Stipica Kalogjera

Born: May 24th, 1934, Belgrade (Yugoslavia, nowadays Serbia)
Nationality: Croatian

Eurovision record
Stipica Kalogjera orchestrated and conducted two successful Croatian Eurovision Song Contest entries in the 1990s: ‘Nostalgija’ (sixth place in 1995) and ‘Neka mi ne svane’ (fifth in 1998). His involvement in the contest does not end there, however, since, three decades earlier, he wrote the arrangements to ‘Jedan dan’ and ‘Pozdrav svijetu’, the Yugoslavian songs in 1968 and 1969 respectively. Moreover, he conducted many entries in the Croatian Eurovision pre-selection between 1999 and 2003, amongst which no fewer than three winning efforts. However, as there has been no orchestra anymore in the international contest from 1999 onwards, Kalogjera was no longer given the opportunity to conduct these songs abroad.

Stjepan ‘Stipica’ Kalogjera is the younger brother of Nikica Kalogjera, another successful composer and arranger with an involvement in the Eurovision Song Contest. Their father, a native Croatian, was a professor of history at the Belgrade High School, who moved to Zagreb in 1947. Stipica started playing the violin when he was six years old. He further mastered this instrument at the Vatroslav Lisinski Music Academy in Zagreb, where he also studied the viola, trumpet, and piano as well as following obligatory courses in theoretical subjects such as solfège, harmony, counterpoint, and music history (1947-’52). Although initially attracted to classical music, Stipica became interested in jazz in the late 1940s: “When I was fourteen or fifteen years old, I listened to the broadcasts of Radio Luxembourg for the first time and I was delighted by the big band of Duke Ellington with Cat Anderson on trumpet! Around the same time, I saw some American films such as ‘Bathing beauty’ and ‘Young man with a horn’, which featured some of the best jazz musicians of the time. It was especially Henry James’ rendition of ‘Hora staccato’ that fascinated me. Therefore, in 1951, I decided to start studying jazz trumpet as well.”

“Just like my brother Nikica”, Stipica Kalogjera continues, “I studied medicine at the University of Zagreb. It is a pure coincidence that the both of us later chose the same career in music. My parents wanted us to progress as doctors and, since studying music and medicine at the same time proved impossible, I left the music school in ’52. As an adolescent, studying music had been no more than a hobby, but later I became so passionate about jazz that I could not leave it alone! Between 1951 and 1957, I played in many different amateur bands and combos, including the Joža Vlahović Big Band. With a group of friends from the jazz scene, we miraculously managed to get permission from Yugoslavian authorities to travel to the West in ’57 and we toured in France and West Germany for a full year, entertaining the soldiers in the American Forces clubs. In serious music, I was the concert master of the Social Orchestra of the Music Institution of Zagreb between ’55 and ‘57, playing the viola.”

During a recording session, early 1970s

Almost immediately upon his return in Yugoslavia after his stay in Western Europe (1958), Kalogjera was invited to join Miljenko Prohaska’s Big Band of Radio Zagreb as a trumpet player. Meanwhile, he continued his medicine studies, finishing his Ph.D. thesis in 1962. He was a practicing doctor at the Sveti Duh hospital in Zagreb for one year only, quitting in 1963 because his extensive work in the music business took up all of his time. Kalogjera: “Already by the late 1950s, it was obvious to me that I could earn pretty good money as a musician; in comparison to other European countries, rewards were not impressive, but life in Yugoslavia was very cheap at that time. After our tour in Western Europe, I was extremely eager to return home to start working professionally. In the Big Band of Radio Zagreb, I was given the opportunity to write my first arrangements. Initially, Nikica, who already had considerable experience as a composer and arranger under his belt, provided me some help, and it was not long before I discovered I truly had the talent to create music! From that moment onwards, I started composing and arranging for various other orchestras and choirs as well, whilst I also worked on music for cartoons and television series.”

