Brena performing in the Belgrade Arena, 20 October 2011
20 October 1960
|Other names||Fahreta ?ivojinovi?
|Height||1.79 m (5 ft 10 in)|
Fahreta ?ivojinovi? (née Jahi?, Serbo-Croatian Cyrillic: ? ; born 20 October 1960), known by her stage name Lepa Brena (Serbo-Croatian Cyrillic: ? ), is a pop-folk singer, actress, and talent manager. She is the best-selling female recording artist from the former Yugoslavia.
Lepa Brena grew up in Br?ko, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and has lived in Belgrade, Serbia since 1980, where she started her career. Lepa Brena is considered to be a symbol of the former Yugoslavia, due to the fact that she was one of the last popular acts to emerge before the break up of Yugoslavia. She has described herself as being Yugo-nostalgic. Along with her husband, Slobodan ?ivojinovi? and friend, Sa?a Popovi?, Brena co-founded and co-owns Grand Production, the biggest record label and production company in the Balkans. In 2019, they decided to sell the Grand Production for EUR30 million.
Born into a Bosniak family in the outskirts of Tuzla, SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, she grew up in Br?ko as the youngest child of Abid Jahi? (c. 1928 - 22 October 2010) and Ifeta (née Smajlovi?; 15 April 1934 - 21 November 2014). Both of her parents are originally from villages near Srebrenik; her father was born in Je?inac and her maternal family hailed from ?ehaje. Fahreta grew up in a Muslim home with sister Faketa and brother Faruk. At the start of the Bosnian War in 1992, her sister Faketa emigrated to Canada, where she lives today, while Brena stayed in Belgrade where she had been living since 1980.
Her first performance for an audience was in the fifth grade at a local festival, singing a Kemal Monteno song called "Sviraj mi o njoj". She later reflected, "It was the only time in my life that I've ever experienced stage fright." Afterwards, she started performing regularly at dance parties in Br?ko.
While a guest on a Croatian television show in March 2014, she was asked if she was ashamed of having a Muslim name, to which she replied: "Why would I be ashamed? I was and stay what I am. Today I am Fahreta. I am proud of my parents and roots". She said, of her stage name, that "Brena" was given by her basketball coach Vlado, while the epithet "Lepa" (beautiful) was given by showman Minimax.
In early 1980, at the age of 19, Fahreta began singing with a band called Lira Show when the group's original singer Spasa left the band because her husband, a boxer, did not want his wife to be a singer.Sa?a Popovi?, the band's frontman, was initially opposed to the idea that Fahreta should be the band's new singer, but later changed his opinion. She subsequently moved to Novi Sad and then to Belgrade. Brena's first performance with Lira Show occurred on 6 April 1980 in the hotel Turist in Ba?ka Palanka. Lira Show changed their name to Slatki Greh (Sweet Sin) in 1981. Brena and Slatki Greh premiered their first studio album, ?a?ak, ?a?ak, on 3 February 1982. The album was written mostly by Milutin Popovi?-Zahar, and the career-manager was Vladimir Cvetkovi?.
Since her career began in 1980, she has become arguably the most popular singer of the former Yugoslavia, and a top-selling female recording artist with more than 40 million records sold. The same year Lepa Brena and Slatki Greh appeared in the first part of Yugoslav classic comedy film Tesna ko?a with popular comedian Nikola Simi? and actress Ru?ica Soki?, which raised their status and brought them almost instant fame. They would again team up with songwriter Milutin Popovi?-Zahar for their second studio album Mile voli disko, released 18 November 1982. In addition to the title song, the album had a couple of other hit songs: "Duge noge" and "Dama iz Londona".
In 1983, Lepa Brena and Slatki Greh ended their collaboration with Milutin Popovi?-Zahar and Vladimir Cvetkovi?. That same year Lepa Brena and Slatki Greh participated in Jugovizija, the Yugoslav selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, with the song "Sitnije, Cile, sitnije". The song was released on an extended play of the same name, along with another song. Their appearance on Jugovizija caused controversy, since the competition was traditionally dominated exclusively by pop artists, and Lepa Brena belonged to a totally different music genre, which was folk-pop, or also called novokomponovana muzika. Although they did not qualify for the prestigious European competition, Lepa Brena and Slatki Greh won the contest, gaining even more popularity.
1984 saw Brena and her band begin a cooperation with a new manager and producer, Raka ?oki?. Bato, Bato, their third album, was released the same year. A new provocative image was accompanied by a new musical style, different from the one fostered by Popovi?. Later that year, they held a concert in neighboring Romania, at the stadium in Timi?oara to an audience of 65,000, what was at time among the most successful concerts of a Yugoslav musician outside their home country.
