Zdenka Kovačiček: “Let’s get back to the true values of music.”

Zdenka Kovačiček is Croatian Janis Joplin, known for being one of the greatest jazz, blues, rock, funk and vocalist all across Europe and also an actress. She attended musical high school where she learned to play piano and accordion. Zdenka started her career as a child at the Zagreb Youth Theatre where she sang and danced. In 1957 at the age of 13 together with Nada Žitnik, Zdenka co-founded the duo Hani they participated at the selection of Yugoslavian entry at first Jugovizija back in 1961 with the song “Obečaj mi to” the duo, split in the late 1960s. Zdenka started to perform solo and from that moment on her career started to grow. She performed at clubs with some of the world musicians including Bill Haley, The Kinks and The Ink Spots. A famous voice in the whole Yugoslavia and wider, she participated at many festivals starting from the ’70s in the whole of Europe and she still continues to perform. She released 17 albums and many singles so far while her 18th album is being prepared. Her artistry involves performances in rock opera, creation of a musical and lots of other projects. Zdenka has already participated twice at Dora back in 2001 and 2002 at which with the song “Odavno shvatila sam sve” ended at 4th place.

Hello Zdenka, it is great to see you competing at Dora once again. You participated previously at Dora 2001 with the song “Ja živim svoj san” where you came 12th and in 2002 with the song “Odavno shvatila sam sve” where you were 4th, what inspired you to take part in Dora 2020?
I happily remember my performances at Dora 2001 and 2004 as you said with the great 4th place at the contest. Those were some amazing songs of Marko Tamasović which became hits soon after those performances at Dora (even though some things changed since then) it needed something great to happen. And a miracle happened! Mario Mihaljević, which back in the days conquered Europe with the song “Džuli” (Yugoslavia 1983), suddenly got inspired and he remembered me, even though we haven’t cooperated earlier, called me and asked me if I want to perform the song Love, Love, Love which he wrote just for me. He said that if I don’t accept it the song won’t be offered to anyone else. That surely intrigued me and when I heard the song I felt like the lightning struck me! Immediately I thought that’s the song which guessed my current sensibility (regarding the huge success of the musical “Love Janis”) and the epithet Croatian Janis Joplin, so close to my interpretation in the soul-gospel genre, and a great message of love to the whole world, which is needed to survive this turbulent time. Of course I accepted and the recording has lasted literally a minute. Mario shed a tear when he heard it and we came to the conclusion that some space force brought us to each other at the right moment. Branimir Mihaljević and Hrvoje Grčević created a phenomenal musical base and that’s how the wonderful song which won’t make anyone indifferent, came to life. I think that now is the right moment for us to share a message like that with the rest of the world.

Zdenka Kovačiček – “Odavno shvatila sam sve” (Dora 2002)

You started your career at the age of 13 as part of Duo Hani with Nada back in 1957 and this year you will mark 63. years of the spectacular music career what is the feeling to be on the scene for so long and how did you maintain the quality all those years? What moment of it made you especially proud?
That is a feeling which gives me strength to sing as long as I live and never get enough of it because there will always be a new idea or a new generation will discover a song which we recorded 30-40 years ago and bring it back to life because it was ahead of its time, as it happened with “Frka“; “Elektra”…I am proudest of that. With that fact I fulfilled my experience and the way I see the music as inexhaustible art of new ideas, creativity and cooperation between the musicians which share ideas similar to mine who feel and experience music same as me and could you imagine that the feeling lasts for 60 years!

What is the secret behind your success regarding the fact that you always stayed true to yourself and your beliefs, you built career with all the hard work and talent with your rebellious spirit and without being part of any scandal?
There is no secret, it just proves that my work, creation, exploring was good enough to keep me on top of professional existence at our scene. My audience has never looked for any juicy gossips from my private life, my music was enough because my music is my life. Details regarding my life and everything connected to music will be known from my autobiography which I am currently writing.

They often describe you as “Žena za sva vremena” (Woman of all time) and Croatian Janis Joplin, does that compliment you?
Of course, it compliments me! The song “Žena za sva vremena” is after all addressing all the women and Janice was known as being self-conscious and huge fighter against discrimination in the tough times, leading the generation of the ’60s and ’70s with the message “make love, not war”, live free, against conventionalism and Puritanism. Exactly that message is carried by the song Love, Love, Love!!

Zdenka Kovačiček – “Žena Za Sva Vremena”

Janis Joplin was always your muse so you decided to mark 50 years of your career with a musical “S ljubavlju Dženis” (With love, Janis) which was a great success, can we expect some similar projects in the future?
I am always ready for everything and it all depends of the financial support, from the possibilities. Let’s get reminded that all the projects I realised as an associate of theatre “Komedija” which luckily recognised and accepted my idea. But some of the people are leaving, new rules are changing the politic of theatre and repertoire but I am still hoping for some better times. Maybe the next musical will be inspired by my life!