Kalogjera was a faithful member of the Big Band of Radio Zagreb (renamed the HRT Big Band), staying with the orchestra for a full forty years (1958-’98). Apart from his work as a trumpeter and arranger, he later also played the keyboards in the ensemble. Between 1990 and 1994, he was the big band’s sound producer as well. As an arranger, he wrote over 5,000 scores for the big band and various other orchestras.

One of the many songs Kalogjera arranged for Mišo Kovač, ‘Više se nećeš vratiti’, participated in the 1969 Vaš Šlager Sezone Song Festival in Sarajevo and became a major hit success in Yugoslavia

From the late 1950s onwards, however, Stipica Kalogjera’s main claim to fame has been his signature under literally thousands of arrangements to pop and light entertainment songs. In 1958, he worked at the Jugoton Studios in Zagreb for the first time, recording with the popular vocal quartet 4M. For 4M, he wrote the arrangements to their successful covers of American pop repertoire (e.g. ‘Diana’, ‘Buona sera’, and ‘The great pretender’). In time, Kalogjera was recognized as one of Yugoslavia’s best orchestrators by virtue of his carefully written, sophisticated arrangements. In the 1960s and 1970s, he wrote the scores to hit records such as ‘Suza za zagorske brege’ for Vice Vukov (1968), ‘Više se nećeš vratiti’ for Mišo Kovač (1969), ‘Sve što znaš o meni’ for Arsen Dedić (1969), ‘Galeb i ja’ for Oliver Dragojević (1975), and ‘Nježne strune mandoline’ for Tereza Kesovija (1975). Kalogjera specialized in penning tasteful string and brass arrangements for ballads in the typical Dalmatian style, which explains why he worked so extensively with some of the prime artists of this genre, such as Arsen Dedić and Ðorđi Peruzović.

Although primarily sought after as an arranger, Stipica Kalogjera made his mark as a songwriter as well. As a composer, he has an impressive string of hits and evergreens to his credit – almost all of them ballads – including ‘Obećaj mi to (Zajedno)’ for Gabi Novak & Marko Novosel (1961), ‘Ti koju ne poznam’ for Igor Jakac (1965), ‘Adrese moje mladosti’ for Gabi Novak (1966), ‘Bit ćeš uvijek moja’ for Arsen Dedić (1969), ‘Tvoje lice’ for Mišo Kovač (1971), ‘Tvojih pola sata’ for Hrvoje Hegedušić (1973), ‘Ponoćno sunce’ for Ðorđi Peruzović (1974), ‘Djeca jednog vijeka’ for Oliver Dragojević (1975), and ‘Sunce djetinjstva’ for Kemal Monteno (1978). Kalogjera’s songs were also recorded by artists such as Krunoslav Slabinac, Duško Lokin, Džo Maračić, Dalibor Brun, Ivica Šerfezi, Lidija Percan, Ibrica Jusić, and Tereza Kesovija.

With Istrian songstress Lidija Percan in the Jugoton Studios in Zagreb, mid-1980s

Stipica Kalogjera participated in numerous song contests in the former Yugoslavia as a songwriter and arranger. His well-known compositions ‘Ti si moja obala’ and ‘Krovovi’, performed by Gabi Novak (1960) and 4M (1962) respectively, participated in the Zagrebfest of Popular Music; the former of these songs won the jury prize. Gabi Novak interpreted another of Kalogjera’s creations, ‘Vino i gitare’, at the 1967 Opatija Festival and was awarded with a first prize by the audience and a second prize by the professional jury. In 1973, Stipica’s wife Maruška Šinković-Kalogjera won the prestigious Split Song Festival with ‘Ća je bilo, tega više ni’, which was composed, arranged, and conducted by her husband; an English version of the song was performed by British jazz vocalist Frank Holder. With the same song, Stipica and Maruška represented Yugoslavia at the Bratislavská Lýra Festival in Czechoslovakia in ’74, obtaining the Silver Lyre (second place).

