MISHA rose to fame in the Pop Star competition for Slovak amateur singers.
So what a surprise it was when she garnered just three nominations in the Aurel Awards, the Slovak version of the Grammies, while her good friend, a relatively unknown singer who calls herself Misha, won seven nominations.
"I cannot explain [the high number of nominations] in any other way than by saying that maybe the music here just needed a bit of a change. I felt it was almost all the same: guitar pop or whatever you call it. I am not saying 'I brought something new or unique', I just wanted to give people some choice," says Misha, who admits that she and Kirschner have a good laugh at the gossip going around that their friendship is in danger because of Misha's new-found success.
Last May the 27-year-old rhythm and blues singer, who writes and sings mainly in English, won the Pop Star competition for Slovak amateur bands, which enabled her to record her debut album, Colors in My Life. After only six months as a professional, Misha has been nominated for best female singer, newcomer, song, album, video, producer, and sound-production quality.
The high number of nominations surprised not only the general public, but also some members of the Academy of Popular Music, who nominate and later decide on the winners of the Aurel Awards. The results for 2002 will be announced on March 7.
"Misha occupies the first position on the nomination list, but almost nobody knows her," says Yvetta Kajanová, a music expert.
Kajanová is one of the 163 members of the academy, which is composed of journalists, music experts, and owners of music stores. They chose the nominees from the hundred or so records that were released in the country the previous year.
However, Kajanová says that for a number of reasons it is impossible to get to know all of the records produced.
"Aurel has become quite a significant award in this country, but the process of choosing the nominees is confusing," she says, explaining that not all the CDs are available to the all members to listen to because of distribution problems.
This year marks the second anniversary of the Aurel Awards, which replaced the now-defunct Slovak Grammy Awards. The idea of establishing the Aurel Awards came from Slavomír Olšovský, executive director of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), after he noticed the tense relations between the recording industry and the organisers of the Slovak Grammy Awards.
"Aurel is a completely new project, so the imperfections [in how it is run] are only to be expected, and we are trying to eliminate them. We need more time and experience, and this applies to the local recording industry as well. Of course, there are companies that took the Aurel Awards seriously this year and they did everything possible and legal to acquaint the members of the Academy of Popular Music with their 2002 releases," says Olšovský, whose primary motivation behind the project was to establish fair and transparent rules for the competition.
"One may question whether all the members had the chance to listen to the recordings produced by the smaller recording companies in particular. But if those [companies] are interested, we are ready and willing to provide contact information on our members so they can all get to listen to all the CDs," he continued.
Olšovský rejects the idea that the current situation, whereby not all the members get to hear all the CDs, might lead some members to vote for an artist who is heavily played in the media.
"I don't think the overrepresentation of a particular artist has an impact on voting within the Aurel Awards. In fact, Slovak music professionals tend to think media success, meaning high sales, is a sign of poor quality. The equation that true art equals zero commercial success is one of the very few remnants of the former [communist] regime in our music business," he says, adding that Slovakia has yet to produce high-quality artists who enjoy commercial success, like Sting, Eric Clapton, and Santana.
One example that proves the above is the nomination of the president of the Aurel Awards board, trumpet player Juraj Bartoš, who was nominated in the best instrumentalist category, a fact that surprised Bartoš himself.
"It's a paradox that I got nominated since I am the president [of the competition], but my conscience is clear because I don't have the right to vote. And it's even more surprising because I, a classically-educated musician playing an instrument that is not dominant in popular music, have no ambition to become the best pop music instrumentalist," he said.
Aurel is as much about music that is popular as it is about the pop music genre, and according to Olšovský, Bratislava Hot Serenaders with Juraj Bartoš and comedian Milan Lasica are extremely popular, "notwithstanding the fact that they do not do mainstream stuff, or maybe just because of that".
"This is what I like about our country - contextual originality still pays off. You still have a chance to win over the marketing people. I am glad that Juraj is the president: It shows that music is a whole universe, with no genre borders," he said.
Selected nominations for the Aurel Awards 2002
Best Female Singer
Best Male Singer
Newcomer of the Year
Chill On The Sun
Náladu mi dvíhaš (Misha)
Len tebe (Ivan Tásler)
Čo bolí to prebolí (M. Žbirka and Martha)
Colors in My Life (Misha)
Pelikán (J. Kirschner)
Tásler (I. Tásler)