Old pop festivals: Zagreb '69

t started as curiosity and developed into real hobby, where with utmost attention and even affection, I went like Alice in the rabbit hole head down into research of old, scratched recordings from the music archives - anything that was released during 1960s and 1970s that I could get my hands on, I would carefully listen, no matter what genre (from traditional folk to rock and everything in between). Of course I knew the most important artists, so called cornerstones but I wanted to understand what else was happening and who else might have lurked in the background neglected and forgotten. I sought this particular recording for the longest time until it eventually became available as download on I tunes and it was my first ever purchase there, wonderfully clear and without any scratches, it made me ridiculously happy. The fact that I lived and worked abroad definitely influenced this nostalgic trip, although I always loved them anyway but its different when one is listening local, home-grown music somewhere in another corner of the world, it feels far more poignant and heartfelt.

When pop festival in Zagreb originally started in 1954. it was planned as a showcase for composers and their new work - singers were just necessary evil and it shows in the fact that back than only two singers performed all the material (Ivo Robić and Rajka Vali). It took some time but eventually organisers took different approach, although for a while new songs were introduced in two versions, just like on San Remo. After certain period in early 1960s with its irresistible cha cha and mambo refrains, Zagreb festival continued to grow and metamorphose, embracing new trends and presenting new talents, while simultaneously celebrating some veterans like composer Alfons Vučer who certainly defined the decade.

Wonderfully eclectic, Zagreb '69 presented combination of tradition and new pop sounds. There was always a tendency to make this festival into something grander and more serious than just entertainment, so the main award went to Vučer (his 30th award) although his bombastic ballad (sung by Vice Vukov) actually sounds nowhere interesting as some newer, more uplifting songs with a beat. For example, debutant from Macedonia Ljupka Dimitrovska came with wonderfully sunny Macedonian song "Go čekav letoto" that is completely delicious slice of 1960s pop. If majority of artists took a careful steps (Miro Ungar, Milan Bačić, Stjepan Jimmy Stanić) with results that were perfunctory but not particularly exciting, there were still some beautiful surprises, like jazzy "Nada" by delightfully anachronic vocal quartet Vokalni kvartet Branka Kende or two ballads that deservedly became classics - Drago Diklić and his own poetic "Igra života" is masterpiece, while "Pahuljica na tvom dlanu" became on of the most unforgettable songs for Ana Štefok. Of note is also "Vlak bez povratka" where former child star Zdenka Vučković (backed by pop band Indexi) attempted to show that she had grown up and she actually sounds pretty good. Definitely worth mentioning is that 1969. is year that chance was given to new, young talents and even if Josipa Lisac and Boba Stefanović had admirable turns, their real showcase is just around the corner. Not included on LP were Gabi Novak, Arsen Dedić and young Ibrica Jusić ("Još uvijek ne znam neke važne stvari") whose songs were released on singles.

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