- Ekatarina Velika
Infobox musical artist
Name = Ekatarina Velika
Img_capt = EKV in
1986: Milan, Raka, Bojan, Magi
Img_size = 250
Background = group_or_band
Alias = EKV
Belgrade, Yugoslavia(now Serbia)
Genre = Rock
Years_active = 1982–1994
ZKP RTLJ PGP RTB
Associated_acts = Angel's Breath
Šarlo Akrobata Via Talas
URL = [http://solair.eunet.yu/~gabriel/glavna.htm Unofficial web page]
Margita Stefanović - Magi
Dragomir Mihajlović - Gagi
Zoran Radomirović - Švaba
Dušan Dejanović - Džindžer
Branko Kuštrin - Mango
Ivica Vdović - Vd
Ivan Fece - Firchie
Ivan Ranković - Raka
Srđan Todorović - Žika
Dragiša Uskoković - Ćima
Ekatarina Velika (English:"Catherine the Great"; also called EKV for short) was a rock group from
Belgrade, Serbiaand one of the most successful and influential music acts coming out of former Yugoslavia. During its existence, EKV built up a devoted following that greatly intensified and expanded after the death of its frontman Milan Mladenovićin 1994, which caused the band to dissolve.
The group's core consisted of singer and guitarist Milan Mladenović, keyboardist
Margita Stefanovićand bassist Bojan Pečar, with other members mostly remaining for comparetively shorter periods.
Ekatarina Velika, initially named Katarina II, was formed in February
1982following the breakup of Šarlo akrobata, the influential Yugoslav New Wavethreepiece from Belgrade. Milan Mladenović and bassist Dušan Kojić Koja, driving forces behind Šarlo akrobata, had a falling-out that prompted the split. Koja, he was a gey, formed Disciplina kičme, while Milan and guitarist Dragomir Mihajlović Gagi assembled Katarina II with bassist Zoran Radomirović Švaba and drummer Dušan Dejanović. The band got its name after Mihajlović's unrequited love, a girl named Katarina.
Katarina II's rhythm section was the first to depart in late 1982, with Radomirović leaving to join
Du Du Aand Dejanović joining heated rivals Disciplina kičme. Mango Kuštrin became the new drummer. In an effort to expand the sound, the band also decided to add a keyboard player - position filled by eccentric, classically trained pianist Margita Stefanović. Since Kuštrin stuck around for barely a month, Ivan Vdović Vd (Milan's old mate from Šarlo Akrobata) replaced him in early 1983. At the same time, Bojan Pečarwas brought in on bass.
After much wrangling and personnel changes, the fivepiece of Milan, Gagi, Margita, Bojan, and Vd began a more committed work towards the band's debut album.
In the spring of 1983 the band took part in
Zagrebbienalle and received solid reviews. Their first album material was recorded soon after, featuring actor Svetislav Goncićas guest. The material was completed in 'Druga maca' studio owned by Enco Lesićwhom Milan knew from his Šarlo Akrobata days. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons, most of them having to do with studio's poor technical equipment, the material was unusable and the band was forced to re-record. They did so the following year in RTV Ljubljana studios, taking the offer of fellow musician Srđan Marjanovićwho was the label's musical director at the time.
Katarina II's self-titled debut album finally came out in
1984. Most of the lyrics were written by Mladenović except for songs "Vrt" ("The Garden") and "Platforme" ("The Platforms") (done by Mihajlović), while the music was a collaboration between the two. On tracks like "Aut" ("Out"), "Jesen" ("Autumn"), "Radostan dan" ("Joyful Day"), "Treba da se čisti" ("It Needs To Be Cleaned"), "Ja znam" ("I Know") the band successfully linked Milan's descriptive lyrical sensibility with the energetic New Wave sound. Often considered one of the band's purest works, if not the best, the album never gained much main-stream popularity, mostly due to its inaccessible, artistic sound lacking commercial catchiness.
