociš Zec, late of Novi fosili, is inclined to agree: 'Last year Croatia sent a folk song [narodnjak] into the world wrapped up as fake pop-etno, and this year it's playing fair.'

Returning to Gospodini Glembajevi, it's no ordinary production of the Miroslav Krleža classic, which begins to answer the question of what Severina's doing there. The play's turned into a semi-musical, Severina and Pahor swap roles for some of the action, and Baroness Castelli's death is staged in a way apparently recalling actress Ena Begović's fatal car accident. However, Severina's theatrical engagement has been controversial enough to be the subject of Mirjana Hrga's talk show Epicentar at the weekend. After coming in for severe criticism from musicologist Jagoda Martinčević, Severina acquitted herself rather more honourably than, say, Bora Dordevic (a previous recipient of the Epicentar treatment) - telephoning the studio to challenge Martinčević.

Leave it to the Swiss, meanwhile, to take the task of succeeding last year's horror-costumed Eurovision winners Lordi as literally as they could: summer hit merchant DJ Bobo will be presenting Vampires are alive, with the usual Colonia-type dance beat and also, one morosely supposes, the predictable staging. At least one of the Gazette's family is likely to pedantically point out that vampires are disqualified from being alive by virtue of having already been rendered undead, or to ask whether [insert name of teenage female contestant from Estonia, Moldova etc.] is supposed to be Buffy.

Any obvious connection between Severina and Vampires (alive or undead)? No; but that might be different if early-1990s dance star Kasandra hadn't abruptly vanished from the Croatian scene with several of her contemporaries. While Severina was still being marketed as the brunette Tajči, her then rival Kasandra was playing the sex symbol card, dressing up as things (including the vampire-themed video of I've Got A Feeling, post-Thriller but pre-Backstreet Boys), and celebrating the 1994 launch of the Croatian currency, the kuna, by posing for the centre spread of Globus draped in nothing but pine martens (kune in Croatian).

Wonder who'd do that sort of thing today?

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Montenegro Where You Least Expect It

Place one: in flag form, hanging from every other official flagpole in Zagreb (the other 50% are waving Croatian ones), but it turns out it's to do with an upcoming state visit.

Place two: This week's issue of Croatian women's magazine Tena, which would have coincided with the Folk Revija concert if it had actually gone ahead tomorrow, includes a not unsympathetic six-page report on 'Who are the turbo folk queens?': Stoja, Indira Radić, Dragana Mirković, Donna Ares, Goga Sekulić, Olja Karleuša and Maja Marijana. (Wonder if somebody commissioned an article a little bit too early?)

Tena seems to have heard somewhere that Sekulić, a Swiss passport holder, apparently submitted a song to the Swiss Eurovision pre-selection but had it turned down. As a Montenegrin, she might have been better off looking closer to home: TVCG received a total of 16 submissions for the 10 slots in the Montenegrin final, and three of them had to be disqualified anyway because the authors weren't actually Montenegrin.

But not place three: Looking across the Drina, Dado Topić provided the interval entertainment at the Serbian Eurovision pre-selection in the company of Marija Šestić, Alenka Gotar, and Karolina Gocheva - in their capacity as the already-selected Croatian, Bosnian, Slovenian and Macedonian participants. Absent, however, was the Montenegrin representative Stevan Faddy, suggesting that even now the Montenegrins aren't themselves on hand to cause a fuss during Belgrade's final, Belgrade is perfectly capable of making a fuss out of them. Wouldn't it serve all concerned right if Montenegro and Serbia exchanged 12 points in May?

As for the Serbian contestants themselves, Belgrade Blog has been keeping an eye on those: the handful of audience-drawing pop-folk singers, headed by Mira Škorić, dropped out at the semi-final stage (seemingly one thing one can always rely on at Beovizija: even, or perhaps especially, Jelena Karleuša came bottom of the semi in 2004) and the final - ongoing as the Gazette writes - is being contested between various cod-Latino numbers, ambitious ethno (Slobodan Trkulja and Balkanopolis), and the fans' favourite Marija Šerifović with yet another Lane moje rehash. Which is by no means a disadvantage, thinking of the success of Hari Mata Hari's Lejla in 2006.

