Last week on Balkan express we delved into this year’s Eurosong entries from the Balkans and while a couple did make it into the finals, none performed exceptionally well. The best ot the Balkans pack was Greece in 10th place. Bulgaria placed 11th, Serbia 15th and Albania 21st.
Be that as it may, Balkan Eurosong Entries do have a storied and colourful history. Ever since Yugoslavia disintegrated, the number of contestants from the region rose sharply, even though not all of them always participate. But even when the Old Country was still on the maps, the Eurosong was big in the region. So today, let’s take a look at Eurosong in the Balkans, as it once was.
The one Eurosong win
Depending on your definition of the Balkans, the region has produces anywhere from three to six Eurosong winners. But we shouldn’t really count Austria and Turkey as strictly Balkan countries, no matter what the Germans say. Thus the three winners hailing from the region are Serbia in 2007 with Molitva, Greece in 2005 with smash-hit My Number One and Yugoslavia, in its terminal stage, in 1989, with Rock me Baby by Croatian band Riva.
That was the only time Yugoslavia won the contest and as a result, the 1990 Eurosong was held in Zagreb, literally as the country was beginning to fall apart. Exactly a month before the contest, the first democratic elections were held in Slovenia. A mere eight days after the show, a large football riot full of ethnic hatred broke out in Zagreb Maximir stadium between fans of Dinamo Zagreb and Red Star Belgrade. This signaled to everyone who wasn’t yet paying attention, that the country had gone to hell in a handcart. Still, 1990 Eurosong was held and Tajči, another Croatian singer with Hajde da ludujemo / Let’s Party, which went on to become a bit of a hit as well.
Right there at the top
Tajči placed seventh, which wasn’t bad. But it was yet another Croatian Yugoslav entry a couple of years earlier that performed even better. The 1987 Eurosong was held in Brussels and Novi Fosili (the New Fossils) placed fourth with Ja Sam Za Ples / I Wanna Dance.
Croatians weren’t the only Yugoslav nation who could make music, though. Danijel Popovič, or simply Danijel, placed fourth as well with Džuli. If you recognised this song it probably means you’ll be hitting your midlife crisis soon. Namely, the track went on to become something of a hit in Europe in early 80’s and you’re old enough to remember it. The tune got a lot of airplay and even hitting the top 10 charts in Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Switzerland. It also earned a Swedish cover by a band called Wizex, while Danijel himself recorded versions in English and… wait for it… Hebrew. How about that?
Yugoslavia entered the Eurovision song contest in 1961, becoming the first and only socialist country to partake in the competition. The country debut happened here, in Luxembourg, with a song Neke Davne Zvezde/ Some Ancient Stars by Lilijana Petrović and placed eighth out of sixteen.
As it often happens, a national Eurosong entry would become a hit at home even after a modest showing at the Eurosong. For example, the track Dan Ljubezni / A Day of Love by the otherwise morbidly named band Pepel in Kri (which translates to Blood and Ashes). It placed a somewhat respectable 13th out of 22, but went on to become one of those songs that even today almost every Slovene regardless of age knows at least the chorus to.
Insieme, unite, unite Europe
And speaking of Pepel in Kri, they have the distinction of being the only Yugoslav band – and perhaps the only band every – to appear in Eurosong in two roles, for two different countries. Namely, they were the back-vocals to Toto Cutugno’s Insieme ’92, a song about European unity, that won that fateful first, last, and only fully Yugoslav Eurosong in Zagreb in 1990.
The poetics of this song winning in a country that was literally falling apart could not be more poignant. Be that as it may, the fact that Pepel in Kri were the back-vocals, made Insieme, unite unite Europe a little bit Yugoslav as well.
That’s all for this week on Balkan Express, the show will be back next week, returning to a more contemporary streak, which is where it should be anyhow.
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of, you guessed it, the Balkans. Forget the 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 sign again in public. Which is why he ended up doing radio.
TuesdaysWith : Aljaž Every Tuesday at 10.00
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of the Balkans.