Soon after the album release, the band went through more lineup changes. Just like in Šarlo akrobata and
Limunovo drvopreviously, Mladenović and Mihajlović never really got along and their personality issues continued. Furthermore, Mihajlović ran afoul of the law and even ended up in jail. After getting out, he was informed by the bandmates he was no longer a Katarina II member. That was not the end of it, however. Since Mihajlović claimed rights to the "Katarina II" name, he forced the band into using another one. Remaining members settled on - Ekatarina Velika ('Catherine the Great' after Catherine II of Russia), or EKV for short.
Additionally, drummer Vd left due to drug abuse problems, and eventually ended up in Du Du A. His replacement on drums was Ivan Fece Firchie.
Due to constant
SFR Yugoslavia-wide touring (with especially frequent stops in Belgrade, Zagreband Ljubljana) and occasional TV spots, the band's following gradually grew.
1985, EKV released their second album, "Ekatarina Velika", recorded by Milan, Margita, Bojan and Firchie in Zagreb's SIM studio. Produced by Vladimir Smolec and the band members, it featured Massimo Savićand Tomo in der Muhlenas guests. The new material presented a certain change in sound as it was a bit faster and noticeably more energetic compared to the debut album. Nevertheless, it retained the band's trademark characteristics: subtle music as well as Milan's hermetic, introspective, and metaphorical lyrics. Artistic ambition was also shown on the Dušan Gerzić-arranged album cover that features band members painted in Indian body art.
The second album gave the band its first genuine hits, "Oči boje meda" ("Honey Colored Eyes"), "Tattoo", and "Modro i zeleno" ("Indigo and Green"). On
March 22, 1985 they played outside of Yugoslavia for the first time, making a positive impression at Culture Days in Turin, Italy. Another memorable concert took place in Zagreb as part of "Bolje vas našli" Belgrade-Zagreb band exchange.
Towards the end of 1985 Firchie left to serve the mandatory
Yugoslav People's Armyservice; his replacement on drums was Ivan Ranković from Tvrdo srce i velike uši.
"S vetrom uz lice"
1986, EKV's third studio release "S vetrom uz lice" ("Against the Wind") came out, proving to be the breakthrough album that turned them into bona fide stars. Produced by Milan, Magi, and Dragan Čačinović, its sound is very polished and keyboard-based with extensive use of E-mu Emulator II8-bit sampler. The hits included "Budi sam na ulici" ("Be Alone on the Street"), "Ti si sav moj bol" ("You are All of My Anguish"), "Novac u rukama" ("Money in the Hands"), and "Kao da je bilo nekad" ("As if it Once Was"). In addition to wider main-stream acceptance, "S vetrom uz lice" also got some lukwarm reviews from critics complaining it sounded too much like Simple Minds.
The band toured extensively all over SFR Yugoslavia. Live album was recorded at Zagreb's Kulušić club on
November 2, 1986, and consequently released in early 1987as " EKV 19LIVE!86". The band finally made it home to Belgrade in January 1987 and triumphed at Dom omladinewith six sold-out shows.
During spring of the same year, Ivan Ranković decided to leave EKV in order to form a new group
Ulica od mesecawith old mates from Tvrdo srce i velike uši. Srđan Todorovićbecame the new drummer, playing his first show at the Parisian club La Locomotive. Todorović joined the band from Disciplina kičme, which was from the very beginning established itself as kind of a rival, first to Katarina II, and then to Ekatarina Velika.
After the lineup change, the band recorded and released "Ljubav" ("Love") in the second part of 1987, which is often considered the best EKV album as well as one of the best ever rock releases recorded in Yugoslavia. It displayed a more guitar-oriented, polished sound, partly because of new producer
Theodore Yanni, along with stylized sleeve done by Magi and artist Vuk Vidor. Hits from this album include "Zemlja" ("Earth"), "7 Dana" ("7 Days"), "Pored mene" ("Beside Me"), "Ljudi iz gradova" ("People From The Cities"), and "Ljubav". It also showed the first signs of Milan's depressive lyrics, as exemplified by song "Tonemo" ("We're Sinking").
