Artist Profiles: Katalena


Forming Katalena was quite coincidental. Coming from different musical backgrounds from more or less classic rock (Sfiltrom, Terra mystica, Bast), folk (Terra folk), blues (Moj boogie band) to trip hop (Melodrom) the band members met in the summer of 2001 in a Slovene countryside village in Bela krajina. For a week they were playing different old Slovenian folk tunes discovered in the archives of the Ethno-Musicological Institute of Ljubljana.

Katalena deals with the legacy of folk music in the Slovene area, recreating and performing it in its own way. The basic presumption of group’s work is faith in the timelessness of folk music, which is, according to the band’s opinion, still a part of young people?s lives and not as dead remains, but as a vital tradition.

The goal of Katalena is to revive this folk tradition, give it a wave of fresh energy, to pull it out of the dusty national subconscious and publish it in a way that is at ease and unburdened.

There are not many experiments of this kind in Slovenia and the result was a positive surprise. Katalena created a very special mixture of rhythms, temperament, of the old with the new. In their music heritage rock and ethno rhythms meet. A dash of jazz is added. In short: when making rearrangements, basically everything is allowed.

Starting with the workshop, which was firstly meant to be an only one-time musical project, Katalena soon grew into a regular music group gaining quite a lot of attention in a very short period. They had their first public appearance in December 2001 on a rock festival called Novi rock (New Rock Festival) in Ljubljana. This first individual concert was, to everyone?s surprise, completely sold out.

After a successful icebreaking the group presented their music in many Slovenian cities. In their first summer they played at practically all major Slovenian festivals: Lent (Maribor), Trnfest (Ljubljana), Mediteranfest (Izola), Kunigunda (Velenje) and Mladost v Prastarem mestu (Ptuj).

Their music and energetic performance was not only well accepted by the audience, but also by the critics. The two nominations for the 2001 Boomerang music award proved it – categories: Innovation of the year and Ignite (live performance).

In the summer of 2002 Katalena recorded their first album named (Z)Godbe; in Slovenian it is a game of words meaning something like: music tales. It contains 14 songs from very different musical environments of different regions of Slovenia. It was recorded in Studio 26 of Radio Slovenia .

They also made their first video, directed by Hanna A. W. Slak. The video was played for eight weeks in the most popular Slovenian video show called Videospotnice, where it even reached the prime position. It was quite a shock for the Slovenian music scene, since bands playing Slovenian folk music don’t usually get this kind of public attention, especially not among young people.

The band played among other concerts on the most prominent ethno festival in Slovenia Druga godba, it appeared again on the Lent festival in Maribor and performed a number of solo concerts all around Slovenia. In August, Katalena played the Alpent?ne festival in Switzerland.

In the beginning of 2004 Katalena returned to the studio. In a mere 3-day recording session they put to track another 11 remakes of known and unknown Slovene folk songs. The basic orientation of the band remained the same. Dallas Records released this new kaleidoscope of Slovene folk music called Babje Leto (peasants’ expression for Indian Summer) on April 13th 2004 under great interest of both music critics and the general public.

On May 13th, Katalena presented the new album to the public in Krizanke, Ljubljana’s esteemed open-air theater, where they performed together with Terra Folk and a Scottish band called Back of the Moon. The concert was recorded by radio BBC and Slovenian national television RTV SLO.

During the summer Katalena represent Slovenia on EBU (European Broadcast Union) festival 2004, the band played in Italy – Toscana and continued to perform at many festivals throughout Slovenia including Slovenia’s biggest and most important open air festival of popular music.

Another very important home event took place in October 2004 in Cankarjev dom, the largest cultural center in Slovenia, as Katalena sold out a very successful solo concert. The band shot another video for a song tittled Pobelelo pole z ovcama (The white Field with Sheep) which is one of the songs that can be often heard on Slovene radio stations and was as well a ‘Song of the Week’ on national radio in the end of July. Video was again directed by Hanna A. W. Slak.

The beginning of 2005 was successful as well. In the end of January national television organized a TV show about a very well known international music festival called Eurosong, which celebrates 50th anniversary this year. In TV show well known Slovene artists performed remakes of some of the most popular songs, performed in the Eurosong contest and Katalena played a remake of a song titled All Kinds Of Everything by Irish singer Dana, who won the contest in 1970.

On the 8th of February – the national day of culture, the band presented a dancing and musical performance, which was created in cooperation with a dancer and choreographer Edward Clug. The performance was presented in Gallus Hall (the biggest concert hall in Slovenia). The Occasion: once a year the estimated Slovene artists receive the highest possible award on the state level for their lifetime achievements. The award is called Presernova nagrada.

In the end of June, Katalena was invited to Berlin. There, the band played two very successful shows in a club called Machinenhaus – the club is located in a huge cultural complex and important artistic center, called Kulturbrauerei.

In the beginning of August Katalena took some time off in a small and quiet Slovene village called Zapotok to compose music for the band’s third album, which was released in the beginning of 2006.

In the summer 2006 band appeared at several festivals in Slovenia, but the biggest pleasure and recognition for the band was an invitation to play at the Rudolstadt Folk Festival in Germany (the biggest world music festival in Germany).

Vesna Zornik – lead vocal
Polona Janežič – keyboards, backing vocals
Tibor Mihelič – bass, backing vocals
Boštjan Narat – guitar, mandolin, backing vocals
Robert Rebolj – drums, percussion
Boštjan Gombač – clarinet, flutes, percussion, backing vocals


(Z)godbe – Stories (ZKP RTVS 2002)
Babje Leto – Indian summer (Dallas Records, 2004)
Kmecka Ohcet – Country wedding (Dallas Records, 2006)
Cvik Cvak! (Dallas Records, 2008)
Noc Carovnic (Založba Pivec, 2011)
Enci Benci Katalenci (Založba Pivec, 2015)
Clovek Ni Zver (Založba Pivec, 2018)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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