Since I'm Dalmatian, I'll start with DALMATIAN POP. This isn't an actual music genre, it's actually plain pure mainstream pop, but still you can distinguish it from the other plain pure mainstream pop .... is this making any sense to you? Anyway, let me try put some sense into this: we all know how pure plain mainstream pop sounds, right? What's specific about dalmatian pop music is the melody. Somehow you can actually hear the mediterranean joie de vivre, the melody carries the flavor, the scent and the sounds of a life by the Adriatic sea. The lyrics describe this life, the love for the sea, the romances, the friendships,... But mostly what makes a pop song a dalmatian pop song is the language.
It's sung in dalmatian dialect (anyone out there attempting to learn Croatian, be advised that even after you graduate from Croatian language class with an A, you will have a hard time understanding a Dalmatian). This dialect is something every Dalmatian is proud of, something that defines us in our existance, something we don't lay off even if moving to Siberia for good. So, wherever in the world we might find ourselves, hearing a dalmatian pop song will most likely bring even the biggest and strongest Dalmatian to cry like a baby and buy a ticket for the next plane home. Once a Dalmatian, always a Dalmatian *wipes a tear*. I believe you got the grip? Then let me throw in some names of the most popular Dalmatian musicians: First and a must-know is OLIVER
. The man's in the business for 40 years, he's a legend, something like Johnny Cash in country music and Bruce Springsteen in rock music.
Old lady selling more than tomatos at the market
Everyone in Croatia knows about him. Everyone owns at least two of his albums. Everyone knows at least a dozen of his songs. The man's a legend, an institution. And still alive. If you ever come across his concert while you're on vacation in Croatia, do come. He has a wide variety of fans, from the little kid in kindergarten to the old lady selling tomatos at the market. Out of Oliver's huge opus, I believe everyone can pick a song to make his/her favorite. He is a Dalmatian, a landmark of his town Split, but can proud himself having held concerts at the Olympic in Paris, and New York's Carnegie Hall. If you get the chance to go to his concert, get your ticket quickly, for his concerts are mostly sold out. Wanna take a listen? Try "Oliver Dragojevic" at youtube. Another excellent dalmatian musician is GIBONNI
What he does, actually drifts a little bit away from the plain pure mainstream dalmatian pop. He's more a world musician. Sure, the mediterranean melody is there, so are the lyrics and the language, but Gibonni includes melodies and instruments from other parts of the world. He's co-worked with artists like Manu Katche, Pino Palladino, Tony Levin, Geoffrey Oryema, Gaetano Curreri and Vlatko Stefanovski. The lyrics of his songs are pure poetry, and many of his songs are already considered to be part of the nation's cultural treasure. Needless to say, get the ticket fast. Some other great dalmatian musicians I have to mention here are TEDI SPALATO, HARI RONČEVIĆ and MERI CETINIĆ. There are more, but I wanna make it short.
Now, here's something truly dalmatian. "Klapa" originally means "group of friends". It originates from tradition; Dalmatia used to be a poor land, until the main coastal road was built in the 1960s and the tourists came. People were poor, trying to make ends meet, their days filled with hard work in the fields and at sea. After a hard days work they would gather in somone's Konoba - originally the coolest room in the house that served as a storage for the food and wine. It usually also had a fireplace, and here the family and neighbours would gather to have a drink of wine, maybe some Pršut and bread, play cards, tell stories and - sing. Today the Konoba has evolved to a typical dalmatian restaurant, decorated in dalmatian style and serving traditional dalmatian food and drinks.
The Klapa has become professional. Today you will find a Klapa in almost every little town in Dalmatia and sometimes even beyond. It consists of up to 10 singers, male, female or mixed, and they sing a capella in different voice ranges. The songs are mostly traditional, and tell stories about everyday life, the sea, love, home, death. If you are visiting Dalmatia, don't miss a Klapa concert! It doesn't matter what Klapa you go listen to (true, there are better and worse ones), hearing a Klapa sing gives you a deep insight into dalmatian life. And not just because the local audience loudly sings along. The effect of a Klapa song on a Dalmatian is the same, if not even more intense, as that of a dalmatian pop song.
Now we're coming to my favorite: ROCK MUSIC.
Lately a lot of new groups have emerged, but I'll stick here to the classics. For those of you who like it a little bit more loud HLADNO PIVO should be just right. "Hladno pivo" means "cold beer", and, yes, the guys have sold their souls to the largest brewery in the country to be their major sponsor. That means a lot of cold beer at their concerts. Hladno Pivo plays music for 20 years now, and are originally a punk rock band. But in the last couple of years they've smoothened their sound a little bit, which got them out of their local celebritiy existance and gaining a larger fandom. At the time they are one of the most popular bands in the country. The lead singer cannot proud himself with a very nice vocal, but the lyrics are just fantastic, putting everyday life in a society crushed by communism-to-capitalism-and-globalisation-transition under a magnifying glass and cutting it into pieces.