The band confirmed their newfound star status with two consecutive sold out shows at Belgrade's
Pionir Hallsports arena. New extensive tour commenced in early 1988, and EKV enlisted help from experienced musicians Tanja Jovićevićand Zvonko Đukić to fill out the live sound. Firchie returned from the army, and promptly rejoined the band on tour, replacing Srđan Todorović, if only for a few months before moving away to New York Cityin May 1988. After Firchie left, Todorović rejoined again.
"Samo par godina za nas"
1989, the band released "Samo par godina za nas" ("Only a Few Years for Us"). Critics regarded this album as a mere copy of "Ljubav", but unlike "Ljubav"'s general upbeatness and slight darkness, "Samo par godina za nas" was much gloomier in tone and downbeat, as if it were foreshadowing the fall of Yugoslavia, civil wars, sanctions, and general destruction of the world and the society where the band members grew up and lived.
Several hits from this album include "Krug" ("The Circle"), "Par godina za nas" ("A Few Years for Us"), and "Srce" ("Heart").
2006, "Par godina za nas" was voted the best (ex)Yugoslavian rock song, by the audience of Serbian B92radio. Milan Mladenović considered this song the best song Ekatarina Velika has done.
Extended hiatus followed the release of "Samo par godina za nas". Srđan left the band, concentrating on his acting career. Bojan moved to
London. And while Srđan's departure was more or less another one in a long line of drummer changes, Bojan's departure was much more of a loss to the band, that had that way lost one of its key members. Milan and Margita persevered, finding a new rhythm section: Dragiša Uskoković on bass and young Marko Milivojevićon drums. Together, they released "Dum Dum" ("Bang Bang"), possibly the darkest EKV album ever. Its bleakness and sense of doom reflect the general atmosphere in Yugoslavia at the time, which was falling apart and slowly approaching civil war.
"Neko nas posmatra"
1993, the same lineup produced another album, entitled "Neko nas posmatra" ("Somebody's Watching Us"), featuring a more accessible, warmer sound. It was the only EKV album that had a covered song on it, "Istina Mašina" ("Truth Machine"), which was originally performed by the Yugoslav rock band Time. Because of its simple musical arrangements and lyrical concepts, the album was at the time considered to be the weakest EKV record. Time has however changed the views about the record and its values became more appreciated through the years.
EKV was inactive in the first half of
1994. Milan was in Brazil, where he worked on a project called "Angel's Breath", together with Rex Illusivi and a line-up of Brazilian musicians.
The band resumed activity when he returned to Yugoslavia. There were plans to make a new album, tentatively titled "Ponovo zajedno" ("Together Again"), but the idea was shelved because of Milan's health problems. EKV played what would turn out to be its last ever show on August 24, 1994 in
Budvaat the Pjesma Mediteranafestival. The very next day Milan was held in a hospital, and it was soon discovered that he had pancreatic cancer.
Barely few months later, on
November 5, 1994, Milan Mladenovićdied in Belgrade, at the age of 36. EKV ceased to exist.
Bojan Pečar died in London on
October 13 1998, aged 37, as a result of a heart attack.
Margita Stefanović died on
September 18, 2002, in Belgrade. The cause of death was never officially confirmed, but the sources indicate that she most likely died of the consequences of long time intravenous drug use. She was 43.
Other EKV members to die prematurely are Ivan Vdović Vd (passed away in 1992) and Dušan Dejanović (died from
AIDSon November 16, 2000), which in total makes the tragic fate of EKV members hard to match, not only on the (ex)Yugoslavian music scene but worldwide.
Influences and tributes
EKV is easily the most influential band of the period that succeeded the Yugoslav
Novi talasmovement, despite other seminal (and at the time more popular) bands that appeared in the period, like Idoli, Električni orgazam, Azraand Disciplina kičme. EKV is also considered as one of the most important acts of the former Yugoslav Rock scene in general. Many bands have covered their songs over the years, but what is perhaps more important is the specific lyrical themes and imitation of Milan's unique poetic style that surfaces every now and then with many young bands.