Gabi Novak interpreted one of Kalogjera’s best-known creations, ‘Vino i gitare’ (1967)

Kalogjera has been involved in every edition of the Split Song Festival since 1962 as an arranger, writing the scores to over one-hundred participating songs, including successful efforts as Oliver Dragojević’s ‘Picaferaj’ (1967), Josipa Lisac’s ‘Kapetane moj’ (1970), Meri Cetinić’s ‘Čet’ri stađuna’ (1979), Jasna Zlokić’s ‘Adio bella’ (1987), and Radojka Šverko’s ‘Još mirišu kušini’ (1990). Apart from his overall victory in 1973, Kalogjera won many other prizes in Split, including more than ten awards for the best arrangement and the jury prize in ’82 for his composition ‘Dobra večer, uzorita’, which was interpreted by Kemal Monteno. In the 1980s, Kalogjera was the musical director of several editions of the song festival in Split. As an arranger and conductor, he also participated in music festivals in Belgrade, Krapina, Skopje, and Pristina.

“Although I never received formal training as a conductor”, Kalogjera states, “I managed to fairly quickly get the hang of how to work with orchestras on recording and performing arrangements. The first time ever I conducted an orchestra was in 1968, but that was in the recording studio; my first stage appearance was at the Split Song Festival of 1970. One of the most important qualities of a conductor in the light entertainment business is to maintain a good contact with the members of the orchestra, making sure each of them is motivated to play at his best. During rehearsals, he has to be able to recognize wrong tones of every instrument in the band. Unfortunately, due to my high age, in 2011 I had to take the decision not to appear anymore as a conductor in the Split Song Festival. Those lengthy rehearsals and three festival evenings have simply become too exhausting for me! That does not mean I will not be involved in the contest anymore, because I will still be writing scores… in 2011 alone, there were twenty-one entries to which I wrote the orchestral arrangement!”

Conducting in the Split Song Festival, 2006

Uniquely, Stipica Kalogjera has managed to successfully do the same work for over fifty years now. From 1980 onwards, his arrangements were not only recorded by the artists with whom he had already worked in previous decades, such as Oliver Dragojević and Kemal Monteno, but by up-and-coming acts as well, including Ivo Pattiera, Jasna Zlokić, Goran Karan, and Danijela Martinović. In his long career, he arranged a staggering 85 hours of music, including some 500 arrangements to songs composed by Zdenko Runjić, approximately 250 by Ðorđe Novković, and 170 by Kemal Monteno. When asked for the secret of such an incredibly long career at the top of Croatia's music world, Kalogjera says: “Work, work, and once again work with a little bit of talent and great experience”. Another factor in his success seems to have been his ability to adapt to important technical developments. Kalogjera: “In the beginning of my career, all studio work was completely live, with all musicians playing simultaneously in one session which was recorded on a 1/4 inch analogue tape recorder. In the 1980s, the 1/2 inch recorder was introduced in the Jugoton Studios. Then came the 16 and 24 track tape recorders and, nowadays, we create all music with computers. I have worked with computers since 1990 – initially, only in studio sessions, but the last ten years at home as well for scores and music sheets. On a personal note, I regret the fact that orchestras have been replaced by playback and computers, but it is a development that cannot be stopped. For studio recordings today, I also work with drum tracks, for example.”

Although his extensive activities as an arranger for popular artists took up most of his time, Kalogjera managed to compose two pieces of musical theatre, which were performed at the Komedija Theatre in Zagreb: ‘O’kaj’ (1974) and ‘Kaj 2 O’ (1980). Especially ‘O’kaj’, a tale about two American cowboys in the Wild West (roles played by Boris Pavlenić and Martin Sagner) who decide to risk their lives for revolution in Mexico, with lyrics by Nino Škrabe, Boris Senker, and Tahir Mujičić, delighted the Croatian audience, being performed on no fewer than 271 occasions.

