Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Elections And All That Jazz

It's a predictable old place sometimes, Croatia.

When Vesna Pisarović headed to jazz academy in The Hague (making her the only Croatian who's happy to be there?), it didn't take too far a leap of the imagination to expect that her next album would be something in the way of all that, well, jazz.

Neither is it much of a surprise that HDZ's electoral list for Slavonia includes the pop-tamburica singer Miroslav Škoro, the former director of Croatia Records, responsible for one of the best-selling albums of 2005, and sniffily described by Jutarnji list as 'the author of a few tamburica hits'.

If elected, Škoro would follow in the footsteps of Kićo Slabinac, his counterpart in the older generation of tamburica players, who held a Sabor seat for HDZ in the mid-1990s. The Croatian Musicians' Union, for one, would surely look to him to improve the legal protection of domestic musicians by increasing their quota on TV and radio.

And a Happy Halloween to all. It's probably just a coincidence that election candidates have to register today...

UPDATE: Seems HDZ have quite a bit of confidence in Škoro: he's in sixth place on the party list for his constituency, above interior minister Ivica Kirin and defence minister Berislav Rončević.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hello Elections, Goodbye Maksimir

There's a month to go before Croatia's parliamentary elections - hot on the heels of the Polish version - and still no sign, as yet, of the media's usual pre-election obsession: which singers will be performing at whose election meetings.

After HDZ's star-studded rallies before the first multi-party elections in 1990, most other parties tried to keep pace, making the 'they got paid how much to sing that?' article as common in the run-up to elections as the run-up to New Year's Eve. The level of excitement in 2003, when Severina sang at ten rallies for Ivica Račan's SDP for a rumoured €200,000, certainly hasn't been matched yet in 2007. Possibly because Račan lost the election in a display of unconvincing populism, which Novi list's Jelena Lovrić described as 'Mala-je-dala politics' in a reference to one of Seve nacionale's tartier songs.

One of Croatian music's biggest draws (for better or worse) will be absent in any case. Marko Perković Thompson, once upon a time a stalwart HSP supporter, will be otherwise engaged on a tour of the US and Canada in November - unless The New York Sun, which described Thompson as a 'neo-Nazi' singer in an article yesterday, has anything to do with it.

New York aside, there's already uncertainty whether his 4 November concert in Toronto has been called off or not: Thompson's tour organiser says no, but a Simon Wiesenthal Center press release states that the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center had the concert cancelled after a complaint to the venue's owners (much the same route taken by a different group to avert Thompson's Amsterdam concert in 2003).

And it's farewell (eventually) to the Maksimir stadium in Zagreb (the venue of Thompson's largest concert this year), due to be knocked down and replaced with a 53,000-seater affair on the city outskirts in Lanište (near the future handball arena) or Kajzerica. Needless to say, the Maksimir site, now owned by Zagreb council, will be sold off for enough money that 'another football stadium could be built with it' instead.

UPDATE: Leave it to Fox News to intervene in the Thompson case as unhelpfully as possible.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Toše Proeski 1981-2007

Toše Proeski, the Macedonian pop singer, died this morning in a motorway accident near Nova Gradiška, Croatia.

Proeski was one of the most popular singers throughout the ex-Yugoslav states, with best-selling albums in Macedonian, Serbian and Croatian. He represented Macedonia at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2004, and regularly won pop festivals in all three countries: in Croatia, he was arguably the most successful singer of his generation from another successor state.

Tomorrow has been proclaimed a day of national mourning in Macedonia.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Fashion Report

Ex-Yugoslav cover version of the month: Bosnian/Croatian girlband Feminnem and Croatian schlager starlet Maja Šuput getting together on a version of Pusti, pusti modu (Get your fashion on) - originally a hit for Zdravko Čolić some 25 years ago, and now revamped to promote the annual Cro-A-Porter fashion event. (Šuput has a bit of previous in this department, having stood in for Tajči on a cover of Sedamnaest mi je godina a few years ago.)

