Aleksandar ‘Sanja’ Ilić (born in Belgrade, March 27, 1951) was a Serbian composer and architect. When he was 12 or 13, he wrote music based on a text by Dusko Radović performed by Dragan Laković. When he was 16, he sent his composition “Pesnik mira”, to Jugovizija, the national final for the Eurovision Song Contest. The song was sung by Lola Novaković.
As a young man, he performed in the group Vragolani, and then in the group San. In the seventies of the 20th century, he composed music for the anthem of the Yugoslav national soccer team. Ilić graduated from the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade in 1975. In 1976, he participated in Jugovizija again, the song “Bye, bye, bye” was performed by Bisera Veletanlić.
Ilić’ song “Halo, halo” performed by the group Aska, represented Yugoslavia at the 1982 Eurovision Song Contest. His song “Princeza”, performed by Sladjana Milosević and Dado Topić, was a candidate in Jugovizija 1984.
The idea for creating the group Sanja Ilić & BALKANIKA certainly came from Sanja Ilić. He wanted to start thinking about some completely new music at a time when he thought that the musical milieu from the end of the nineties no longer suited him. He searched and inquired about young and talented musicians who play strange and already forgotten instruments and he found them. Kaval, džumbuš, tapan, darbuke, saz, ut, gadulka appear in the music of Balkanika. The first album was mostly made by Sanja in the home studio with the whistles of bombs in 1999. Sanja named it “Balkan 2000”. The album soon became the best-selling album of the country. Before the end of 1999, a decision was made by Serbian broadcaster RTS to do the first big television show after the bombing, with complete material from the album Balkan 2000. All the performers from the album participated in the show.
Officially, the first concert of Balknika was held on June 26, 2000 at the Lent Festival in Maribor, Slovenia. That concert was probably a turning point in Sanja’s decision for the group to embark on a concert career.
In 2001, Balkanika performed in Shanghai for the Shanghai International Art Festival. The concerts were preceded by promotions on Shanghai’s main television.
In 2002, they went on a tour throughout Mexico. When coming back to Serbia, all the materials were arranged to a show called “Balkanika in …”. In 2005, Balkanika performed in Pakistan and in 2008 in Egypt with the mixed choir of the Cairo Opera.
Balkanika gave more than 500 concerts on all continents. The style of Balkanika has not changed since 2000. The Balkans have always been the inspiration, but the approach to each new song has been enriched with new, modern sounds offered by new technologies. In 2006, a second album called “Balkan Concept” was released. The third album, “Ceeepaj” came in 20009.
With the arrival of the famous musician Boris Krstajić in 2014, he made a sudden turn at the head of the BALKANIKA production team. A complete album in English called “Stand Up” was made. The orchestra is joined by a young but strong and very talented rhythm section and the excellent singer Mladen Lukić, who proved his qualities in X Factor. Three excellent female vocalists remained in the group, Nevena Paripović, Danica Krstić andMarija Paripović, who with their strong and solid ethno voices give a new dimension to the pop rock concept of the “new” Balkanika.
After the songs for the album “Stand Up” were finished, the translations into Serbian started. One of the first translations was made for the song “Don’t cry”, which in Serbian translation is called “Za kraj”.
In 2018, Balkanika won Beovizija and went to Lisbon for the Eurovision Song Contest as the Serbian representatives. In the grand final, they reached the 19th place. Also in 2018, the group received the first audience award and the first prize of the expert jury at the Ohrid Troubadours International Music Festival 2018.
At the first international festival MAC Music Awards Ceremony held in January 2019 in the Belgrade Arena, the group received, probably the most prestigious music award in the region as the best ethno group, again with the song “Nova deca”.
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