BY: MARTINA PETROVIĆ
Hajde da ludujemo, Smokvica, Dvije zvjezdice, Moj mali je opasan… These are just some of the hits of the 1990s that we still like to dance to today. They were sung by Tatjana Cameron (nee Matejas) Tajči, at that time the biggest teen star in our region. Although she decided to continue her life and career on the American continent, for many she remained a favorite star in the pop music sky.
It is not surprising that we were especially pleased with the news that the legendary singer will hold a long-awaited concert in Zagreb in October. It was an excellent reason for our conversation in which, along with the announced show, we also remembered the beginning of Tajci’s career, performances at the Eurovision Song Contest, life in Nashville, and plans for the future.
- The Zagreb audience will finally have the opportunity to listen to you in a concert that will be held at the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall on October 11. How do you feel about the concert? What have you prepared for the Zagreb audience and what do you expect from the concert?
I am very much looking forward to the concert and I am honored by Prof. Primorac’s invitation to produce this concert with the famous Israeli stage artist Moti Giladi. As it is a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the state of Israel and 26 years of diplomatic relations between Croatia and Israel, the concert will be held in English and Croatian.
Our goal is to evoke musically the spirit of togetherness, hope, optimism, and love, which is the core of the friendships and support between our two countries. So the repertoire consists of beautiful songs such as Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World, Somewhere Over the Rainbow made famous by Judy Garland, You’ve Got a Friend in Me by singer-songwriter Carole King, and fun Moti performances that will make the audience laugh a little. Of course, Moti and I will perform our Eurovision song contest hits – my Let’s Go Crazy and his Yavo Yom, we will also present my song Window in the Wall, recorded by Olivia Newton-John with her daughter Chloe Lattanzi – and all this accompanied by the Croatian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Alan Bjelinski, arranged by Ante Gelo and Jim Gray (from Nashville).
Of course, I won’t miss the opportunity to sing my favorite ballad Dvije zvjezdice (transl. Two Stars) with the symphony – which will actually be a dream come true for me.
TAJCHI AND MOTI GILADI
- Is there a single announcing the concert coming out soon? What exactly is it about and who all participated in the production?
The song, a duet I recorded with Moti is called Holding Out My Hand. Grammy award winner Steve Leslie and I wrote the song specially for this concert. The song is about a simple gesture that we really need today – an outstretched hand and the will to listen to each other, to replace pointing the finger with which we judge, object, or impose our opinions.
Throughout the writing process, Steve and I felt that this song had to be written – just in the form it was in. There have been a lot of those goose-bumps-raising moments, in which you can feel the presence of creative energy that comes from something that is much bigger than us – we are just here to take it over and decode it.
The song was produced musically by the brilliant young musician and producer Scott Mulvahill who spent many years as the music director of Ricky Skaggs’ band, played with Lauren Daigle as her special guest on tours, and is an amazing solo artist. Scott and I collaborated in the past – writing two songs for my solo album Awaken – Keep Your Head Up (The Croatian version is Head Lift) and the English version of the song Mojoj Majci – You’ve Never Left My Mind. I was blessed to have Nashville’s top musicians (some from Lauren’s band) track the song. We recorded live string orchestra at an incredible studio in:ciite with seven times Grammy Award winning producer and engineer Danny Duncan. Strings were orchestrated by Jim Gray whose recent project was a piece for the launch of Artemis performed by cellist Yo Yo Ma and the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra. [I’m both humbled and so incredibly honored to have all these amazing people put their talent – and their beautiful hearts into this song.]
TAJCHI AND MOTI GILADI
The song will be released at the beginning of September by Croatia Records, where we recorded Moti’s vocals when we were both in Zagreb this summer – with another amazing sound engineer and awesome human Goran Martinac.
- What are your plans for the future? Is there a chance that we might sing your old hits together in the near future, but also some new ones, or is your plan to continue a successful career exclusively in America?
