As Europe looks forward to sitting down en masse to cheer and jeer at what our neighbours consider the best their nation can offer in terms of music, Wild Rooster was granted an audience with Serbia’s hopeful Nina to discuss preparations for the big event.
“Rehearsals and everything that goes along with preparing for the event are going well and on schedule,’ said Nina. “Everything is on time and I am totally relaxed right now. There is no pressure around me and the atmosphere is fantastic. I don’t have anything on my mind except to sing the best I can.”
Nina – real name Danica Radojicic – was born in 1989 in Belgrade. She was a child star in Serbia, winning first prize three times in Zlatna Sirena, as well as coming first for composition at the prestigious Fedemus competition.
Her song, Čaroban (English: Magical) romped home with more than a massive majority of the public vote in Serbia’s televised Eurovision election and the nation is hoping that such success can be replicated at the Eurovision Song Contest Final on Saturday 14 May.
First, though, she must win enough votes from the public at the first semi-final in Düsseldorf on Tuesday 10 May.
“Well, I am definitely focusing on passing into the Final and that is my biggest aim right now,’ Nina told W!LD RooSTeR. “At the same time I am not under any great pressure as I know that the song is a good one. I am relaxed and at the same time sure that I will l give my best to perform song in the best way.
As a performer with a string of performances and awards under her belt, it’s no surprise that Nina isn’t daunted by performing to such a large TV audience – let alone the 54,400 cheering fans in the Fortuna Düsseldorf arena.
The hopes of Serbia are resting on Nina to repeat the success of Marija Serifovic, who won Eurovision in 2007 – the first time the country entered as Serbia.
“It is big honour for me to be representing my country,’ said Nina. “I am very, very proud to be the representative of my country in such an important musical event. But when I watched Marija win in 2007 I definitely did not have any idea or thoughts about entering. Everything that has happened to me this year has been like a dream. A very good dream.”
So, has Nina received any wise words of advice from Marija Serifovic or last year’s Serbian entrant Milan Stankovic? “We’ve been so busy that I haven’t had opportunity to talk a lot with them,’ she said. “But I believe that they will be crossing their fingers for me.”
Nina’s swinging sixties inspired performance is generating increasing favour on Eurovision chat rooms, rising above the morass of mediocre Euro histrionics and try-too-hard dreamers. As the overall performance prompts comparisons ranging from Duffy and Petula Clark to Burt Bacharach’s long line of eminent songstresses, Nina is keen to confirm that the sixties vibe is more than a gimmick.
“I really like sixties,’ she said. “I think that it was a happy and cheerful period in history and very productive in the music industry as well. I really like this kind of music and, yes, the sixties period is definitely to my taste. Duffy is one of my current favourite singers.”
With its colourful pop performance, Nina is a breath of fresh air in the line-up for Eurovision 2011, showing a vivacious side to the Balkan temperament, recalling last’ years memorable performance by Milan Stankovic. “It represents one part of Serbia, for sure,’ said Nina. “I think that my song and performance is something that represents young people in my country.
Such pop leanings are reinforced by Nina naming Abba as her Eurovision favourites. She then rather unsurprisingly adds “and all other representatives of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro and Serbia as well”. A big tick in the patriotic box.
Although both Serbian and English versions of the song are available online, Nina is quick to confirm that she will be performing the song in Serbian at Eurovision, rather than making a decision to appeal to maximum voters – as has been the case for many in the recent past.
“I will definitely sing in Serbian, without question,’ she said. “But that is not made because of any tactics to play to the voters. The song sounds good in Serbian and in that form it represents my country better. I strongly believe that people will like the song and that they will vote for me and for my country.”
Nina is already a name at home, having achieved success fronting her intriguingly named band Legal Sex Department. “There isn’t really any special story behind that name,’ she said. “We just hoped that it would be interesting for people. It seems to have had that effect.
“We are good band and have a lot of success on the clubbing scene in Belgrade. I would like to continue to work with them after the Eurovision Song Contest. Singing is something I enjoy and love at the same time, so I would like to continue my work in that area, maybe with Kristina Kovac, who wrote Čaroban,’ she said.
“But first I want to finish my faculty for Pharmacy. That is the most important for me right now – after Eurovision, of course.”
This year’s Eurovision has the feel of a members club, with entries from returning winners Lena (Germany) and Dana International (Israel) plus previous entrants Dino Merlin (Bosnia), Zdob Şi Zdub (Moldova) & Gunnar Ólafsson (Iceland).
“It is interesting phenomena, so many returning singers,’ said Nina. “But I think that Eurovision is something special for many countries, so they are sending their best singers. In some ways it feels like joining an exclusive club, but I am not nervous because of that. I think that it is honour to have the opportunity to be a part of it.”
Criticism of dubious voting habits by some countries in Eurovision has long been debated and is one reason for the spread of countries across two semi-finals. It is not something that bothers Nina, who has faith in the quality of the performance on the night. “Obviously I am aware that there is a bit of politics in ESC,’ she said. “But also I think that some things are changing and that people can recognise a good song and they will vote for it.”
So, looking to her neighbours, what does Nina have to say of the entrants from the ex-YU countries? “They have pretty good songs,’ she said, diplomatically. “I wish them all the best.”
Nina recently completed a brief promotional tour to raise her profile among voting nations. Sadly, for Nina, this tour did not take her back to the country she visited in her teens to compete in a music contest. “England was fantastic,’ she said. “I have very good memories of England and I would love to return. It was one of my biggest experiences before Eurovision.”
Does that love of England stretch to appreciation of the UK’s Eurovision entry from re-formed boy band Blue? “Yes, it is a good song, definitely,’ she said. “I used to listen to the band, Blue. I wish them all the best this year.”
And one final word from Nina to voters and, in particular, the Serbian diaspora: “It all depends on you. Join in and enjoy. Let’s make magic together!”