Published on 28/06/2022 11:00 am

Today marks the season finale of Balkan Express. For three years this here show has been bringing you the best, the latest and the most curious in music from the Balkans. Not necessarily in that order, or in that particular combination. Still, the last episode of the season needs to end on a high note. Which is why today Balkan Express brings you the one, the only and the inimitable Magnifico.

Robert Pešut – Magnifico, the self-styled Charlatan de Balkan is an accomplished Slovenian musician. He boasts a string of career successes few musicians in the region can rival. At the same time, he is the embodiment of every possible Balkan cliché you can think of. At the very least, he wants people to think of him that way. Magnifico started out way back in 1992 as a band leader of a pop-funk band Uredu. He made a name for himself from the get-go, even more so when he went solo. He spent his first decade as a pop-chart leader experimenting with funk and pretty soon started interspersing his tracks with elements that were unmistakably Balkan. Think gusle and tamburice from the intro of the show.

Reinventing Balkan music

But Magnifico didn’t stop there. He didn’t just take traditional Balkan tunes and laid a beat track for them. After all, the so-called turbo-folk abomination of a genre was already densely populated. It was also frequented by people with, shall we say, limited musical tastes. Magnifico, however, took Balkan music of old and new and completely reimagined it. In this, he often made it seem more authentic than authentic Balkan music. Case in point a track called Pukni Zoro, from the Serbian film Montevideo, Bog Te Video. To this day, many people believe it to be a traditional Serbian song from the days of World War One. But it was really written by a chain-smoking, beer-loving Slovenian funk musician, desperate to make a deadline for a movie score.

Describing music of Magnifico is almost a mission impossible. Each of his albums is a nod to a different music era, or at the very least, a music phenomenon. For example, a 2007 album Grande Finale, paid tribute to the so-called Yu-Mex music, a 1950s and 60s sub-genre of popular Yugoslav musicians performing traditional Mexican songs. Or at least songs that sounded traditionally Mexican. Please, don’t ask…

Pushing against stereotypes and prejudice

At first sight it might seem that Magnifico is oozing Balkan-style machismo. Certainly his music sounds the part. But a second look will always reveal that his Balkan Disco Schlager music challenges every single cliché, stereotype and prejudice out there. Especially nationalism and homophobia. For example, he co-authored, together with his wife Barbara Pešut the Slovenian 2002 Eurosong entry Samo Ljubezen/Only Love. The track was performed by drag-queen act and caused an uproar, prompting debates in the Slovenian and European parliaments. In the mean time, Magnifico achieved something of a pan-European fame with his 2003 album, aptly titled Import Export. Chances are you actually heard  this next tune even outside Ara City Radio frequencies.

Every review of Magnifico will inevitably do him injustice by omitting several equally important aspects of his work. For example, his groundbreaking anti-nationalist hit Kdo je Čefur. His seemingly endless collaborations with many an international artist. Or his tongue-in-cheek album Sexy Boy where he explored sexuality in every possible version, making many Slovenian parents reach for their smelling salts. But seeing as this is the last episode of Balkan Express this season, let’s end with Magnifico’s homage to Slovenian chanson of 1960s, what many people call the golden age of Slovenia pop music.

Season finale

This is all the time we have for this season. Check out Magnifico, his twelve studio albums and countless compilations on YouTube, Spotify, or wherever you get you music from, and Balkan Express will be back in September.

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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Magnifico (Balkan Express 090)