Zdenka Kovačiček – Summertime (S ljubavlju Janice)

You had a contract with the owner of the studio which later created Boney M, you sung at 75th birthday of MiIkhail Gorbachev, spent time with Brigitte Bardot, what was the most interesting moment of your long career and would you maybe like to share an anecdote with our followers?
As it happens in one turbulent life as it was mine, some things happen for which later on you realise what could you achieve with them but you missed the chance for it. I was never guided by the thirst for glory or money, but the curiosity for something new, I was lead by my own senses and instinct to some new challenges and unexplored worlds, success, came now as the proof that I was on the right track back then which I am very happy about. Isn’t it unusual that I haven’t wished to take photo with the great Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who changed history, the winner of the Nobel peace prize! Who unrestrainedly and with huge interest listened to the mix of Russian songs I performed and awarded me with an applause. That is more than an anecdote, but I rather keep that as my memory than showing off a photography.

How did you react when you heard a cover of your famous song “Frka” performed by nipplepeople a couple of years ago? Do you think that thanks to this release younger audience on the territory of former Yugoslavia had a chance to explore and enjoy your works?
Of course that I was impressed by their remake of my song, some have even rated my performance extraordinary and a couple of million views, for now, shows that the song hit the music taste of the young audience. I was also a discovery for many same as my album “Frka” from 1984 which on the vinyl market got a high price for all the young lovers of vinyl, same as my first album from 1978 released by PGP RTS which is being sold as rerelease by the Austrian PMG as a special edition ahead of its time from the Balkan area.

Zdenka Kovačiček – “Frka” (Video 1988)

Do you watch Eurovision regularly? What is your favourite song and what is your first memory related to the contest?
I follow Eurovision, and I can say there were a lot of great songs, my memory takes me back to the song “Non ho l’eta” by Gigliola Cinquetti in 1964 and Nicole who won Eurovision 1982 with the song “Ein Bisschen Frieden”. That’s where you see my sensibility. Today the performers are trying to win over the audience by some scene gimmicks which are very appealing on television but I still prefer to close my eyes and listen to the song. Sometimes it happens that the contest is won by a minimalistic performance with a good song that is why Eurovision is very unpredictable and tense.

It is often said that you are ahead of your time, is the song “Love, Love, Love”  also ahead of something which could become a trend at Eurovision in the future? Could you reveal us a bit more about it and tell us more about the performance?
Will it become a trend I can’t tell but watching Eurovision in the last couple of years I can say that it is really unpredictable, and it longs for a change. I can repeat that the song hit my sensibility and as my colleague said the song is Janice/Woodstock it gives me all the wideness of the experience from depth of my soul, that I send a message to the world about the need for love and that Eurovision hasn’t seen a song like this so far so my team and I believe in it!

Last year was, successful, marked by your participation at some festivals, new single releases and you worked on your new album, what are your plans for the upcoming year and when can we expect new singles and album release? 
My new record label Dancing Bear gave me wind beneath my wings with the offer to work on my new album right after the big success “Frka” made. I have saved some lyrics of S.Maras from her book “Frka” which we will use together with Danijela Borovnjak. Songs were written by Marko Tomasović. That’s how the new single “Jutarnja Frka” which was performed at Zagreb Festival, the second single “Pozitivan primjerak” which hurdled over Croatian Top Lists made in cooperation with Mirela Priselac- Remi who wrote the lyrics together with Danijela Borovnjak, was called out as the new woman anthem, third single “Adut” is doing well at the radio stations. We are waiting for the release of the duet with Davor Gobac which is recorded it will be a hit and we are slowly finishing the album. The arranger is Hrvoje Grčević, great soloists GreenHouseBlues Band are recording their tracks and we expect for the album to be finished just after Dora 2020. My wish for the name of the album is “Konstatacija jedne mačke” (Ascertainment of a cat). Doesn’t it sound crazy?? That’s me!

Zdenka Kovačiček – “Jutarnja Frka” Official video (the song was performed at Zagreb Festival 2020)

Do you want to share something else or you maybe have a message for followers of escbubble?
I want that all of the viewers of Dora and Eurovision this time close their eyes and experience music as it deserves to be experienced, not visually but through the soul and emotion which it was supposed to be. No matter the result which the song Love, Love, Love achieves I am sure that it will be a global hit, because it has all the predispositions to do so and that it is a right moment for it. Let’s get back to the true values of music. Thank you all, best regards to all of you, Zdenka.

On Saturday 29th of February, Zdenka Kovačiček will perform the song “Love, Love, Love” as 4th act of Dora 2020.

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