Personally, it would be a great joy for me to sing old hits with the local audience and share that good energy that has been connecting us all these years. I am also looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate with excellent Croatian and regional musicians and to play together – purely from the heart and for the soul.
It would be a great joy for me to sing old hits with the local audience
- Fame is something that many aspire to, especially young people today with the advent of social networks. Your musical talent was recognized when you were not even in your twenties. Did your celebrity status still help you when you decided to continue your education and career in America, where you were unknown? What would you say to young people who dream of fame?
Fame and success are not the same thing. Fame must be a side effect, not a goal. When we do something that fulfills us, through which we bring something good into the world around us, and when our goal through this work is to grow as a person and lift others up (instead of clawing our way up at any cost), then we recognize success in a deeper way that has nothing to do with fame, or likes, nor with comments or even with material abundance.
The celebrity status I enjoyed in the region helped me so much in a way that I realized very early on what I did not want in life and what was really important to me. I quickly felt the loneliness, emptiness, and insecurity in which a lot of celebrities find themselves because we do not have the tools or awareness of what we are and who we are outside of our passion for what we do – and because of fame that puts us constantly under the scrutiny of the audience. Perhaps some do not think deeply about these existential issues, but I was fascinated from a very early age by the questions of who I really am and what is the purpose of my life.
When I came to America to study, I hid my career success because I wanted to be treated like any other student. I wanted to progress because of my work and discipline, not because of the status.
Fame must be a side effect, not a goal.
- How do you see the beginnings of your career today? Is there anything you would like to say to your younger self and would you change anything?
If we had life coaches or psychotherapists at the time, I would definitely recommend her to work with some of them. But, no, I wouldn’t change anything – I believe every step on our path is important – they brought us where we are today. In everything, we can find beauty and gifts, messages that we receive and that build us up, that help us to grow in love.
- What beautiful memories tie you to the beginning of your music career?
The beginnings of my musical career is singing at the Children’s ZagrebFest in 1974 – in the Vatroslav Lisinski Hall, where my mom brought me a skirt at the last minute sewn by my great-aunt. Performances with dad’s band – on Rab where we all hung out (children of musicians from the band) and enjoyed carefree summers. Zagreb Youth Theatre and the musical U koga se uvrglo to dijete. Solfeggio classes with professor Nadia Miletić at the music school in Gundulićeva Street. Noc od kristala, a song with which I won the third audience award and the award for the best debutant at Zagreb Fest 1987. Orange dress sewn by Danijela Car (Linea Exclusive), which my mom and sister Sanja took by bus to Zadar for the performance at Jugovizija. A lot of good memories tie me to the beginnings of my music career.
- Many still remember your performance in the Eurovision Song Contest today. How do you view this experience with detachment?
I was very brave. It was a challenge to dance on this (rather slippery) plexiglass stage in heels and give my all to the song – all under enormous pressure because I wanted to justify the trust of the audience that supported me so strongly. Meeting Toto Cotugno will forever remain in my memory. He gave me a red rose and invited me to come to Italy and record with him. My grandmother on my dad’s side was from around Trieste and loved him very much. I knew all his songs both because of Nana and because of my Dad who performed them with his band. I’m sorry he left us.
- You recently presented your autobiographical book (not)Broken in Zagreb. Does writing represent a release of some sort for you? How hard was it for you to be so vulnerable in front of your readers?
(un)Broken is my fifth published book and the first one translated into Croatian. I like to write. I always wrote – diaries, poems, and essays, I loved doing essays for school. Writing for me is both a creative process and processing information and emotions. As I have been writing a blog for many years (I also wrote for Huff Post and for the Sarajevo magazine Svjetlo Rijeci), I found that sweet spot where I can ‘bare’ myself, but also feel protected and safe.
Through coaching and working with women who have gone through tremendous trauma, I have learned how important it is to work on myself to avoid being retraumatized by writing (it again causes us the trauma we write about). I wrote the book (un)Broken to someone who is in a similar situation and whom I approached with the intention of letting her know that she was not alone. (un)Broken has intentionally a lot of empty space for the reader to fill with his story and experiences.
