Sex, Crime & Politics: A lens on Croatian composer Alfi Kabiljo


At the time of the release of Sex, Crime & Politics: Cinematic Disco, Jazz & Electronica from Yugoslavia 1974-1984, Croatian composer Alfi Kabiljo will be celebrating his 84th birthday. This is usually an opportunity to slow down and reflect on the past, as many of his peers would do, but this doesn't apply to Alfi. He is still working, writing music, conducting, arranging and above all enjoying his craft and life.

Born in 1935 in Zagreb, he is one of the few composers from ex-Yugoslavia to work in Hollywood and score films starring A-list actresses. His early adoption of various musical styles and instruments led him into work with synthesizers and electronics, and saw him become one of the first musicians in the region to play with the expensive Fairlight CMI machine in the 1980s. On top of this, his work as a conductor for The National Philharmonic Orchestra in London on the recording sessions for the Sky Bandits score were included in the 25th Anniversary Celebration release next to the likes of David Newman, Bill Conti, Hans Zimmer and Jerry Goldsmith.

Kabiljo's work comprises of scores for over 50 films, 100 TV episodes, numerous commercials and theatre productions, as well as easy listening and pop music. His nickname remains The King Of Musical with the release of “Jalta, Jalta” in 1971 being a record breaking success all over the world. Alfi had a hand in helping the careers of pop stars in former Yugoslavia including Radojka Sverko, Tereza Kesovija, Ana Stefok and Vice Vukov and travelled, conducted and performed his music all over the world.

For the release of Sex, Crime & Politics: Cinematic Disco, Jazz & Electronica from Yugoslavia 1974-1984, Rijeka and Zagreb-based label Fox & His Friends Records spent over a year browsing through Kabiljo’s sound archives, selecting and restoring his recordings for a unique compilation of film music. With all the tracks transferred from the original master tapes, label co-founders Leri Ahel & Zeljko Luketic have carefully curated this musical journey focusing on Kabiljo’s love of classic disco beat, funk, jazz and lush orchestral musings. 

Leri and Zeljko chart some of the music featured on the compilation…

MEDENI MJESEC (Honeymoon, 1983)

Directed by Nikola Babic and starring the likes of Slobodan Milovanovic, Biserka Ipsa and Nada Abrus, “Honeymoon” is a first soft porn from ex-Yugoslavia. Erotic, sexual and provocative scenes are combined with a criminal story set in Zagreb within a made up criminal milieu. 20-year-old Marko Bilogora works as cashier in a small store in the Slavonian village of Grabik. His life would have continued smoothly had it not been for Mile Razjap, a criminal from Zagreb, who seduces Gordana, Marko’s great love. Disappointed, Marko leaves Grabik for Zagreb where he is “adopted” by a possessive entrepreneur, Vanda, who leads him into a life of luxury – populated by criminals. Vanda brags in front of her friends that her lover is a real stallion and in her absence her friends decide to try Marko out. Vanda cannot forgive him that. At the same time, police inspector Rajko starts detangling a net of prostitution, drug smuggling and corruption.

DEPS (Deps, 1974) 

Directed by Antun Vrdoljak and starring Bekim Fehmiu, Milena Dravic, Fabijan Sovagovic, Relja Basic and many more, the film begins with a 36-year-old criminal called Deps entering Zagreb in his van late one night. The police follow him everywhere because he is a recidivist who has been convicted 12 times and has spent 15 years in prison. A few weeks before there was a big bank robbery and the thief left no leads for the police to follow. However, the audacious manner of the robbery and the photo-robot all seem to point to Deps as being the guilty party. On the other hand, during a police identification line up the witness does not recognize Deps as the robber. With resignation, Deps accepts a job as a truck driver and sets off on the road with a girl he recently met, played by one of the most beloved actresses from ex-Yugoslavia, Milena Dravic. Alfi’s music perfectly fits 70s shady Zagreb nights and his inhabitants from both sides of the law.