At the piano, 2009

As for music awards, Stipica Kalogjera received several prizes for his achievements in music. In Belgrade, the 1989 Golden Turntable for best arranger of Yugoslavia was bestowed upon him. Moreover, he won no fewer than four Porin Prizes, the Croatian equivalents of the Grammy Awards: twice for the best production for two albums with Arsen Dedić (‘Tihi obrt’ in 1994 and ‘Ministarstvo’ in 1999) and once for best arrangement to a song recorded by Oliver Dragojević, ‘Cesarica’ (1994); and lastly, in 2010, he received the Porin Lifetime Achievement Award for his entire oeuvre.

Stipica Kalogjera has not thought of retiring yet: “I do still enjoy writing arrangements, whereas I have not given up performing once and for all. The most ambitious project I was involved in the last couple of years without a doubt was the show in September 2010 with Tereza Kesovija, who celebrated her fifty years as a professional singer. For this show, staged in the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall in Zagreb, I wrote twenty-five arrangements for a symphony orchestra, which I conducted on stage. It is great to have the freedom to choose comfortable and interesting projects such as these!”

Stipica Kalogjera in the Eurovision Song Contest
Long before Stipica Kalogjera represented his country Croatia as a conductor in the Eurovision Song Contest in the 1990s, he was involved in the festival as an arranger: he wrote the scores to two Yugoslavian entries, ‘Jedan dan’ (1968) and ‘Pozdrav svijetu’ (1969). The former was interpreted by the very popular group Dubrovački Trubaduri, although Eurovision rules did not allow singing groups at that time and the official credits stated that the entry was performed by Luči Kapurso and Hamo Hajdarhodžić, with three other members forming the backing group. Their song, an interesting mix of folklore and pop did quite well in the contest, finishing seventh, and the single release was a hit in several European countries, amongst which Belgium and the Netherlands. The 1969 effort ‘Pozdrav svijetu’, the lyrics being an endless list of greetings in different languages, was performed by Ivan (Ivica Krajač) & 3M – outside the microcosm of Eurovision better known as vocal quartet 4M, with which Kalogjera had collaborated so extensively around 1960 – and finished thirteenth. Both songs were conducted by Miljenko Prohaska.

Kalogjera explains how he got to write these arrangements: “Of both of these entries I wrote the orchestration at the request of the song’s composer, Ðelo Jusić for ‘Jedan dan’ and Milan Lentić for ‘Pozdrav svijetu’. Mr Jusić became an excellent orchestra arranger later, but at that time he was still quite young and did not have the experience to write for a grand orchestra. In the late 1960s, I was not an established conductor, so there was no question whatsoever that I would conduct these songs in the Eurovision Song Contest finals. Moreover, Miljenko Prohaska was the official conductor of RTV Zagreb (the Croatian broadcaster in former Yugoslavia, BT). It was also he who conducted the recording sessions for these songs.” How does Kalogjera assess the 1968 and 1969 Yugoslavian entries? “As for ‘Jedan dan’, it was a song destined to become a hit success from the very beginning... it has a very characteristic introduction and the melody is simple and memorable. ‘Pozdrav svijetu’, however, was not so attractive. It was intended to be an anthem that would have instant appeal to the audience – at which it failed!”

Apart from his contribution to these two Yugoslavian entries, Kalogjera was involved in many editions of Jugovizija, the Yugoslavian pre-selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, as a composer and arranger. He wrote the scores to ‘Drage misli’ and ‘Jesen na rubu ulice’, with which Gabi Novak attempted to win a ticket to the Eurovision editions of 1961 and 1962 respectively. A couple of years later, he tried his hand at composing a suitable song for Gabi Novak himself, but ‘Prvo pismo’ was not chosen as the winning entry in 1966. Between 1984 and 1990, he arranged and conducted six Jugovizija hopefuls, including one submitted by RTV Pristina (Kosovo) and one by RTV Ljubljana (Slovenia). His protégés Oliver Dragojević’s (with the song ‘Ðeni’, 1988) and Boris Novković (‘Dajana’, 1990) came close to winning the selection programme, both finishing second.