Their next three albums, Pile moje (1985) and Voli me, voli and Uske pantalone (both 1986) would propel her to the throne of the Yugoslav music scene. Along with these albums, Brena established a cooperation with Serbian folk star Miroslav Ili? and recorded a collaborative extended play Jedan dan ?ivota, which featured four songs, including a romantic duet called "Jedan dan ?ivota", and the song "?ivela Jugoslavija", which was received with a mixed response. The latter song was in line with Brena's only official political stance: an uncompromising support of a united Yugoslavia, with her becoming a symbol of this view. By the end of 1986, Lepa Brena had become the star of Belgrade social jet-set, and the most popular public figure in Yugoslavia.
Brena's manager Raka ?oki? came up with the idea that her seventh studio album should be followed by a movie in which she would play the lead role. This idea was successfully implemented in 1987 when the motion picture Hajde da se volimo was filmed. The movie had the same name as the album. Many then-popular Yugoslav actors co-starred in the film, including Dragomir Gidra Bojani?, Milutin Karad?i?, Velimir Bata ?ivojinovi?, Milan ?trlji?, etc. During the premiere of the film on 24 October 1987, Brena met her future husband, Serbian tennis star Slobodan ?ivojinovi?.
Based on the success of the original, two sequels were produced: Hajde da se volimo 2 (1989) and Hajde da se volimo 3 (1990), which was followed by the studio album Boli me uvo za sve. Boli me uvo za sve also had multiple hit songs including "?ik pogodi", "Bi?e belaja", "Tamba Lamba", and the title track. Their eighth studio album ?etiri godine was released on 1 October 1989 and contained the controversial song Jugoslovenka with Bosnian rock musician Alen Islamovi?. The music video for the pop-folk song ?uvala me mama was filmed on the Croatian island Lopud.
Lepa Brena and Slati Greh held more than 350 concerts yearly, and would often hold two concerts in one day. They set a record by holding thirty-one concerts consecutively at Dom Sindikata, and seventeen concerts consecutively at the Sava Center. On 24 July 1990, Brena was lowered with a helicopter at Levski stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria, and held her then-most-attended concert with an audience of 90,000 people. While she was in Bulgaria in July 1990, she met with the Bulgarian mystic Baba Vanga.
Brena and Slatki Greh released their second-to-last album together, Zaljubi?ka, in 1991.
In February 1994, after a nearly three-year hiatus, Brena premiered her first solo album Ja nemam drugi dom, and held a famous "concert in the rain" on 13 June 1994 at Belgrade's Ta?majdan stadium which was attended by 35,000 people. After that, she recorded two more solo albums: Kazna Bo?ija (1994) and Luda za tobom (1996). In the mid-90s she had many popular songs; "Kazna Bo?ija", "Luda za tobom", "Sve mi dobro ide osim ljubavi", "Izdajice", "Moj se dragi Englez pravi", "I da odem iza le?a bogu", "Ja nemam drugi dom", "Dva dana", and "Ti si moj greh", among others. The music video for "Ti si moj greh" had an ancient Egyptian theme, with Brena dressed as a pharaoh.
Brena became co-founder of the Serbian record label Grand Production, which was formerly known as Zabava miliona (ZaM), in December 1998.
After her marriage in 1991, when she briefly moved to the United States, she ceased cooperation with Slatki Greh. However, in 2000 they recorded another album together Pomra?enje sunca, their last album to date. After eight years of absence from the music business, Lepa Brena returned in 2008 with U?i slobodno... and Za?arani krug in 2011. Both albums were major successes.
Beginning in 2012, Brena started recording sessions for two studio albums. The first, Izvorne i novokomponovane narodne pesme was released in December 2013. She dedicated the album to her ailing mother Ifeta, who sang folk songs to her when she was a child. Ifeta died the following year.
In the month after that album's release, Brena premiered two other songs: "Ljubav ?uvam za kraj" on 28 December 2013 and "Zaljubljeni veruju u sve", with lyrics written by Hari Vare?anovi?, on 12 January 2014.
On 19 December 2013, Brena, along with Dragana Mirkovi?, Severina, Jelena Rozga, Haris D?inovi?, Aca Lukas and Jelena Karleu?a, was a guest at a humanitarian concert by Goran Bregovi? at the Olympic Hall Juan Antonio Samaranch in the Bosnian capital city Sarajevo for the Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Brena arrived in Sarajevo two days before the concert so that she could enjoy the city with friends before the concert. She said in an interview: "Sarajevo has suffered and survived so much, I'm really glad to see positive people and happiness in this city".
In December 2017, Brena published two new songs "Zar je vazno dal se pjeva ili peva" and "Bolis i ne prolazis" as teasers for new album expected to be published in the beginning of 2018.