I learned how important it is to work on yourself.
- What are you particularly proud of in your career?
I am proud that I persevered and did not let myself be discouraged. I’m proud of raising three kids with my music that my late husband and I produced. I’m proud of that we successfully toured with my concerts for 17 years, ran the whole business and managed a whole crew of people. I am proud that I did not wait for others to invite me to perform, but would create a concert, play, or a conceptual musical event myself, stage it, produce it and perform it. And what I’m most proud of is that I didn’t discourage my sons from embarking on creative careers. They have seen how art refines people, gives them inspiration and hope, and how art reminds them of the magic of life and joy that is available to us all when we open our hearts.
WITH SISTER SANJA.
- What do you enjoy when you have free time? What are the little joys of life that make you happy? Tell us about your current life in Nashville.
In my free time, I grow a garden. I have six beds of vegetables, spices, and flowers. I even have a grape that is originally from my late husband’s grandmother. I read books and belong to a book club where we discuss the read content. I love cooking and preparing nice dinners for family and friends. I volunteer at a women’s prison. I love walking with Luna who’s my golden doodle. I enjoy watching movies and series or sitting by the window and enjoying the peace.
- You’ve lived in the U.S. for a long time. Is there anything, besides family, that you’re missing from Croatia?
I miss people – mom, family, friends from high school, chance meetings in the city, coffees shared together. Hairdryer hairstyles, trips to Sljeme, and the smell of the sea.
TAJCHI AND MOTI GILADI
- Do you work as a mentor, among other things? Tell us more about what motivated you to do this and who are the young talents you work with?
In 2015, I attended a course for Holistic Life Coaches with the intention of learning to ask better questions to guests on the show about the life milestones I then produced and hosted, Waking Up in America. I really liked coaching so I continued with the certification. My first engagement was in a women’s prison where I actually realized how coaching can change people’s lives. The coach, unlike the mentor, does not advise but sees the client as a complete and creative person, so through questions and listening (and reflecting what the client is saying) the coach helps the client to come up with a solution. Through this process, the client also gains confidence in themselves and refreshes their abilities and creativity.
During the pandemic, I completed three more courses at the Chopra Center (Ayurveda lifestyle, Meditation and Well-being Coaching) and qualified for accreditation by the International Coaching Federation. I lead meditation every day, facilitate online courses, and work with individual clients – both Wellness Coaching and Career Coaching, and I love working with young talents as a mentor.
One thing I’m proud of is that I persevered and didn’t let myself be discouraged
- Your sister Sanja also achieved a successful career in America. Tell us more about it? Do you work professionally and what is Sanja doing right now?
Sanja is an extremely talented woman. A lot of people know her for her role as Myra Menka in the Disney movie Holes. She was also a featured singer on tour with the Transsiberian Orchestra, a guest star in a number of American series. He is currently writing music for the film.
We were always happy to collaborate on music projects and toured together. Before the pandemic, we did an excellent tour with a cabaret-style concert of American music that was so good that the agency kept sending us inquiries about what we were doing because such good reviews had never been heard before. We also have a new show Window in a Wall with which we will start touring in September 2024, and in which we have included several tamburitza acts (I hired tamburitza player Paula Poskon, and I gave myself the task of learning to play!). Sanya brings humor and her special energy into all this – in addition to being a really beautiful woman!
WITH SISTER SANJA.
- Do you have any professionally unfulfilled wishes?
I have unfulfilled desires that I am actively working on – to finish writing my extensive memoirs and establish contacts with musicians for some nice new projects. I want to sing more jazz songs in the next stage and learn jazz improvisation on piano. I also want to re-stage my play, the full-length musical My Perfectly Beautiful Life.
And, of course, Lisinski filled with wonderful arrangements, excellent music and a satisfied audience on October 11, and after that a series of concerts in Croatia 🙂
Photo: Promo, Private archive
BY: MARTINA PETROVIĆ