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Branimir Johnny Štulić - 11 April 1953

Branimir Štulić, was born in Skopje, but the family moved to Zagreb later on. Here he entered the Faculty of Philosophy where he starts singing his own songs and covers  playing the acoustic guitar. Soon he founded his first group, Balkan Sevdah Bend, playing his own songs and Beatles covers. After the group gained some success Štulić changed the name in 1977 in Azra (after a poem by Heinrich Heine). The core line-up featured Štulić - Stublić - Pelajić - Novoselic and Juricic. The latter split the band in an early stage to form the band Film. The band went through some more changes but settled in it's classic form in 1979 with Boris Leiner (ex-member of the group Haustor) on drums and Mišo Hrnjak on bass.

The first single ‘A šta da radim’ was recorded in 1979. Some minor success gave way for a full album released in 1980. The album fell in the middle of the punk-movement and the rudimentary production and urgent lyrics (examples: 'Uradi nešto' and 'Vrijeme odluke') fitted right in. The 1981 follow up double album ‘Sunčana strana ulice’ was already better produced. On it subjects like paranoia (Užas je moja furka, Kurvini sinovi) and pessimism (Između nas, Ne reci mi dvaput) are over present. For a triple live album seven concerts are held at the Zagreb Kulušić venue later that year.

In 1982 they issue another double album. Although this album shows the band in their prime, underneath the tension grows. In 1983 bassist Miso Hrnjak leaves the group to become a Jehovah's Witnesses, and the next two years Štulić and Leiner records albums together from Germany. The addition of a second guitarist, Jurica Pađen, helps to make the music more melodic. In 1985 Štulić  settles in the Netherlands where he starts writing English material. Without much success although the 1986 album ‘It Ain't Like in the Movies At All’ gets a small release. Disappointed he brings Leiner, Jurica Pađen and Stephen Kipp to Holland to record a new Azra album. Eventually it would be the band’s last. A final live album is released after which Štulić starts recording solo albums and focussing on poetry.

A first solo project ‘Balkanska Rapsodija’ (This difficult life) was a mixture of local folkoristic legends, Macedonian folk music and Bob Dylan covers. The album sold poorly but didn’t stop Štulić in ending Azra permanently. Štulić did record two more albums in the nineties but fans regard them as inferior to what he made before. Štulić himself also became more occupied with writing poetry and starting a translation (and adaptation) of Homer’s Iliad which was released in 1995 as ‘Božanska Ilijada'. This is folowed by another book interpreting the Greek classics called ' Peloponeskog rata' in 1997. In 1997 he also releases an album under the name Azra called 'Blase' which is in fact a solo album. With it he annouces his withdrawl from musical life. Today, with his wife Josefina lives in the Dutch town of Houten near Utrecht refusing to do any interviews or speak to fans. Nonetheless the legacy of Azra is still very much alive in the former Yugoslavian states.

On the web:

- Croatian Azra fansite: http://www.azraweb.com/

If you like this, you probably like... / european counterparts:

Ton Steine Scherben (Germany)

Téléphone (France)

What do we think:

DB: Azra made some good rock-records in the eighties. The first album may sound a bit dodgy production-wise but you can hear the power and anger. A bit like a Croatian version of UK-band the Jam. A thing that becomes more evident in later albums. Štulić may be a mediocre guitarist but for his style of music it doesn’t matter. The Croatian public sometimes mocked him over his incomprehensible lyrics filled with metaphors that may hint to intellectual vanity. But if you don’t understand Croatian you’ll miss that. Good band and the extra touch of brilliance of course comes from the fact that Štulić went completely introvert since the nineties. Love those tormented rock-hermits.

Recommended albums:

♪♪♪ - Azra - 1980

♪♪♪ - Sunčana strana ulice - 1981

♪♪♪♪ - Kad fazani lete - 1983

Further listening: Ravno do dna - 1982; Filigranski pločnici - 1982; Krivo srastanje - 1984; It Ain't Like in the Movies At All - 1986; Između krajnosti - 1987; Zadovoljština (Live) - 1988

Branimir Štulić (Solo)
Balkanska Rapsodija - 1989; Balegari ne vjeruju sreći - 1990; Sevdah za Paulu Horvat - 1991; Anali - 1995; Blase - 1997

♪♪♪♪♪ = outstanding album, an absolute must-have
♪♪♪♪ = great album, highly recomended
♪♪♪ = nice album
♪♪ = be careful, requires listening before buying
♪ = best to be avoided


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