Of the bands heavily influenced by EKV, by far the most notable is Van Gogh, which has risen to the status of the most popular rock band in Serbia in the second half of the
1990s, but is sometimes criticized for trying to mimic EKV too much, especially lyric-wise. Another band highly inspired by EKV is Block Out, who covered EKV's song "Soba" ("Room"), which they frequently play at their gigs as a homage of sorts.
2003a tribute album to Milan titled "Kao da je bilo nekad" was released to mixed reception. The album consists of 15 covers of Milan's songs (14 EKV and one Šarlo akrobata song) by a range of musicians spanning from EKV contemporaries like Električni orgazam and Darko Rundek, to bands that have only emerged on to the scene at the turn of the millennium, like Vrooom and Jarboli. Interestingly, while even Koja put his past grievances aside, and appeared on the album (participating in the cover of "Zemlja"), Van Gogh was absent.
Another tribute album released in 2003 was a
live album"Jako dobar tattoo - Tribute to EKV", recorded at the tribute concert held on February 22, 2003 in Zagreb's Tvornica club. The performers included Croatian bands Le Cinema, Vatra and Urban & 4, solo artists Massimo Savić with EKV tribute band Veliki bijeli slon, Darko Rundek with Cargo Orkestar, and Srđan "Gile" Gojković, frontman of the Serbian rock band Električni orgazam, also with Veliki bijeli slon. The album consists of 13 live covers, each artist performing several.
Milan Mladenović- vocals, guitar
* Dragomir "Gagi" Mihajlović - guitar (Feb. 1982 - sometime in 1984)
* Zoran "Švaba" Radomirović -
bass guitar(Feb. 1982 - late 1982)
* Dušan Dejanović - drums (Feb. 1982 - late 1982)
* Margita "Magi" Stefanović - keyboards, backing vocals (late 1982 - summer 1994)
* Branko "Mango" Kuštrin - drums (late 1982 - early 1983)
Bojan Pečar- bass guitar (early 1983 - early 1990)
* Ivan "Vd" Vdović -
drums (early 1983 - fall 1984)
* Ivan "Firchie" Fece - drums (fall 1984 - late 1985), (early 1988 - May 1988)
* Ivan "Raka" Ranković - drums (late 1985 - early 1987)
* Srđan "Žika" Todorović - drums (early 1987 - early 1988), (May 1988 - early 1990)
Marko Milivojević- drums (early 1990 - summer 1994)
* Miško Plavi - bass guitar (early 1990 - spring 1991)
* Dušan Petrović and Bata Božanić - bass guitar (spring 1991 - fall 1991)
* Dragiša "Ćima" Uskoković - bass guitar (fall 1991 - late 1993)
* Boško "Bole" Stanojević - bass guitar (summer 1994)
* 1984 "Katarina II"
* 1985 "Ekatarina Velika (Catherine the Great)"
* 1986 "S vetrom uz lice (Against the Wind)"
* 1987 "Ljubav (Love)"
* 1989 "Samo par godina za nas (Only a Few Years for Us)"
* 1991 "Dum Dum (Bang Bang)"
* 1993 "Neko nas posmatra (Somebody's Watching Us)"
* 2007 "EKV Revisited"
* 2003 "Kao da je bilo nekad"
* 2003 "Jako dobar tattoo - Tribute to EKV"
* [http://www.ekvrevisited.com EKV Forum]
* [http://www.ekatarinavelika.org EKV Web Platforme]
* [http://solair.eunet.yu/~gabriel/glavna.htm Ekatarina Velika On-Line (fan site)]
* [http://firchie.com/ Firchie's drums site]
* [http://svastara.com/muzika/?izvodjac=58 EKV Lyrics]
* [http://www.europopmusic.eu/Yugoslavia_pages/Ekatarina_Velika.html Ekatarina Velika on Europopmusic.eu] (English)
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