Serbia 2018: Get to know Sanja Ilic & Balkanika

Serbia 2018: Get to know Sanja Ilic & Balkanika

The Serbian national broadcaster, RTS, selected this year’s Eurovision representative through the music festival Beovizija 2018, a music event that had last taken place back in 2009. In the  national final, where only entries in Serbian or other official languages of Serbia were allowed, a total of 17 participants competed for the golden ticket to Lisbon. Eventually Sanja Ilic & Balkanika with their entry  Nova Deca won the final by scoring first place both in public and jury voting.

Sanja Ilic

Ο Sanja Ilic was born in Belgrade on March 27 1951. He comes from a family of musicians, as both his father and brother are composers while he is one of most known musicians in the region of ex Yugoslavian countries. He started composing songs at the age of 12 when  Dragan Laković performed one of his songs.

In the age of 16 yo , the young then  Sanja Ilic composes the song Baj baj baj which Bisera Veletanlić performed in the national final of the united then Yugoslavia in 1976, failing however to represent the country as she ended 3rd in the national final. However,  Sanja Ilic will manage to represent the country 6 years later, in Eurovision 1982, as the composer of the song  Halo halo, performed by the three member female group  Aska. The Yugoslavian entry ended in the 14th place out of  a total of 18 participating countries. He will try to represent the country again as a composer , in 1984 , with the song Princeza, but without luck.

Sanja Ilic  apart from being a composer, he had graduated from the Architecture Faculty in the University of Belgrade. He has been a former member in several groups of ex Yugoslavia such as Vragolani and San, while he was the composer of the anthem of the popular Serbian football team of Red Star.


In 1998, Sanja Ilic alongside with other musicians form the music band Balkanika, making their first live performnace in 2000. Since then Balkanika have given several concerts in Serbia and around the world , such as Russia, USA and reached even South Korea. According toSanja Ilic, Balkanika’s objective is to maintain, refresh and modernize the Serbian music tradition that has roots back in the Middle Age and the Byzantium.

Balkanika consists of a total of 11 musicians from which only 6 will appear on the Eurovsion stage due to EBU restrictions. Apart from Sanja Ilic on the keys, on stage will be  Ljubomir Dimitrijević with his flute, Aleksandar Radulović on the percussion, while the song will be delivered by Nevena StamenkovićDanica Krstić and  Mladen Lukić.

Mladen Lukić is 35 years old and member of  Balkanika since 2007. However he started singing in the group only after 2014 and the same time he plays the tromboneand has won several awards in music festivals. Nevena Stamenković although she began her career as a model , she was conquered by her love for Balkan music and joined the group in 2009. Danica Krstić is only 23 years old and was a contestant in the 2015 Serbian National final with her entry  Suze za kraj, which came 2nd behind Bojana Stamenov. Ljubomir Dimitrijević is the older in age member and one of the oldest in the group since 2000.

Nova Deca

Nova Deca (metaphorical meaning of New Kids) is a song that fits Balkanika’s philosophy, as it combines Balkan ethnic music with a modern orchestration. The song is written in Serbian but it has some phrases in Torlakian dialect which is spoken in the Southeastern part of Serbia.Its lyrics express optimism and urge for a better world for the children of tomorrow.

Composers of the song are  Sanja Ilic himself alongside with his wife  Tanja Ilić,  Danica Krstajić and Darko Dimitrov. The last one is a producer from FYROM and has composed some of the country’s ESC entries  (2006, 2013, 2014) and the Albanian entry in 2015 while this year he has contributed to the composition of FYROM’s entry, Lost and found, by Eye Cue.

The Eurovision Story so Far

Serbia participated as an independent state in the contest in 2007, a year which the country was crowned winner with Marija Šerifović and her entry Molitva remains the only country to win on its debut in the contest. (apart from Switzerland which won in the first edition of the contest back in 1956).

The country hosted the contest in 2008 and has a total of 10 participations and one year of absence (2014) It has achieved to qualify 7 times in the final while 3 times it didn’t make it for only one place  (10th in 2009, 11th in 2013 &  2017). Besides her victory Serbia as achieved 3 more time a top 10  placing (6th in 2008, 3rd in 2012, 10th in 2015).

Before its full independence Serbia participated twice as part of the Serbia- Montenegrin Federation (2nd in 2004 and 7th in 2005), while since 1961 until 1992 participated as part of the united then Yugoslavia. Six of these Yugoslavian entries came from the Serbian region. Yugoslavia had won the contest once, in 1989.

Serbia will compete in the 2nd semi final where it will perform in position No 3. Lets remember this year’s Serbian entry:

Angelo D.

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