We have a huge story to tell. In 1993, Eurovision was held in Ireland. Meanwhile hundreds of people were losing their lives in the middle of Europe. We grabbed a chance to speak with one of the witnesses of this war, Muhamed Fazlagić who has represented Bosnia and Herzegovina at Eurovision for the first time ever.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has participated in Eurovision for so many times. But how does it feel to be the first one, and to open the door to Bosnia for Eurovision, even in such a hard situation?
MF: Of course it was a special experience for everyone involved. You have to understand that our mission, sort of speak, was really unique. It was twofold. First, we were under severe genocidal aggression, where enemies wanted to literally wipe us out from the face of the earth in every possible aspect. So our answer was, no we are still alive, you will not destroy us, and regardless of atrocities you are committing we are still singing even better than before. On the other hand, we knew that to represent one’s independent country for the first time in history at such a formidable event was a privilege, honor and responsibility as well. We wanted to do our best to represent the country in the best possible way.
How was the process of choosing the song for Eurovision?
MF: Process was rather ordinary in the extraordinary situation. I believe 47 songs were turned in to jury to select 12 songs for the finals. In the finals many great Bosnian artist participated: Davorin Popovic, Alma Cardzic, Edo i Adi Mulahalilovic, Drazen Zeric to name few. Jury decided that our song was overwhelmingly the best one, the rest was history. One of the curiosities was that studio was freezing cold due to low temperature and was very difficult to work. As you probably imagine during the war heating and cooling systems do not work and conditions are nothing like they should be.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country which has so many hard memories. And you are one of the people who has made a break to one of these hard memories with this contest. Can you tell us about your Eurovision journey from a war?
MF: Sarajevo at the time was under the siege for more than 300 days. We couldn’t use regular means of transportation to get to Ljubljana, Slovenia where semifinals were held. It was late February, early march and was extremely cold. We literally had to run or walk in the middle of the night through the enemy lines sort of speak to get to the free territory. In the middle of the night, with the help of Bosnian armed forces we ran across the airport which was under UN control and we got to the free territory. Funny part was that at the beginning of our journey, I lost my shoes in the mud, so I had to run and walk barefooted until we made it to Igman Mountain. From Igman we used different transportation to get to Mostar, where we got captured by Croatian Defensive forces for a day or two. After a few days of humiliation, we were set free to proceed to Croatia and then to Slovenia.
Did you feel the support of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and of Bosnian people when you were at Ireland and on that stage?
MF: Of course we did. Support was intense, not because we were performers, but because for the first time in history Bosnian flag with 6 fleurs-de-lis was flown on the World stage with the pride, and was representing sovereign nation.
Do you think that you expressed your feelings fully with your Eurovision song?
MF: I think we did. Song choice was appropriate, was fully charged with emotions and recognized feelings of every Bosnian. At the time, the entire world’s pain was really in Bosnia.
When you look back to your Eurovision journey, do you remember this memory with sadness or do you remember with a big smile on your face?
MF: Neither, I remember it with enormous pride. I usually get goosebumps just thinking about it. What a great story, even greater win for Bosnian people, and I am also grateful to Allah for granting me with such an opportunity to represent my own nation for the first time in history.
Did you follow Eurovision after it? If you did, which was the best performance of Bosnia and Herzegovina?
MF: Of course I did. In my opinion Hari mata Hari was superb in Athens with Lejla. I was convinced he was going to win. We had other great performances as well. I hope next May Deen and Dalal will represent us very well.
When we look at Eurovision, we can see that the countries who had made war can give their most points to each other. Is it a indicator for us that music can be the biggest hope for the future of the world?
MF: Definitely music or other art forms are very strong. I am not sure that good relationships between juries or national teams’ delegations are making any effect on political discourse yet. That being said, the more we communicate and interact the more chances for better understanding and reconciliation we have.
Dino Merlin is a big legend for Bosnian music as you know. How was it for you to sing a Dino Merlin song on Eurovision stage?
MF: Dino is fantastic, probably one of the greatest of all times. At the time, we were really good friends, we worked together before and after that song. I had great working relationship and experience with Dino, just like with many others. Bosnian pop scene is unique in its solidarity and desire to help each other. That is why I have so much respect for my colleagues and Dinois among them.
Bosnia turns back to Eurovision Song Contest next year again, what are your expectations?
MF: Dalal and Deen are fantastic singers and artists. We are good friends with Deen and I know how much attention he pays to the detail. I am sure they will make a huge wave at the Eurosong 2016 and will represent our country in the best possible way.
How and why did you make a transition from music to football?
MF: Actually, it was the other way around. I grew up in a very football-oriented family. My uncle was thecaptain of the Yugoslav national team, later very respectful coach, my brother, my other uncles, mycousins were also Bosnian national team players. I played club football myself. So football for me was natural environment. Singing was something I pursued later. I am glad I did.