Dreaming About a “Woke” Slovenia
THE ROOM IS DIMLY LIT AND A SPOTLIGHT ILLUMINATES THE STAGE. Under the light, a man is busting his verses and lines with gripping flow and rhymes. Word on the streets is he has never lost a freestyle battle—in English or Slovenian.
After growing up in the United States, Miha Blažič, also known as N’toko, returned to his native Slovenia, where he witnessed the young country’s rapid transformation from Yugoslavia into what it is today. He reflects on that transformation in his song Yugoslavia from his latest album Emirates.
10 years we built shopping malls / Trying to be like these happy people / Only to find out they were never really happy, just acting cheerful / Now we follow dreams—we some good capitalists / That’s what Jesus would’ve done—we some good Catholics
Emirates is the most political project he has released in English, N’toko says. Throughout the songs on the album, he alludes to visions of a different future and works through the challenges confronting modern-day Slovenia.
“I wanted to deconstruct the monolithic industrial communism that we’re used to from pictures of Cold War Eastern Europe,” he says. “I’m much more interested in what society can become and what kind of individuals it will produce one day.”
In 2017, N’toko was nominated as Slovenia’s person of the year for his work with refugees, but he ultimately turned down the award. He refused to be differentiated from the other volunteers at the Rog Factory—a squatted building in central Ljubljana that is locally known as a “free state” for creatives and activists.
“I am just one of the 150 people that are active at the Rog Factory. We are trying to connect people to fight for the rights of everyone. We are all fighting for mutual solidarity,” he explained to Delo, a local newspaper.
For N’toko, getting to a better future entails truly radical change, not just do-goodism. On Enter Sandman, the closing track of Emirates, N’toko angrily lashes out at the times we live in, against the elites and the hateful.
When we say fuck the system it’s about fucking the system / Craft beers and daft beards under crashed chandeliers / Politicians on milk cartons / All of these folks with their hands to the ceilings / They got their hands to the ceilings like—‘Hi, we’re the 99%, who the fuck are you?’
This article appears in Are We Europe #4: This Is Not An Elections Issue