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Amateur singer prompts debate

NEITHER the scheduled performance by British jazz funk band Jamiroquai nor the various other attractions organised throughout Košice for the opening of the European Capital of Culture (ECOC) 2013 prompted as much debate as the inclusion in the event line-up of Slovak amateur singer Anna Gaja, the wife of Marián Gaja, mayor of the Košice borough of Sever.

NEITHER the scheduled performance by British jazz funk band Jamiroquai nor the various other attractions organised throughout Košice for the opening of the European Capital of Culture (ECOC) 2013 prompted as much debate as the inclusion in the event line-up of Slovak amateur singer Anna Gaja, the wife of Marián Gaja, mayor of the Košice borough of Sever.

The debate started after a 13-year-old video for Gaja’s song ‘Love in the Rain’ was published on the internet, the Omediach.com website reported on January 7. The author of the article, journalist Miroslava Kernová, likened it to a “bad imitation of [popular Slovak singer] Dara Rolins”, who is Gaja’s idol.

Alongside the generally negative public reaction, several Slovak artists also responded negatively to Gaja’s inclusion.

Ján Sudzina, head of the ECOC Košice project, later announced that asking Anna Gaja to attend the opening ceremony was merely part of its marketing strategy. However, the singer claimed to know nothing about this.

“When preparing the opening ceremony we were thinking about how to conceptualise the media campaign so as to reach the largest group of people,” Sudzina explained to the TASR newswire. “We had two possibilities. [Either] use a big amount of public money for an advertising campaign, which we could not afford and did not want to do at the time, or come up with a marketing event which would, because of doubts over the correctness of the selection of performers or political background, arouse a public debate.”

Before the furore, very few people had visited the ECOC website, though the organisers invited several well-known foreign artists, including French architect Dominique Perrault, US musicians Frank London and Paul Shapir, and film director Emir Kusturica; following it, the number of visits to the website broke records, Sudzina stressed.

In spite of the negative coverage, Gaja did not withdraw and confirmed her participation in the opening ceremony. But she changed her plans and instead of two songs she said she would perform only one, her new Slovak-English song ‘I Do Not Expect Any Miracles’, the Košice daily Korzár wrote.

The Gaja affair was not the only ECOC-related event to hit the headlines. In December last year a site installation of false time-bombs by the artistic group Kassaboys, designed to ‘blow up’ at the start of the ECOC project, was removed. Kassaboys prepared the site installation, which also incorporated newspaper headlines pointing to disputes affecting the project, especially related to financing, political interference, delays in investment projects and the commissioning of orders not linked to the festival, as part of the warm-up festival The End, prepared by the non-profit organisation Košice 2013.

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