Three Croatian Talents on the Austrian Arts Scene

Whether a songwriter, a music producer or a presenter, many say that the people behind the scenes are the most important.

FRESHMAKER /MARIO SKAKALO/

HIP-HOP AND POP PRODUCER

When asked what song would best describe Mario Skakalo’s parents’ journey to Vienna, he answered with: “Super(wo)men!”. He was a teenager, when his mother came to Austria from Kiseljak (BiH), and his father from Nova Gradiška. Love resulted in the birth of three boys, one of whom is Mario, now a successful hip-hop music producer.

Growing up in the 15th district, he was inspired by German rap goading him to produce his own beats. His first release was in 2008 on the album Gastarbeiterhilfe, by Croatian-Austrian hip hop musician Kid Pex. After that he worked with the German rapper Kollegah on the mixtape “Hoodtape Volume 1”. A few years later, he had gold and platinum in his collection and works with other big rap names like Farid Bang, Kontra K, Chakuza, Dame or Jala Brat. 

Mario – aka Freshmaker – lived surrounded by a mix of cultures, and celebrated all of Croatia’s important sport events in Vienna: “I’m speechless every time I see which legends come from this beautiful little country”. Nevertheless, he is not that much into traditional Croatian music. “But even that can be felt after a few Rakijas,” he jokes. 

The founder of NXT LVL Studios Vienna is proud of his origins and highlights a difference to the Austrians: “With the Balkans, everything is a little more relaxed, whether it’s a dismissal at work or a parking ticket, according to the principle: ‘Idemo dalje!’ ” –  “Keep going!” 

Equipped with such a fighting spirit the four albums “Checkpoint”, “Kodeks”, “Fusion” and “No Limit” are just the beginning of what we will hear from this talented musician. 

DAVID SLOMO

SINGER-SONGWRITER & BLOGGER

For ten years, David Slomo tried to gain a foothold in the Austrian music scene. His songs got unprecidented negative responses; he wanted to quit music. One radio station had told him that they had never received such bad feedback on a song as on one of his. Then came Mathea in 2018 and his life changed completely.

With the singer from Salzburg (Song “2x”), he reached number one in the Austrian charts as well as gold and platinum. Since then, he has had a total of seven gold records to his name. In addition to Mathea, the 29-year-old now also works with German Singer Mark Forster and the  up and coming Austrian artist “Ness”, among others.

Born in Zagreb towards the end of the Yugoslav war, Slomo’s father left the family before he was born and his mother decided to move to Vienna after giving birth to her son, leaving him with his grandparents. Even though it was anything but easy, he now says, he was given everything by his family,.

At the age of six he left his Croatian home from one day to the next and found a new one with Vienna. Soon after, he had to start school. The early days were not easy: “No friends, you don’t know the language – it was very hard for me. I was really ostracized.“

In the meantime, the Donaustadt native feels like a son of Vienna, although he has also studied the Croatian language: “At every European Championship or World Cup I wear the red-and-white-chequered jersey, but in fact I am Viennese. This is where I had my school years, my first friendships, my first love, heartbreak – …my first problem with the law,” he jokes.

When not writing songs Slomo does interviews for the daily mass-market tabloid Heute in the Balkan blog “Hajde!”, which helps give the Balkans in Vienna a face: “I wanted to show that we belong to Austria, to give us a voice and make us visible.“

MARIANNE PUŠIĆ

ACTRESS AND PRESENTER

Marianne Pušić is a multi talent among the young Croatians living in the Austrian capital. Not only a trained actress, she is also a presenter and a speaker. Moreover, she can sing chansons, knows Bollywood dance and even does stunt fighting.

Born in Vienna in 1996, her father’s family came here from Croatia in the early 1980s. On a tripi home, he met her mother by chance in Ladimirevci, a place close to Osijek, and a few years later she came to Austria out of love. The artist is as proud of her family, who didn’t have it easy either.

But though born here, Pušić had quite a strong Croatian accent until well into her teens. So she had to practise a lot and decided on drama school at the age of 19. She played different roles, among others in the Austrian classic Jedermann. Pušić worked at the Viennese theatres “MoKi” and “Theater im Paradiesgarten” too. 

Today she is also a presenter at YUPLANET, an up-and-coming Balkan TV station in Vienna. The moderation business was something she “slipped into” during the pandemic, she says, when the theatres were closed.  

Today, she visits Croatia two or three times a year, even though she has lost some of her connection to the Croatian community in the last few years. Still  Pušić has a special place in her heart for Croatia, and hopes one day to act in a Croatian film. 

Maybe there are one or two directors who will read this…

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