Thursday, March 26, 2009


(goober in pic may have had too many Ozujsko pivos!)

Last summer me and my wife had the luxury to be able to take to Europe like a 1st grader with a sharpie! And one of the most fascinating lands we came across was Croatia! I would have never expected such a vast landscape and beautiful coastline from such an area that was war-torn so recently. And although, it has been 10+ years since their war I was stunned by how developed everything was and still how cheap everything was at the same time. You must go there before the hoards of American tourists figure it out(which will be soon!)

While in Dubrovnik, I caught the Croatia Records 25th Anniversary special on television. This was more or less a showcase of the labels new artists performing songs by the artists of the past. Some of them were terrible, really alot of them were terrible but then the band Azra popped up!

I was just about to say how I thought they sounded like a Croatia version of the Clash when a pic of the Clash appeared on the screen and I could only assume that they were talking about the influence that the Clash had on them!

Azra was formed in 1977 by its frontman Branimir "Johnny" Štulić. He was (and is) a kind of urban legend; he would show up in different places of the city, singing with his guitar - that is what made him famous before Azra even recorded an album. Other two members were Mišo Hrnjak (bass) and Boris Leiner (drums). They named the Band after a verse "Ja se zovem El Muhamed/Iz plemena starih Azra/Što za ljubav život gube/I umiru kada ljube!" (trans. "My name is El Muhamed/From the tribe of the old Azra/That lose their lives for love/And die when they kiss!") from a sevdalinka "Kraj tanahna šadrvana" ("Azra" here being a reference to a shortened versione of "Azera" or "Azeris", rather than a popular Bosnian name "Azra", as commonly thought). They are considered to be one of the most influential bands from the former Yugoslav New Wave rock era and the Yugoslav Rock scene in general.

They released their first single in 1979 with songs "Balkan" and "A šta da radim". The first album named "Azra" and published in 1980 achieved commercial success and popularized Azra in former Yugoslavia. Azra recorded its last studio album "Izmedju krajnosti" (Between the extremes) in 1987. In 1988 the band recorded 4LP live album under the name Zadovoljština (Satisfaction), after which Štulić disbanded the band. He is often at lengths with his past as he lives a secluded life and is often the target of reporters seeking an interview, which he is reluctant to give. Štulić recorded three more albums since moving to Houten, Netherlands, where he currently lives. A 2003 rock documentary, Sretno dijete (Lucky Child, the title of a Prljavo kazalište song) depicts Azra as the locus of the rock scene in the former Yugoslavia during the 1980s, along with the influential Bijelo dugme. Even until today, Azra has remained very popular among youth in the countries of former Yugoslavia, unlike many other new wave bands which are now considered, more or less, historical examples.(thanks wikipedia! couldnt have said it better myself)

The "S/T" record is by far my favorite although I will admit I havent gotten too far into their catalog! I would say any of the first 3 would be a good place to start then it up the "Ploče Singles 1979-1982"

Since they are not so well known around the world I havent been able to include any mp3s but below are some fine videos from youtube that demonstrate Azra to the fullest! Enjoy! (The song "Iggy Pop" is also in my player)

(terrible quality but my favorite song, give it a minute if you dont like the intro!)

"Jablan"(a little Television influence, maybe?)

"Balkan" live!

"Uradi Nesto"

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