ESC 2010 Reviews: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnia’s history in Eurovision has truly been one of redemption.  Rising from the horrors of the Balkan Conflict of the early-to-mid 1990s, they have now become one of the more successful entrants into the ESC in recent years.  Despite never having won the contest in its fifteen appearances, they took the bronze position in 2006 and have qualified for the finals each year since the establishment of the semifinal system.

Bosnia’s inaugural entry, in 1993’s contest in Millstreet, was Fazla’s “Sva Bol Svijeta” (“All The Pain in the World”), which directly referenced the then-ongoing conflict back home in Sarajevo.  With heart-wrenching lyrics such as:

Sva bol svijeta je noćas u Bosni All the pain in the world tonight is in Bosnia
Ostajem da bolu prkosim I’m staying to defy the fear
I nije me strah stati pred zid I’m not afraid to stand in front of the wall
Ja znam da zapjevam, ja znam da pobijedim I can sing, I can win

Europe had to not only take notice of the song, but of the plight of the conflict itself.  Considering that Eurovision had basically been founded as a cultural response to war, putting the theme of wartime strife front and center struck a poignant note with the audience.  When it was time for the votes to be cast in Millstreet that evening, and hostess Fionnuala Sweeney received the call from Sarajevo, the spectators were brought to their feet, their cheers at times nearly drowning out the weak, static-filled connection, rife with feedback.  The first two minutes of this video chronicle that moment.

Since that night in 1993, Bosnia and Herzegovina have fared generally well in the ESC.  In 2005, they were represented by the girl-band Femminem, who will actually be bearing the Croatian flag in this year’s competition (but more about them later!).  In 2006, the emotional, Balkan-influenced ballad “Lejla“, sung by Hari Mata Hari, was hotly predicted to win in Athens, yet was beaten into a surprise third place by the Finnish and Russian entries. 

For the 2008 contest in Belgrade, it was decided that Bosnia and Herzegovina would go in a slightly different direction for their national entry.  That result was “Pokusaj” (“Try”), one of the strangest, yet sweetest songs ever to come out of the competition.  Performed by eccentric rocker Laka and his younger sister Mirela, the song is a wide-eyed, childlike blend of rock, playground rhyme, and performance art, incorporating laundry, brides, inexplicable knitting, and an ensemble on Mirela that’s a strange blend of Helena Bonham Carter, Raggedy Ann, and Roseanne Rosannadanna.  

Just watch it, and you’ll understand. 

(For the record, I’ll have that song stuck in my head for the next week and a half…)

Last year’s entry for Moscow was another 180° shift from the wacky and wild wonder of “Pokusaj”.  National broadcaster BHRT selected rock group Regina, who had been performing together since 1990.  Their entry, “Bistra Voda” (“Clear Water”), was a powerful song almost reminiscent of military marches.  Presented simply, yet passionately, it resulted in a 9th place finish, and the song was selected internally by the songwriters competing in Moscow as having the best overall composition.

This year, the challenge goes to 26-year-old Vukašin “Wookee” Brajić, a participant in “Operacija Trijumf”‘s 2009 edition.  His pop/rock style brought him to the runner-up position in the “Pop Idol”-type show; will it do the same for him in Oslo?  His song, chosen internally by BHRT, is entitled “Thunder and Lightning”, and, like the aforementioned Albanian entry, was adapted into English from its original Bosnian.  Unfortunately, unlike the Albanian’s switch from “Nuk Mundem Pa Ty” to “It’s All About You”, “Thunder and Lightning” is almost a direct, word-for-word translation from the original song, “Munja i Grom”.  While it’s great that the integrity of the words are still intact, the rhyme scheme now feels messy, and the lyrics sound almost amateurish.  If Vukašin sings in the original Bosnian (or even switches between the two languages), it will likely sound smoother and less jarring.  My friend (and fellow ESC geek) Slaviša, who’s a native of Banja Luka, tells me that the Bosnian reaction to the release of this song has been less than positive, especially compared to the acclaim that Hari Mata Hari, Laka, and Regina all received.  However, I personally like Vukašin’s voice (he sounds almost like an accented Jon Bon Jovi, at least to my New Jersey-bred ears), and I’m always happy to see more rock on the ESC stage.  That being said, the version of Bosnia’s 2010 entry on my iPod is “Munja i Grom”, not “Thunder and Lightning”.  I predict that it will pass through to the final, but likely won’t score much higher than 10 or 15th place.

Here’s the official English version, followed by “Munja i Grom”.  Which do you like more?

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Posted on March 31, '10, in 2010, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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