Portrait, early 1990s

The newly independent republic of Croatia participated in the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in 1993 and was reasonably successful in the 1990s, finishing with the first six no fewer than four times. Whilst the nation finished in the bottom half of the scoreboard in ’93 and ’94, it managed to impress the European juries for the first time in 1995 with a wonderful crossover ballad, ‘Nostalgija’, composed by Tonči Huljić. Although the song was officially performed by the group Magazin, in practice, it was a duet of pop singer Danijela Martinović and operatic vocalist Lidija Horvat. A year before, Huljić and Magazin had had a major hit success in Croatia with a similar song, ‘Simpatija’ – of course scored by Stipica Kalogjera. Kalogjera also penned the arrangement to ‘Nostalgija’ and finally got the opportunity to conduct the orchestra in an international Eurovision final, where Croatia came sixth.

“With Mr Huljić, I worked on several projects”, Kalogjera comments, “and I was requested by him to write a suitable orchestration to ‘Nostalgija’, which, to my mind, is an excellent song. At the finals in Dublin, it was very nice to meet my colleagues who conducted for Slovenia and Bosnia, Jože Privšek and Sinan Alimanović. Jože was a good friend of mine and a brilliant jazz musician – surely the best arranger in former Yugoslavia. During rehearsals, there was some discussion with the Irish production team. The studio recording that I made of the song was exactly three minutes; however, the intro was a cadenza, a more or less improvised solo, by a violinist who was on stage with the group and it was impossible to tell beforehand how long his part would take. After the first rehearsal, I was told by the producer that we were over the maximum of three minutes. I was invited over to the control room to check the recording and they allowed me to explain my point of view. They were very understanding and that was the end of the problem! Working with the Irish orchestra itself was quite satisfying, although conducting in a Eurovision Song Contest is a little bit more difficult than otherwise, because you have to focus on three minutes only – something which requires a lot of concentration.”

Croatia’s entry in the 1995 contest, ‘Nostalgija’

The lead singer of Magazin, Danijela Martinović, left the group one year after the Eurovision participation to pursue a solo career. In 1998, she managed to win DORA, the Croatian Eurovision selection programme, with a lush ballad composed by Petar Grašo called ‘Neka mi ne svane’. When Danijela’s song won the selection, Stipica Kalogjera’s help was called upon to make a rerecording of it with a grand orchestra. The original arrangement by Remi Kazinoti had been done with synthesizers and without live instruments. In the international festival final, held in Birmingham (UK), this Croatian entry, still considered by many one of the best Eurovision songs of the 1990s, managed to obtain 131 points and a well-deserved fifth place.

Kalogjera: “From the first rehearsal in Birmingham, I had a good contact with the English orchestra musicians. It was a wonderful orchestra and they did an excellent job on the arrangement. ‘Neka mi ne svane’ is a very good composition and, apart from her good vocals, Danijela’s stage presentation was really attractive, too. Although it was great working with the BBC Radio Orchestra and meeting up with my old friend Alexandar Džambazov, who was the musical director for the Macedonian delegation, my most vivid memory of the contest in Birmingham does not have to do with music at all… one day in the Holiday Inn hotel where we were staying, at about 11.30pm, the fire alarm went off. My wife Maruška and I, who were both in our night dress already, quickly got our clothes on and rushed down the staircase from the eleventh floor onto the street. Amidst all hotel guests gathered on the pavement outside the building, my wife discovered a little girl in a thin blouse who was shivering with cold. She gave her own coat to her. Luckily, the alarm was a false and we could all get back upstairs. When we were back in our room, my wife asked me if I knew who that girl was. She was very surprised to learn that it was nobody else than our singer Danijela. Maruška simply had not recognized her without her make-up!”

