Istrian Heroes of Croatian Music

Celebrating Istrian culture and dialect in song

Transadriatic QuartetCroatian National Tourist Board

Several contemporary Croatian singers from Istria compose and perform music in Chakavian, one of the three major dialects of Croatian language spoken by Croats of coastal Croatia and the Istrian peninsula. Their popularity has helped draw attention to the language diversity and its subsets and contributes to the broader effort to preserve Istrian heritage and dialects.

Collectively, the artists are part of the ča-val, or Cha Wave, a musical genre that combines pop, rock, folk and blues music with Chakavian lyrics. The genre first became popular in the 1990s and remains so today, especially on the Istrian peninsula and the Croatian littoral.

Gustafi - Ja Nisan stija malaCroatian National Tourist Board

As solo acts and as founding members of the band Gustafi, Edi Maružin and Livio Morosin are leading figures of the Cha Wave. They formed Gustafi in Pula in 1980, and quickly developed a cult following in then-Yugoslavia. By the early 1990s, the band decided to devote itself to contemporary Istrian folk music, colored by TexMex, blues and Cajun influences. Morosin left the band in the nineties to pursue a successful solo career, still in the Cha Wave genre. Maružin continues to serve as Gustafi’s lead singer and guitarist and composes the band’s lyrics and music.

Tamara Obrovac singingCroatian National Tourist Board

Singer, composer and flautist Tamara Obrovac from Pula is one of the most impressive artists on the Croatian music scene; she describes her work as “ethnically inspired contemporary Mediterranean jazz” saying: Jazz is my freedom and my roots are my inner truth.

Tamara Obrovac MusicianCroatian National Tourist Board

Epoque String Quartet performingCroatian National Tourist Board

In her unique musical expression she conects contemporary jazz with the particular musical and dialectal traditions of her homeland Istria.

Transadriatic Quartet with Tamara Obrovac singingCroatian National Tourist Board

Obrovac writes lyrics and sings in several dialects of the Istrian peninsula, slavic and romanic origin and is especially loved for her lively, intimate and improvisational live performances. She lead several international ensembles, main one is quintet Transhistria.

"Kažeta" - Tamara Obrovac Transhistria ensembleCroatian National Tourist Board

Tamara Obrovac Quartet posingCroatian National Tourist Board

She released 12 albums and performed across Europe, the United States, Russia, China, Africa and Japan. With her specific and original compositions, excellent bands and expressive voice, Tamara creates a unique artistic form in which she effortlessly and logically unites melody and improvisation, sensitivity and passion, formal demands and freedom, ethnic music and jazz, tradition and modernity, serious approach and humour.

Tamara Obrovac QuartetCroatian National Tourist Board

Elis LovricCroatian National Tourist Board

Elis Lovrić is a singer, songwriter and actress best known for composing and singing in Labinjonska cakavica, the dialect of Labin, a town in eastern Istria, Croatia. Her soulful voice and dedication to singing in her native dialect has made her a celebrity both in Istria and greater Croatia, as well as internationally.

Elis Lovric performing at the concertCroatian National Tourist Board

Amphitheater in Pula cityCroatian National Tourist Board

Lovrić was born in Pula and grew up in Rabac, a town on Kvarner Bay, the body of water between the Istrian peninsula and the mainland Croatian littoral. Rabac forms part of the municipality of Labin, which has its own dialect, Labinjonska cakavica, or more simply, Labinese; it’s the oldest Croatian dialect in Istria. Lovrić grew up speaking Labinese together with standard Croatian, but only started writing songs in her native dialect when she lived in Italy.

Pula amphitheaterCroatian National Tourist Board

Rocky shore of PulaCroatian National Tourist Board

Elis Lovric filming a videoCroatian National Tourist Board

This exposure led her to a greater appreciation of her native dialect and an interest in writing and performing songs in her native dialect.

Filming of Merika video by Elis LovricCroatian National Tourist Board

With the release of the full-length album, Merika, in 2017, Lovrić became something of a household name in Istria. Eleven of the 12 songs on the album are written and sung in Labinese, and one is in Portuguese. Lovrić is also known for singing in ten languages, in addition to Labinese. Merika is a contemporary album, and Lovrić’s Labinese songs are universal ballads about life’s struggles and wins, the sea, love and her homeland.

Elis Lovric - Merika (Official Music Video)Croatian National Tourist Board

Elis Lovric concertCroatian National Tourist Board

Filmmaking of Merika by Elis LovrićCroatian National Tourist Board

As a trained actress, Lovrić mostly directs and acts in her own musical videos which showcase the beauty of the Istrian landscapes and the sea while portraying the character’s emotional story.

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