Published on 16/05/2023 11:00 am

Ask a random European of a reasonably advanced age, if they’ve ever heard of a Slovenian band called Laibach, an there’s an off chance that you’d get an affirmative reply. But ask them if they heard of Borghesia, and they’d probably just shake their head. And yet, both bands were part of the same wave of conceptual/performative music that reshaped the Balkans in mid-80s.

Borghesia were – or, rather, are – a Slovenian-Croatian electronic rock act that goes beyond mere music as their medium of expression. Live video projections and visual aesthetics are as much a part of their performance as music is. Together with Laibach, they were the most influential representatives of Slovenian alternative rock scene at the time.

Fringes of the acceptable

Origins of Borghesia can be traced to a conceptual theatre ensemble called FV-112/15. Operating at the very fringes of what was considered acceptable artistic expression in socialist Yugoslavia, the band often used imagery and poetics that was tabooed, suppressed or downright prohibited. As such, it soon became one of the centres of gravity of the urban push for political liberalisation. However, in contrast to Laibach, who were overtly political, Borghesia kept to a more artistic and philosophical path to social disruption.

Originally, Borghesia were a five-member act with drummer and producer Aldo Ivančič and vocalist Dario Seraval as core members. Zelmira Alajbegović Pečovnik, Neven Korda and Goran Devide were the remaining three founding members. They had their hey-day just about the time when the wheels were really starting to come off in Yugoslavia. While the country was falling apart at the seams, Borghesia were touring Europe, including the UK, Germany and Sweden.

The lineup changed over the years. Seraval quit the group in the early 90s and Ivančič followed suit a few years later. At the time, that effectively meant the end of Borghesia. It wasn’t until a decade and a half later that the band got back together again.

In its new incarnation, Borghesia are less of a full-blooded band and more of a side-project. As such, however, they can collaborate with a host of other musicians who join the lineup on a temporary basis. As a result, Borghesia are again a thing, with Seraval and Ivančič flanked by vocalist Irena Tomažin, bass player Jelena Rusjan and guitarist Andrej Mazi.

Twenty albums

In total, Borghesia released a staggering twenty albums. Add to that several compilations and stand-alone video projects, and a picture emerges of a band that was in many respects way ahead of its time. They released their last original album in 2021, with a French title Un chant d’amour. Days ago, however, they re-released their perhaps most influential album Ogolelo Mesto / Naked City. Originally out in 1985, they now released a vinyl version of the album. They also added a companion remix of one of their most popular songs. As such, it is dedicated it to the heroic struggle of the Ukrainian people against Russian aggression.

Check out Borghesia on YouTube, Spotify and wherever you get your music from and Balkan Express will be back next week.

Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of, you guessed it, the Balkans. Forget gusle and tamburice, this show is about rock, pop and a sense of humour. Well, at least there’s guitars. On air most Tuesdays in a new-and-improved time-slot at 1100 hrs. Usually. Your train conductor is Aljaž (aka @pengovsky) who once did the world a solid and decided never to sing again in public. Which is why he ended up doing radio.

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With : Aljaž Every Tuesday at 10.00

Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of the Balkans.

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Borghesia (Balkan Express 118)