A Songbird Takes Flight
With her dazzling performance at this year’s Split Music Festival and the release of her first CD,
19 year-old Croatian American singer Gina Picinic is poised to take the music world by storm
By Josip Bogovic
Gina Picinic has plenty to sing about these days. The 19 year-old CroatianAmerican's performance of the song Da si mi nocas blizu (If You Were Near MeTonight) at this year's Split Music Festival was a surprise hit that resulted ina top-ten finish and extensive radio play. Her triumph at the festival propelledher latest hit, Adio ljubavi (Goodbye, Love), up the Croatian music charts toits current number four spot. The exposure couldn't have come at a better timeas it coincides with the biggest step of her artistic career to date, therelease of her very first CD simply called, Gina. These are just the latest in aseries of accomplishments that suggest the singer's warm up is over.
Picinic's CD aptly captures a history of achievement and recognition in arelatively young life. As a teenager she won first place for best vocalist atthe Croatian Children's Youth Festival. At the 2003 MIK Festival in Croatia, shewon the People's Choice Award for her song, If I Could Take a Stroll with You (Dami je s tobun prosecat). Adding to her success, she won Best Teen Soloist at theNew York International Music Festival in 2004. The critics of the festivalcalled Picinic the 'Croatian Sensation'.
At his Melody Studios in the city of Rijeka, Andrej Basa richly producedPicinic's CD of ten original songs, a number of which incorporate klapa (acappella) singers, adding a unique dimension to its sound. Many of the lyricsand melodies were written by the well-known Robert Pilepic. The majority of thecompositions are love songs destined for longevity in the popular music genre.Picinic has a unique natural vibrato to her rich voice that gives her songs adistinctive signature, a kind of special spice to the ambience of her music. Ifyou spoke to her in Croatian, you would never know that she left Croatia at theage of three. She came to America and New Jersey at the age of seven, stoppingin Italy along the way.
The 19 year-old takes success and the release of her very fine CD in stride."The older I get the more confident, independent and responsible I become.I'm proud of this CD; it is the result of lots of hard work and persistenteffort. I'm happy with the progress I've made as a singer and I'm also happywith my life. I'm blessed to have a very supportive family, especially mymom," she says.
Recalling her experience in the recording studio she says, "There are ofcourse the long hectic hours, the element of getting the performance to thelevel you imagine it should be. The studio is a place where I can open up andnot feel inhibited. I can sing as loud as I want to and make the mistakes thatare not welcome in a live performance."
Although her talent earned her a well deserved place at the Split MusicFestival, Picinic was awed nonetheless. "The Split Music Festival is anevent where the finest Croatian singers perform their favorite songs. To be apart of an event like that is wonderful and a memorable experience for me. I hada chance to experience the commanding voice of the legendary Tereza Kesovija atrehearsal. It's something you don't forget and this inspires you to do betterand strive for higher goals. We were well received by Split and the audience andthis is also a very important part of the overall festival experience."
The festival circuit has given Picinic the polish of a seasoned pro with aninsight that has no doubt helped her feel at home while performing, and createdsome special memories along the way. "Each festival has its owncharm," she says. "The MIK Festival has a different structure to it.It's performed in different locations of the Kvarner region of Croatia. Thefestival becomes more like a family outing partly because the performers travelon the same bus and are together for a longer period of time. You also getinvited by the local community-the performers, and their family and friends-tosleep or eat in their homes. So the experience becomes a lot less formal."
Picinic is deeply passionate when discussing her singing, describing her craftin a somewhat dreamy tone: "I like the rush that comes before I go on stagefor a performance. During my time on stage I try to give all of myself to thesong so at the end of the show, I'm usually exhausted. My performance is aboutconveying the feeling of a song and the feeling I have for the song to theaudience. The emotion I convey has to be felt by the audience otherwise it looksbored and that is the last thing the performer wants to see or feel fromlisteners. I much prefer and strive for them to be spellbound. This is why Ilike to sing songs that reach for something; I also like for my song to reachthe intellectual part of the listener. I want them to have visual associationsto the emotion of the song performed. Ultimately, the song has to feed yoursoul."
Although this young artist has already attained a measure of success, there arealways hurdles to overcome. There is the issue of musicians being undermined bythe illegal pirating and distribution over the Internet of their songs."Many people are under the impression that this CD will make me rich orthat I'm living an extravagant lifestyle. That's far from the truth; the costsassociated with producing a CD are high and the artist does not make much moneyfrom the sale of the CD," she explains. She is currently attending NewJersey City University where she is pursuing a degree in music and liberal arts.She also works part-time in a local drug store to save up for her travelingexpenses when she goes to Croatia. Her mother Blazenka is her confidant, coachand the family's bread-winner. A warm, friendly and positive person, she is alsoa source of inspiration for Gina. The two make an effective, balanced team.
As she ponders her future, Picinic smiles playfully at all the possibilities."This is the first step of my dream. I will build on this work and justmaybe, someday I'll sing a duet with the likes of Josh Groban and my favoriteCroatian singers," she says.
If you get a chance to see Gina Picinic perform, you may conclude that she ispassionate about her craft. Her flawless performances speak of hard work andcommitment as she strives to take us to a place where peace, serenity, andbeauty rule the moment through her songs. Apart from her voice, this youngartist has numerous other attributes including personality, warmth, sincerityand a fighting spirit.
Gina Picinic's CD is available in Croatia and at the Dubrovnik Deli in Fairview,New Jersey. The next opportunity to catch a performance by this exceptionaltalent will come on October 15 at La Fortuna in Fairview at a fundraising eventput on by the Croatian organization IMAS.