We’re still celebrating that countries we’ve lost at the Eurovision Song Contest. And our list wouldn’t be complete without a stop in the former Yugoslavia and a visit the lovely country that is Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The country debuted as an independent nation in 1993, when the contest was held in Millstreet, Ireland. The conflict in the Balkans was at its peak, and Bosnia and Herzegovina was enduring unspeakable tragedy. The music of the song contest provided something small but significant to people whose lives were being ripped apart. We’ll delve more into that later.
The History Museum of Bosnia & Herzegovina loops excerpts from TV programmes that aired during the Bosnian War. At one point we see the #Eurovision 1993 points segment, with the host saying, “Sarajevo, we are hearing you.” ?? The audience sends support with extended applause. pic.twitter.com/NAxAmmoiA6
— wiwibloggs (@wiwibloggs) August 21, 2018
Bosnia had their last stint at Eurovision back in 2016, when Deen made a comeback along with his friend Dalal, performing “Ljubav Je”, an epic mash-up of a Balkan ballad rap, accompanied by the cellist Ana Rucner and rapper Jala. Prior to “Ljubav Je”, Bosnia had already been on a four-year hiatus, with their latest participation being in Baku in 2012. So their on again/off again relationship with Eurovision is still on as we speak, due to difficult financial circumstances at their national broadcaster BHRT. But according to their HoD, Lejla Babovic, they are eager to return once their financial situation improves. But as things stand today, a 2020 return is unlikely. Until then, we will warm ourselves with the following memories and count down 10 reasons why we loved Bosnia and Herzegovina in Eurovision.
10. They mostly stayed true to their native language
When it comes to linguistics, they’ve kept it real far more than most competing nations. With 19 entries under their belt, Bosnia and Herzegovina have performed their songs entirely in English on just four occasions. In 2004, Deen showed up on stage in Istanbul with the suave dance hit “In the Disco”, showing us just how much he loved dancing. In 2005, the girl trio Femminemm represented the country in Kiev, begging for people to call them. It was Vukasin Brajic’s turn in Oslo 2010 with the rock song “Thunder and Lightning”, and Dino Merlin returned to the contest in Dusseldorf 2011 with the ever-so-charming “Love in Rewind”. Prior to that, the entries in 2001, 2002 and 2003 were partially sung in English, but as you can see, Bosnia has mostly been true to their beautiful language throughout their participation, despite most other countries going for English.
9. They gave us Deen
Oh sweet, lovely and talented Deen. His real name is Fuad Backovic, and before his debut in Eurovision, he was a member of the Bosnian boyband 7 Up, which was immensely popular in their native Bosnia as well as the neighbouring countries. Besides being a phenomenal vocalist, Deen is also a fashion designer, with a degree in fashion business from the prestige Istituto Maringoni fashion school in Milan, Italy. Both his entries in Eurovision have regained cult status, despite being very different.
“In the Disco” is a hardcore party anthem, and makes all of us sing along, whilst losing ourselves on the dance floor. We’ve all been lying, late, losing our weight and longing to stay all night in the disco. Deen just went ahead and said it! “Ljubav Je” was their latest entry, in 2016, and it made us miss them even more. Yes, it was diverse and they raised many an eyebrow when they mixed a Balkan ballad with angry rap. But Deen was back, and that alone made people scream with joy.
Further proof that Deen is a total gem? He took time out of his busy schedule to attend a concert with wiwiblogger William in Sarajevo long after Eurovision. He’s a man of the people!
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Tchaikovsky, Bach…and @deenvoice ?? #Sarajevo just gets BETTER. The Bosnian icon (and one of the nicest #Eurovision alums ever) has new music in the pipeline. More on @wiwibloggs soon ?? ? . . . #bosnia #bosniaandherzegovina #bosnian #eurovision2016 #esc #deenvoice #instatravel #instatraveling #popmusic #balkans #balkan
8. When they went epic, they WENT epic
Besides Deen’s disco craze, Bosnia has given us plenty of epic moments to live for when re-watching Eurovision. May I remind you of a certain someone named Laka? A laundry basket, backing vocals knitting while wearing wedding dresses, a clothes line, which ended up spelling the word “Love”, his little sister dressed as some sort of an anime doll (who jumped up and down on stage and threw a bouquet to the audience), and Laka himself. This cabaret of crazy was only missing the live chicken which he was forbidden to bring on stage. Such epicness is hard to top. Also: Regina and “Bistro Voda” was so freaking powerful in every sense. The vocals, the stage presence, the flag, Davor’s piercing blue eyes…yikes. And of course, who can forget Dino Merlin and his band of hipster cutesies, reminding us that no matter what, we will always be remembered by our loved ones? Ooooh sito! And the epicness of course brings us to…
Bosnia’s best result came in Athens 2006, when the band Hari Mata Hari gave all of Europe the most serious case of the goosebumps by confessing their undying yet forbidden love to a girl named Lejla. The song was composed by Zejlko Joksimovic, and secured his status as the one and only king of the Balkan ballad. Everything worked beautifully on stage, with simple lighting, everyone dressed in white, and the lead singer Hajrudin (Hari) Varesanovic carrying the song effortlessly. Europe was in awe and rewarded Bosnia and Herzegovina with a respectable 3rd place, right after the soon-to-be winner Dima Bilan and the monsters from Finland. Despite not winning, “Lejla” has become one of Eurovision’s greatest evergreens, and still today you can hear eager fans chant the words: “Golube, moj golube”….and the goosebumps never stop coming. Classic.