Kalogjera conducting ‘Neka mi ne svane’ in the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest

Though the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest was the last festival to date with a live orchestra, Stipica Kalogjera conducted several more Croatian entries… albeit in the pre-selection programme DORA only. In 1999, the first year without live music in the international final, HRT (Croatian TV) decided to introduce an orchestra to DORA. This might seem strange, even more so when one realizes that, in all previous editions of DORA, sing-back – live vocals, but all music on backing track – had been in place. Kalogjera explains: “The broadcaster was forced to introduce an orchestra under pressure of the musicians’ trade union. There was a new law which stipulated that it was not allowed to broadcast any music festival on television without an orchestra of a minimum of twenty members.” HRT, however, did not abide by this rule very strictly, as there was no live music in the 2000 edition of DORA. After three more editions with an orchestra (2001 to 2003), the live band was dropped once and for all in 2004. Kalogjera: “The new regulations were not popular with music festival organizers. For the many regional festivals we have here in Croatia, it was impossible to find the financial resources to keep maintaining such a big orchestra. Because also HRT – not fond of having to pay for twenty musicians either – exerted considerable pressure on the government, the rule was unfortunately dropped in 2004.”

In the editions of 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2003, Stipica Kalogjera was not only involved as a conductor of a considerable part of the entries, but as HRTs music producer as well. He conducted three winning songs: ‘Marija Magdalena’ by Doris Dragović (1999), ‘Strune ljubavi (Strings of my heart)’ by Vanna (2001), and ‘Sasvim sigurna (Everything I want)’ by Vesna Pisarović (2002). In all three cases, the original arrangement had been written by others, upon which Kalogjera wrote transcriptions for the orchestra. In the course of these years, he had to deal with some difficult situations involving the backing tracks: “In 1999, the European Broadcasting Union was on the brink of disqualifying ‘Marija Magdalena’, because there were sampled voices on the backing track. It was the first year without an orchestra and the EBU rules about what was allowed and what was not had not yet been very clearly described. As DORA’s producer, I was the person who decided to give permission to Doris Dragović’s team to include these vocals – and thus nearly responsible for my country being thrown out of the competition! Two years later, there was even more upheaval here in Croatia… the selection programme was won by ‘Strune ljubavi’, a song I conducted. With the live orchestra present, there were strict rules as to the use of a supporting track – it was allowed to only include bass, percussion, and sound effects; all strings and brass had to be played by the orchestra. In my capacity as the show’s producer, however, I had allowed the composer of this particular song, Tonči Huljić, to include the all-important violin solo on the playback track as well. Many other participants were extremely angry about this and thought the entry should be disqualified. I made a big effort to prove that the violin solo was manipulated with effects; it would have been impossible to recreate that sound with a live violin! It was kind of a funny discussion, which was blown up to a huge scandal.” ‘Strune ljubavi’ was not disqualified, however, and represented Croatia in the Eurovision final of 2001.

Stipica Kalogjera conducting Vesna Pisarović to victory in the 2002 edition of DORA, the Croatian Eurovision selection

“Of course, I was very angry when I discovered that it had been decided upon to abolish the orchestra in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1999”, Kalogjera concludes. “I still watch Eurovision, but it has become a disappointing experience… each year, there seem to be more and more scene effects, whilst the music itself has progressively been pushed to the background. Without the orchestra, the programme has lost much of its attraction.”

Other artists on Stipica Kalogjera
So far, it has not been possible to gather memories of other artists who worked with Stipica Kalogjera.

Links & sources
  • Many thanks to Stipica Kalogjera for providing us with his CV and a CD with an overview of his work, as well as for patiently answering our huge list of questions, July 2011.
  • Thanks to Tin Španja for checking the Croatian sleeve notes of the wonderful 2CD with an anthology of Stipica Kalogjera’s work, ‘Gold Collection’ (2010).
  • All pictures courtesy of Stipica Kalogjera.


Songs conducted
1995: Nostalgija
1998: Neka mi ne svane