Her wedding to Serbian tennis star Slobodan ?ivojinovi? on 7 December 1991 was a big media event throughout Yugoslavia. The lavish ceremony took place at Belgrade's InterContinental Hotel. The level of interest in the event was such that Brena's manager Raka ?oki? even released a VHS tape of the wedding. Their very public relationship has been providing steady fodder for various tabloid publications ever since. The ?ivojinovi?'s first child, a son named Stefan, was born in New York City on 21 May 1992. Their second son Viktor was born 30 March 1998.
On 23 November 2000, the couple's elder son Stefan was kidnapped by members of the Zemun mafia. After they paid a ransom of 2,500,000 Deutsche Marks in cash, he was released, having been held for five days. She has resided in Belgrade since 1980 and currently lives there with her husband, while their sons are studying in the United States. In a 2014 interview, she stated that she is still healing from the trauma of the kidnaping incident.
After the debacle and family drama, she went on hiatus once again, lasting eight years, living between Belgrade and the American city Miami, Florida with her family. Brena and her husband have a home in Coconut Creek, Florida, where they lived during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. She also has an apartment in Monte Carlo, Franch Riviera, and another townhouse on Fisher Island, also in Florida. In 2010, Brena and her husband purchased a five bedroom villa with an in-ground heated pool on one of Miami's islands with a cost of $1.6 million.
In October 2010, her father, Abid Jahi?, was severely injured when a bus hit him as he walked in the town of Br?ko. He was transported to a hospital in Tuzla, where he died on 22 October 2010 aged 82. He was buried in a Muslim funeral three days after his death. Brena, her two siblings and mother, along with other family members and citizens of Br?ko attended the funeral. She later regarded the months after her father's death as the emotionally most difficult time of her life. Her mother Ifeta died 21 November 2014, aged 80. She was buried in a Muslim funeral in Br?ko next to her husband.
Brena was hospitalized on 27 July 2012 when she complained of pain and was diagnosed as having venous thrombosis, a blood clot. She remained in the hospital for three days, then was released. A similar incident had occurred in October 2004 when a blood clot in her hand was removed. In August 2012, she was forced to cancel three months of scheduled concerts to deal with further complications with her illness.
She was again hospitalized on 25 July 2014 while at holiday in the Croatian resort of Novi Vinodolski where she fell down the stairs and broke both arms. She was hospitalized for five days and spent her month-long recovery at a local hotel. On 2 January 2015, Brena fell down the stairs again during a family vacation at Zlatibor, Serbia, and hurt her wrist. Unlike the previous incident, this injury did not require surgery. However, because of this, she stayed hospitalized in Belgrade and rescheduled upcoming performances in the Bosnian towns ?ivinice and Travnik.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, ethnic tensions which started rising in Yugoslavia and eventually led to country's breakup, made Lepa Brena become one of main tabloid targets at the time. Some Bosniaks viewed her as a traitor as she was a Bosniak who sang and spoke with an Ekavian accent (which is predominantly spoken in Serbia) and she married a Serbian, Slobodan ?ivojinovi?. Several tabloids claimed that she had converted from Islam to Serbian Orthodoxy and that she had changed her name from Fahreta to Jelena. She intensely denied these allegations. In socialist Yugoslavia religions in general were an unpopular topic, and people acknowledged the religion to which belonged in relation to its family roots, but were overwhelmingly non-practitioners. In that sense, being a Yugoslav icon, Lepa Brena has never publicly spoken about her religious beliefs, neither was seen or gave any indications of practicing any religion; all that is known is that she was raised as a Sunni Muslim.
In 2009, numerous Bosniaks and Croats protested when her concerts in Sarajevo, on May 30, and in Zagreb, on June 13, were announced. The reason behind the protests were pictures allegedly shot in 1993 during the Bosnian War in which she appears wearing the uniform of the Army of Republika Srpska in the besieged town of Br?ko, where she grew-up. In the pictures, taken and published by one Serbian magazine, she appears giving support to Bosnian Serb soldiers, which were at that time involved in intense fighting against Croatian and Bosniak forces in Posavina front. This is why Croatian and Bosnian protesters were angered calling her a "traitor" and ?etniku?a (feminine version of Chetnik, used derrogativelly in Croatia for labeling Serbs or pro-Serbian people). The concerts went ahead as scheduled with no incidents and she claimed the uniform was from the set of a 1990 music video for her song "Tamba Lamba", in which she wore a similar uniform while filming at a zoo in Kenya for the movie, Hajde da se volimo 3. However, when compared side by side, the uniforms are different. Brena also claimed she was only in Br?ko in 1993 to rescue her parents.
|New title|| Serbian Oscar Of Popularity
The Female Folk Singer of the Year