Oh, I just love them! Another popular rock band is PRLJAVO KAZALIŠTE (meaning "dirty theater"), also a long lasting band, that plays mainstream rock, melodious and danceable. Then there is DAMIR URBAN, who started his career about 15 years ago. Well, he's a little bit unusual, need some time to get used to the music and his vocal. But it's definitely worth giving him a try. More classic is GORAN BARE or just BARE. He used to be the lead singer of the band MAJKE (meaning "mothers"), but drugs and alcohol made an end to the band, and Bare was pronounced to have biten the dust, like, every week. But he didn't. He's alive and well, and still makes great music, blues rock with songs that tell a story of survival and faith.
PSIHOMODO POP (meaning... whatever) is a legend, thou not that old. The band's greatest influence are the Ramones, and that's how they sound. Again, the lead singer cannot proud himself with a nice vocal, but he is fun!!! So are the lyrics. You shouldn't take them serious. Seriously.
Music is mostly made for dancing. There are some great Croatian artists whose music makes your body move and forget about the big bad world. Let's call this FUNKY & GROOVY, shall we? One of the most popular definitely is DINO DVORNIK. He was the one who introduced funk to Croatia. That was a long time ago, before the war, while Croatia still was in Yugoslavia, and the music scene was limited with local sing-a-songs and out of date records brought from abroad by gastarbeiters.
And then Dino came, sang and conquered. I don't recall if he had any trouble with the party (the communist one, you know, those guys in grey suits who think that maltreating people is having a fun time), but he definitely stirred something up. His first single "Zašto praviš slona od mene" is a classic, I don't think there's anyone here who doesn't know it, even those born after the 1980s. Dino made a lot of great music, filled a lot of dance floors, but you will not have the chance to listen to him live. He died last september, aged 45, leaving the whole nation in shock and disbelief. One of his songs is called "You are in my thoughts" ("Ti si mi u mislima"). Well, Dino, you are in mine, may you rest in peace. Another attraction is the hip-hop band THE BEAT FLEET shortly called TBF.
I'm not into hip-hop or rap music, but TBF are fantastic. The music actually has a melody, and the lyrics are hilarious. And sometimes serious. TBF makes you have fun and think. They have concerts quite often, so keep your eyes open, and hurry for the ticket. Another very popular band is COLONIA. A note to those who think I'm being partial here and write only about artists I like - I hate Colonia. But they are very popular here, and it wouldn't be right to leave them out. As much as I hate their music. Colonia plays pure dance. And their concerts are mostly sold out. Whether you'll hurry for the ticket, I leave to your own judgement. Have fun.
I can't leave without mentioning another great artist: MATIJA DEDIĆ. He doesn't sing, he plays the piano.
He plays JAZZ. He comes from an artistic family, his father being ARSEN DEDIĆ, a legendary chansonieur, like Jacques Brel in France, and his mother GABI NOVAK, also a famous singer. When all three perform together, it's a feast for your ears. Keep your eyes out for their concert, if you like jazz, you won't be disappointed. Another great jazz band is BLACK COFFEE, a band from Split. Thou I can't recall the last time they had a concert, I want to believe they still do share their music outside the boundaries of their hometown. I do know they're still playing, also co-working with other artists, and making records, so if you come across their concert somewhere, let me know, and we'll go together :-)
The Beat Fleet
There are a lot more great artists here, but I don't want this to make a novel.
So let me just pop in the names of some of them, so next time you see them on a poster, you'll know what's it all about: JOSIPA LISAC (very artistic, the diva of the croatian music scene), VANNA (great vocal), NINA BADRIĆ (even greater vocal), SUZANA HORVAT (the croatian answer to Norah Jones), NENO BELAN (mediterranean pop), TONY CETINSKI (pop rock), VATRA (new rock band), ELEMENTAL (fine hip-hop, I like them), MARKO TOLJA (jazzy), JINX (pop with a touch of the 1960/70s), MASSIMO (melodious pop), E.N.I. (r'n'b girlband), LET 3 (scandalous, but one of croatia's best male vocals in my oppinion), IBRICA JUSIĆ (a boheme and legendary troubadour. You will see him and his dog playing his guitar and singing (not the dog) at the steps of St. Vlaho church in his hometown Dubrovnik), DIVAS (r'n'b, great vocals. They don't preform together anymore, but IVANA & MARIJA HUSAR still sing solo), TINA VUKOV (a very young singer who amazes with her beautiful vocal and soulish songs), LUKY (beautiful dalmatian pop), ...
If you're visiting Croatia in the summer, most concerts are held in the coastal towns. The artists aren't foolish, they know what venue to choose and where to go when it's 35 degrees Celsius outside. Also keep your eyes out for festivals, the summer is full of them, like the most famous Klapa Festival in Omiš, or Zadar Snova in Zadar. But during winter time, the coastal cities and especially the little towns turn into a state of hybernation, and the artists return home and play at clubs and concert/sport halls in the inland. Of course, we here at the coast get our share of concerts, too. Like, ones a month. In Zadar, the "Arsenal" restaurant and bar leads in venues, so when you're in town off season, check out their website arsenalzadar.com.
Hope you've found a song here that has put a smile on your face. Wish I could see that New Yorker again and play some tunes for him. Well, he sure put a smile on my face.