NOVINAR (The Journalist, 1979) 

Directed by Fadil Hadzic and starring Rade Serbedzija, Fabijan Sovagovic, Stevo Zigon and Milena Zupancic. The protagonist Kovac is a member of the staff on an important political daily “The Journal”. There are repeated conflicts between him and his other colleagues, particularly when the Chief Editor refuses to print his story of a strike in a tool factory. The organisation of the League of Communists discusses this event, together with another night incident and the polemically intoned discussions reveal deep reasons of these misunderstandings. In the opinion of Kovac, the Editors are not defending certain “supreme interests” of the Party and Socialism in censuring stories submitted to them, but have been only trying to preserve their “warm armchairs”. The end of this story has not been idealised and it is up to the audience to verify the truth of the question raised by Kovac – “The journalism, is it a realistic picture of the world or is it only its embellished reflection?” Kovac is played by one of the biggest stars in ex-Yugoslavia Rade Serbedzija. These days you might find him acting in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: part 1”, “X-Men: First Class” and “Downtown Abbey”.

USPORENO KRETANJE (Slow Motion, 1979)

Directed by Vanca Kljakovic, it stars Relja Basic, Boris Buzancic, Lela Margitic, Mia Oremovic and Ivica Vidovic. The journey of the main hero through this picture is an exciting and sentimental search for the time lost and the ideals of his youth, vanished long ago. ln grip of the closed door panic (Torschlusspanik), facing the gloomy balance of his life circuit and personal result, surrounded by unfulfilled hopes and frail dreams of happiness, Boris Novak, a former soccer star and the idol of a generation, now 40, feels trapped in the cage of his own powerlessness as if he were at the end of his road. Wishing to break the mechanism of his own obsessions, aware that his fear is both exaggerated and groundless, he tries to catch the last straw to bridge the gap between his phobic nature and everything he had wasted so easily in his life and is now yearning to have it back again.

ZLOCIN U SKOLI (School Crime, 1982)

Directed by Branko Ivanda, the film stars Zlatko Vitez, Mustafa Nadarevic, Miodrag Krivokapic, Zdenka Hersak, and Zarko Potocnjak. The main character Zlatko, a provincial professor without any real ambitions, gets a job in one of the high schools in Zagreb and moves there with his mother. Soon he finds out that he'd been transferred to the big city for a reason. Professor Tot, whose job Zlatko got, died under suspicious conditions. In the new school he meets an array of weird characters and soon finds a corpse in the teacher's lounge. While incompetent police try to solve the case, Zlatko finds the connection between two dead bodies in the school and an act that happened 10 years ago which he witnessed. While the school is preparing for its 30 year anniversary celebration he tries to set a trap for the killer. 

AMBASADOR (The Ambassador, 1984)

Directed by Fadil Hadzic and starring Miodrag Radovanovic, Elizabeta Kukic, Voja Brajovic, Inge Appelt, Fabijan Sovagovic and Nina Erak. The former member of the International Brigades in the Spanish civil war, partisan, and now retired ambassador, Minkovic, lives in a villa with his family in Zagreb. He is completely out of touch with his children, and it may be that they never have had any sort of bond. His daughter, Miki, has morbidly abandoned herself to a form of idolatry in the cult of her deceased mother, and even tries to commit suicide. His younger son, Roni, plays drums in a rock band and steals cars, while the older son Mark has a successful career as a doctor, but has problems with his demanding wife and asks his father to lend him money. A repairman who comes to fix the heating system is a witness to the everyday life events of this family. This is the only film that Fadil Hadzic made during the 1980s and 1990s in which he offers a socially critical analysis characteristic of his earlier work. 

Sex, Crime & Politics: Cinematic Disco, Jazz & Electronica from Yugoslavia 1974-1984 will be released on 20th December via Fox & His Friends

Follow Fox & His Friends. Buy HERE.