6. They were not afraid to use the same talents more than once
We’ve already spoken about Deen and Dino Merlin, but they weren’t the only artists Bosnia and Herzegovina decided to send more than once. In 1994 the country entered with the beautiful duet “Ostanij krej mene” performed by Alma Cardzic and Dejan Lazarevic. Alma was back to Dublin three years later, now as a solo artist, with the cheeky pop number “Goodbye”. And the singer Maya Sar accompanied Dino Merlin in his second appearance in Dusseldorf where she gleefully played the piano and was rewarded the following year by representing her country in Baku, with the ballad “Korake ti znam” — Bosnia’s last entry before the four-year hiatus which briefly ended in 2016. So Bosnia and Herzegovina not only loves their veteran singers, they embrace them and we all love a familiar face, especially when they’re from the Balkans.
5. Marcel Bezancon, y’all
Despite never winning the Eurovision Song Contest (so far), Bosnia and Herzegovina have still made their mark on the contest by snatching the prestigious Marcel Bezancon awards for composing on two separate occasions. First in 2006 with “Lejla” and again in 2009 with “Bistro Voda”. Since the beginning of the Marcel Benzacon composing award section in 2004, only Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sweden have managed to win the award twice. That’s nothing short of impressive. And just as a little icing on the cake, Hari Mata Hari also came second in ESC Radio’s 2006 “Best band” awards, with only Lordi ahead with a little less than 2% more of the vote.
4. They never had an actual “bad” result
In the 90’s, with so many new countries entering the contest, the EBU had to make a change in order to make room for all the newcomers. We won’t go into all the detail, but the fact is that Bosnia and Herzegovina has only stayed at home twice since their debut in 1993 — first in 1998 and again in 2000 — with the latter being because of below average results in the previous five years, despite coming in 7th place in 1999. And since the introduction of the semi-finals, Bosnia and Herzegovina has failed to qualify on only one occasion. So all in all, their score in Eurovision has been pretty solid, with an impressive five top 10 placings under their belt and an equal five top 15 placings throughout their participation history. Their only grim result was in 1996 when Amila Glamocak came second to last in Oslo with her ballad “Za nasu ljubav”. So technically Bosnia has mainly stayed on the “left” side of the scoreboard since 1993.
3. They never followed the “trends”
Every year Eurovision has that one small, specific trend. For example, in 2005, after Ruslana’s victory, there was a landslide of entries that relied on heavy drums, dancing and a strong ethnic beat. Preferably with a little water or fire added into the mix. But not Bosnia. They showed up with a solid 80’s themed party number. In 2007, when many countries were flirting with the metal genre, because of the Lordi element, Bosnia travelled down the Balkan Ballad road again, and despite being overshadowed by Marija Serifovic’s winning song, they received a respectable score and came 11th in the contest (which, by the way, many of us consider to be the ultimate blood bath contest due to the high number of competing countries and only one semi-final). The following year, there was a sea of ballads being entered, and Bosnia decided to go with the fun and quirky sibling duo of Laka and Mirela, who captured the hearts of Europe with their over-the-top and energetic performance of “Pokusaj”. Only a few examples, but they show that Bosnia and Herzegovina has always played by their own rules.
2. They always stood out
Speaking of following their own rules. Bosnia and Herzegovina always had their own identity in the contest and they stood out for it. It doesn’t matter if you consider their entries mediocre or amazing, you always remembered the Bosnian entry, no matter what. For example, Nino Prses’ “Hano” may not have been an in-your-face song, but it was memorable nonetheless due to Nino’s extremely laid-back but strong stage presence and his uncanny resemblance to Ali G. Come to think of it, Bosnia more or less relied on the performance and charisma of the singer him/herself, rather than some huge and expensive extravaganza around the song, which only would have taken attention away from the performer. So one might say that Bosnia and Herzegovina has shied away from being a crowd pleaser. Which can only lead us to…
1. They literally risked their lives to debut at Eurovision
In 1993, the Bosnian war was at its peak, and the world definitely knew about the tragedy unfolding in the region. Estimates vary, but more than 100,000 people are thought to have died. Mass rape, fear and death were an everyday reality. Perhaps the most notorious manifestation of the war’s horror was the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The UN estimates that between 7,000 and 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered. Sarajevo — the Bosnian capital — resists in a valley surrounded by mountains. Snipers took positions at the top, including at the former Olympic bobsled course, and gunned Bosniaks down every day.
Yet the country decided to enter the Eurovision Song Contest as an independent nation for the very first time. The road from Sarajevo to Millstreet was far from being open and wide. The band Fazla, named after their lead singer Muhamed Fazlagic, performed the song “Sva bol svijeta” or “All the pain in the world” — a story about a soldier who is writing to his beloved, telling her that he will not surrender, he will fight until the end no matter what, because all the world’s pain is in Bosnia and he is not afraid to defy it.
The lyrics perfectly described the circumstances that the band members were facing each day in Sarajevo for they were all members of the Bosnian government defence forces or ARBiH, who fought to protect the city from the Serbian army. In order to reach to Ireland, the group, along with many others, had to sneak out of the city in the dead of night, to avoid the snipers, and were in fact forced to retreat the first time, because of an open fire aimed at them, which claimed many lives. They were luckier the second time around and managed to reach Croatia and from there make it all the way to Millstreet.
Fazla was determined to make the world know what was really going on in Bosnia, and did so through this gut wrenching and powerful song. When asked what their next step would be after the contest, the answer was easy: “We will go back home and fight.” So whilst other countries made their first debut in the contest easily and without hassle, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s debut artist actually put their lives at risk in order to make Europe and the rest of the world listen. Regardless of what was considered “suitable” in the contest.
So there we have it. 10 reasons why we miss Bosnia and Herzegovina at Eurovision so dearly. Are there any other reasons we left out? What is the main reason you miss them? Please sound off in the comment section below.