The Balkan Cliff Richard with a James Dean Death
Every nation has its pop stars these days, even Wales. Since the explosion of music television in the 1980s musical ability has often taken a back seat to the marketable and the beautiful. Aesthetics have become every bit as important as talent, if not more so. Superstars have been born, and superstars have been created. This superstar-adoration inevitably leads to people from faraway lands being compared to some of the most historic stars from the west, such as the Elvis of the so-and-so, the Cliff Richard of that place there. The man who the BBC described as the Elvis of the Balkans was probably closer to being the Cliff Richard of the Balkans, and was a man with a typically tragic story. His life ended when he was just 26. This man was Toše Proeski.
Toše Proeski was born in Prilep and grew up in Kruševo in an Aromanian (or Vlach) family. The Aromanians are an ethnic group native to the southern Balkans, ironically the entire historical lands of Macedonia (Northern Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia). They surprisingly speak Aromanian, a Latin-derived language similar to Romanian, and whilst they make up less than one percent of the country's population they comprise approximately 20 percent of the population of Kruševo. Toše’s first taste of the sweet spotlight of super-stardom came at the age of 12, when he performed at a Children's Song Festival called Zlatno Slavejce (Golden Nightingale). His first big break came at the age of 16 in 1997, when he became something of a staple on the festival circuit in Macedonia. His fan base grew quickly and it became clear that the cherub-faced 16-year-old prodigy was likely to make buddies with the rich and famous lifestyle sooner rather than later. His clean cut image and obvious marketability almost made this an inevitability. Two years later he released his debut album, Nekade vo Nokta, or Somewhere in the Night. That same year Proeski performed his first solo concert in Skopje. The paper had been lit.