Although, chances are Šerifović wouldn't make it on to Croatian radio half as often...

UPDATE: Stevan Faddy has joined the interval mini-reunion. Not that the Sava Centar audience seem particularly happy with it, but if they've been patient enough to sit through Mambo jumbo serbiano...

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Dora 2007: The Votes Are In

So it's Dragonfly and Dado Topić to represent Croatia at Eurovision in Helsinki: an uncontroversial enough choice, although Topić's intention to sing entirely in English might have been unthinkable a few years ago.

One really can't find much fault with T-Portal's assessment of the result: 'If Eurovision were a football tournament, we'd all agree that the manager had chosen a defensive formation with few ambitions to attack.' That sounds awfully like several years of England teams at the turn of the decade, and we know what happened to them, although with Eurovision's current ethno-schlager reputation, you could see the Topić-Dragonfly combination as a bravely experimental selection (a la Terry Venables' famous 'Christmas tree') which will either carry the team to the final or knock them out in the group stage. (At least there aren't any penalty shoot-outs in Eurovision for them to lose.)

The biggest disagreement between this year's Dora jury and the audience was (as ever?) in the field of what (not) to do with folk music. Podravina ethno-musician Miroslav Evačić (featuring vocals from Istria's Livio Morosin) took high marks from the jury but hardly anything from the telephone vote; the opposite happened to Klapa Maslina, performers of the pop-Dalmatian mega-hit Da ti mogu pismom zvati, even though they can't have got many votes from the public in Slavonia.

Various competitors would have been forgiven for feeling slightly aggrieved on Saturday night: Ivana Radovniković, who was placed into the same semi-final as Feminnem despite their both appearing with a big-band song and Charlestonesque choreography; Jelena Rozga, whose romantic ballad might have benefited from minimalist Lane moje-type staging rather than the fairytale cast it ended up with; and Danijela Pintarić, whose well-placed performance of Moj svijet recalled Croatia's string of top-ten Eurovision results from the mid-90s - but who entered the competition as a reserve entry too late for the song to be included on the official Dora CD.

Indeed, there's already an internet petition to send Pintarić to Eurovision instead - although somehow, unlike last year, it's probably not going to be talk-show material.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Folk Revija: A View From Tamo Daleko

Four days after the cancellation of the Zagreb Folk Revija has been more than enough time for the Serbian tabloid Kurir to gather half a dozen vox pops from Serbian showbusiness and make it look as if the event's collapse was all the Croats' fault, or in Kurir's words that 'it's been shown for the umpteenth time that our singers are undesirable in Croatia!' - including a particularly nasty rumour, first launched by organiser Braco Zatezalo in yesterday's edition of the paper, that one of the women involved had received a threat of rape.

The quoted singers themselves are a little more understanding, distinguishing between 'lots of people there [who] like our singers and Serbian music' (Sanja Đorđević) and an identifiable group to blame (be it the veterans' association, the Croatian media, or Croats who 'would rather their children listened to Chopin and Mozart').

The story on the Croatian side, meanwhile, is a much more mundane one of unverifiably disappointing ticket sales and an unclear destination for the ticket revenue. (The circus itself has been rescheduled for late April in Ljubljana, perhaps resuming the city's mid-90s function as a performance site for Serbian acts who weren't quite welcome in Croatia yet.)

The observation that whatever happened at Folk Revija would set the agenda for impressions of folk in Croatia applies, with this sort of escalation, as much to Serbia as it does to the host country. Is it really such a good idea for the prevailing Serbian tabloid memory of the case to be that Vukovar veterans threatened Serbian singers so severely that the show had to be called off for their own protection?

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