Bosnia & Herzegovina: Dalal, Deen, Ana & Jala – Ljubav je
In the mid 1990s, a war-torn Bosnia & Herzegovina braved enemy bullets and appalling internal suffering to stand up and be counted on the Eurovision stage. With this in mind, it’s been particularly sad to see them kept out of the contest for the last few years due to something as mundane as funding issues.
Still, with a little help from private sponsors, they’re back in the game for 2016. Now they just have to justify to viewers at home why putting their music on an international stage is a worthwhile investment for a public broadcaster at serious risk of ceasing to exist altogether.
In many respects,’Ljubav je‘ is a classic Balkan ballad of the kind we’ve heard many times before at the contest – the pensive verses, the windswept chorus, the dramatic instrumentation courtesy of Croatian cellist Ana Rucner. The former Yugoslav states are justifiably proud of this side of their musical culture, and you can usually anticipate at least one song of this genre in the final in any given year (Adio, Moi Svijet, Nije ljubav stvar etc.)
Then towards the end of the track, the familiar feeling is interrupted by an urgent, aggressive rap break from songwriter Jala. One of the most popular hiphop artists in the region, he represents a different side of Bosnia’s music scene. The mix is be a little disorienting at first – I suspect many fans will wish ‘Ljubav je‘ was a straightforward Balkan ballad, while others will find Jala’s interjection to be the only interesting thing about the track.
Personally, I find the combination of classic and modern influences quite an interesting take on a genre that was in danger of becoming a bit moribund. ‘Ljubav je’ is by no means reinventing the wheel, nor is it the first time rap has been heard on a Balkan entry. But it’s a confident return for Bosnia & Herzegovina, and one that at least nudges the edges of what we’ve come to expect from the former Yugoslav nations while retaining a welcome sense of authenticity.
Even before their leave of absence, Bosnia & Herzegovina was the only former Yugoslav state to retain a 100% success rate in qualifying for the finals. They should have little trouble retaining that title in 2016 – they have a widespread and motivated diaspora, reliable neighbours Croatia and Montenegro voting in their semi final, and a strong, accomplished package that shouldn’t prove too alienating for the juries. As long as they resist the urge to perform this in full astronaut gear, this looks like a lock for the Saturday show, where it probably won’t be among the major contenders, but should fare respectably at the upper end of the mid-table.