SLOVENIA: Od Tod Do Vesolja - Nana Milčinski
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
Breezy jazz pop allow the Slovenian singer to pay tribute to her famous grandfather
The arts can often be a family affair, with there being many famous families of writers, actors, and, of course, musicians. On this very site we’ve covered musical dynasties such as the Jobartehs of The Gambia and the Diabatés of Mali, as well as the thousand-year line of talking drum chiefs in Mohammed Alidu’s family and the 600-year qawwali dynasty of which Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a part. Though perhaps not as long in the tooth as some of these other musical families, Nana Milčinski nonetheless is part of such a tradition. On the 2014 album Od Tod Do Vesolja (which translates into English as From Here to Space) Milčinski proves herself to be a good singer with an ear for a catchy tune, but dig a bit deeper and we get to understand the motivations behind the album. Each song is an original arrangement of the poetry of Slovenian satirist, humourist and occasional chansonnier Frane Milčinski, best known by his pen name Ježek, who was her grandfather. The second in a trilogy of albums dedicated to Ježek’s work, the album itself was released 100 years after the birth of Ježek, and according to Milčinski’s website, it was part of an attempt to revive in the Slovenian public consciousness the work of her grandfather through a new medium. Though I am unable to assess the quality of the poems due to a lack of readily available English translations, the songs themselves are rather lovely, and I’m sure Milčinski has done her grandfather proud.
“It’s fun and light, with some gorgeous instrumentations around the entertaining vocal performance.”
On Od Tod Do Vesolja, Milčinski eschews the chanson of her grandfather, and instead opts to perform most of the songs in a jazz pop style, which works rather nicely. Milčinski has a voice suited to that kind of genre, as it has the ability to be both energetic on the faster-paced songs, and more enigmatic and sultrier on the slower ones. The first song on the album Bo Pomiad Se Kdaj Povej is a good example of the latter, as it has an almost gospel due to the use of the choir in the background feel to it at points, yet it remains jazzy. The second song, Mala Marioneta, is a good example of the former, as its lounge bar piano and snappy drums give the songs a charmingly frivolous and light-hearted feel, which Milčinski matches with a lighter vocal performance. The album continues in that vein for the fun reggae-inflected number Party Kot Za Sodni Dan, before going into perhaps my favourite song on the album Poletne Impresije, which has an impressive bass opening riff as well as a catchy chorus. The album continues like this, dancing from one mode to the other and back again in an eminently listenable fashion.
While Od Tod Do Vesolja may not be the most memorable album I’ve ever heard, returning to it for this review was a pleasure. It’s fun and light, with some gorgeous instrumentations around the entertaining vocal performance. There are a few songs I do not enjoy as much, namely Beli Kurir, which is just a tad too ponderous for my taste, but at a brief 46 minutes, the album does not overstay its welcome. It does not reinvent the wheel, but equally, it does not have to. It is simply an entertaining set of songs that are easy listening whether it’s on in the background or something you’re listening to closely. Furthermore, knowing about the album’s context and the history of Milčinski’s family and her grandfather’s contribution to Slovenian popular culture makes the album more interesting as it offers an insight into the cultural history of Slovenia. However, even without knowing this, the album has merit and is worth a listen, mainly due to the talent that Nana Milčinski displays when singing and interpreting the poems.