Death of the 'Balkan Elvis' Tose Proeski, one of the most popular musicians in the Balkans, has died, and people all over the former Yugoslavia are mourning him. Born in Macedonia in 1981, Proeski represented his country in the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest.

Death of the 'Balkan Elvis'

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(Soundbite of music)

Mr. TOSE PROESKI (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)


Today has been declared a national day of mourning in Macedonia because of the death of the guy you're hearing right now - Tose Proeski.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PROESKI: (Singing in foreign language)

BURBANK: Proeski died early Tuesday morning when the car he was riding in crashed into another vehicle and then into a guardrail. He was only 26 years old, but he'd already been anointed the Balkan Elvis.

He played stadium concerts in Belgrade and Zagreb. To quote Macedonia's president, quote, "We all couldn't help but love Tose Proeski." Unfortunately, the bad news was the first time many of us at the BPP had even heard about this guy. We thought we'd call Liljana Ristova. She's editor of the Canadian-Macedonian News in Toronto. She's also a huge Tose fan, and even got to interview him when he traveled to Toronto.

Hi, Liljana.

Ms. LILJANA RISTOVA (Editor, Canadian-Macedonian News): Hi, Luke. Good morning. Good morning, everybody. Good morning to all your listeners. And I would like to apologize right away for my mistakes, because when I speak English - which my English is a second language - so I hope everything is going to be fine.

BURBANK: Well, it's a lot better than my Macedonian, so don't beat yourself up, Liljana.

Ms. RISTOVA: Thank you.

BURBANK: You met Tose Proeski when you came to Toronto. What was he like?

Ms. RISTOVA: I met him twice. He was a younger guy when I met him. Very young. He was only 21 or 22. It was for the Days of Macedonian cultures four years ago, and he was part of that manifestation. I can say right away, my impression for him was that he's such an amazing soul, such a good human being. He was hugging everybody. He was smiling, he was - he looked young, but the same time, he was acting a very mature, like he knew exactly what he was doing. But his voice was amazing, amazing. He could sing everything from Macedonian songs to pop music to opera. I just can't - have no, not enough words to explain his charisma - his charisma, sorry.

BURBANK: Yeah. Right.

Ms. RISTOVA: Yeah.

BURBANK: Well, for people here in the States and other places who had never heard of Tose, can you try to explain - where did he rate in Macedonia? I mean, was he, like the Rolling Stones are in the U.S. or Bruce Springsteen or something? I mean, was he a national hero?

Ms. RISTOVA: He was a national hero. He was a national hero. Of course, he was a national hero first because he was very talented. And then, I already said he has a huge charisma on people. We felt like he was a part of our homes, our families. He was young. He was like our child. But the biggest thing about Tose Proeski is that he crossed all the borders in the Balkans. We were talking about the Balkans after all those civil wars, and everybody accepted Tose. Tose was number one in Serbian, number one in Croatia, number one in Bosnia, and, of course, number one in Macedonia.

I was in Macedonia just recently. I came back on October the 6th, and Tose's concert was - his last concert was on October the 5th. I couldn't be there because I was one of the judges for Ms. Macedonia for Miss World so I mean, (unintelligible)…

BURBANK: Quite a life you lead, Liljana.

Ms. RISTOVA: Thank you very much. I'm just an ethnic journalist. Yeah, I've been publishing in this newspaper for the last six years. So I just couldn't be there, but I remember this moment. I never buy CDs, for example, because my son and my nephew, who lives with me, they have tons of CDs, all different kinds of music. I was in (unintelligible) in downtown. I was just walking around, and I thought, why don't I buy the last CD of Tose Proeski? And I didn't know you went even the store for this kind of stuff. So I looked around and I bought his last CD. Me, first time. I don't know what kind of feeling, you know, told me to do that, but I did it. And that the title of his last CD's "Igri Bez Granici", which in English means "Games Without Borders."

BURBANK: Well, can I just ask, Liljana, you're a big fan, what went through your mind when he heard it that he had passed away?

Ms. RISTOVA: What went through my mind was why big people, people who, young - who was too young, but they already touched the stars, why they die so young?

BURBANK: Well, let's, as we end this…

Ms. RISTOVA: And what crossed through my mind because I'm Macedonian, it was, for example, Alexander of Macedon, so-called Alexander the Great. Then I compare the situation right now in Macedonia because everybody's on the street, nobody slept last night. The president, the prime minister, the government, everybody was waiting for Tose's coffin to come back to Macedonia from Croatia. So I compared the situation with, let's say, the death of Elvis Presley in the States, in your country. The death of John Lennon as well. Like people feel like they lost somebody who is a part of their family, as I said. They - Tose was a new hope in the Balkans. Tose brought something new. Tose gave the hope that Balkan can be still, again - how do you say - friendly, be united as - be united in a term of - be friendly, be human to each other. I hope you understand what I'm saying.

BURBANK: Well, Liljana, that's - I do. And let's just…

Ms. RISTOVA: He was the only one who was capable with his voice, with his charisma.

BURBANK: Well, let's hear some…

Ms. RISTOVA: It's only by the street…

BURBANK: …let's hear some of his voice, Liljana…

Ms. RISTOVA: (unintelligible).

BURBANK: …as we end this. Let's hear some of his voice. This is a song called "O Set, O Set, Clear Sun."

Liljana Ristova, editor of the Canadian-Macedonian News in Toronto.

Ms. RISTOVA: It's amazing Macedonian old folk song, yeah. And I would like to say that some people…

(Soundbite of song "O Set, O Set, Clear Sun")

Mr. TOSE PROESKI (Singer): (Singing in a foreign language)

BURBANK: All right. Well, Liljana Ristova, getting very excited about our friend, Tose Proeski. Thanks so much for being on the show.

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