They probably still have a way to go to match Swedish electro-trio Pay TV's new single Fashion report, which Don't Stop The Pop is all excited about:

'The sublime lyrics of Hakan Lidbo predicts, theorizes and travails the world and its wonderful ethical codes, political labels and designer mistakes. In the song we are presented dialectics placed directly on the dancefloor. This is the queer kind of strut that the likes of Judith Butler of the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at Berkeley once demanded in her groundbreaking text Gender Trouble and The Politics of the Performative.'

Or more succinctly:

'This is a world where saving the world is a capitalist venture and can only result in air pollution. They are right.'

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Eurovision: Picture Worth A Thousand Words

The Serbian broadcaster RTS has come up with its logo for Eurovision, and the word from Belgrade 2.0 is that it's really quite a shocker.

According to RTS, the designers have chosen 'to create a group of different signs which are united by similar symbolism: Music, Serbia, Europe, Love, Youth, Happiness...', and which probably look an awful lot like a purple plum, a yellow trumpet, a green quaver and a pair of pink lips to you and me.

The full set of sixteen symbols (Ireland's RTÉ will be pleased to see one of them resembling a shamrock) can be combined in various ways so that: 'Instead of one sign which is static and always the same, a whole string of dynamic signs have been invented.'

Didn't we go through this with the London Olympic logo?

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Eurovision: Two For The Price Of One

Crawling back after an extended summer break, the Gazette can't help opening its autumn season with what must be supposed to be the solution to the east/west impasse at the Eurovision Song Contest: starting '08, the event gets two semi-finals instead of one, with all countries having to go through qualifying except the hosts and the lucky four (Britain, France, Germany and Spain) whose national broadcasters are pretty good at paying higher dues to the European Broadcasting Union than anyone else but not so hot at picking an entry that comes anywhere near the top ten.

How far this will keep the various geo-cultural interest groups happy depends on one of the details still being held back - who precisely ends up in which semi. On previous form, one can expect any of the following:

  • A random draw to be made by minor celebrities from the host country and presented as a pointlessly prime-time event, probably as the half-time entertainment at a beauty pageant;

  • Some impenetrable UEFA-style coefficient, based on the longitude of the national broadcaster's headquarters, the number of a) Roman divided by b) Byzantine artefacts preserved in the archaeological museum, and per-capita album sales for i) Tarkan ii) Shakira and iii) Gogol Bordello;

  • A permanently enshrined line down the map which will be guaranteed to upset at least three states which think they should be more western than that, and two which fancied their chances with the easties, but not the Russians or Ukrainians, who seem to know what they're doing wherever they are.

And who gets to watch which semi? That's the hard part, according to Eurovision executive supervisor Svante Stockselius:

'the proposal; is based on the idea that the two Semi-Finals of the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest will be aired simultaneously on Thursday, 22nd of May from Belgrade, Serbia. [...] Each Semi-Final is only being aired in the countries that are taking part, and only viewers from countries that take part in each respective Semi-Final can vote.'

But nevertheless:

'All participating broadcasters can broadcast the Semi-Final(s) they are not taking part in later as well, and the Semi-Finals will be webcasted live through To serve the fans, both Semi-Finals will also be made available on-demand the next day.'

Oh. It must have taken a lot of work for somebody to make the system that complicated. But that's all right, because: 'To produce the two Semi-Finals live on different nights will result in high extra costs for both the Host Broadcaster and the participating Members.' As opposed to the Host Broadcaster having to kit out two venues for the semis instead of one, then.

It's still not certain where that leaves a Big Four broadcaster like the BBC, which wouldn't have to bother with the semis at all if it didn't want to: going by BBC Sport's usual form at tournaments when none of the home nations are involved, we're either in for full-on coverage of Ireland, or a frantic dash between the two feeds whenether something more interesting happens on the other channel, fireworks go up, or that girl whips her top off.

Oddly, none of this seems to have made the Croatian tabloids yet, although they can usually be guaranteed to leap into this sort of thing with a quick commentary on whether or not it benefits the national interest. But it's probably only a matter of time: the Belgrade-hosted show should make for a packed week of showbusiness ethnopolitics in any case, especially for those participants with more interest than your average state in pulling off a good result on the Serbians' home turf while still remaining true to the cherished traditions of national musical culture. (Here's looking at you, HTV...)

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