You are here: Home Articles News


Winners of Croatian Blues Challenge!

Tomislav Goluban is a winner of 8th Croatian Blues Challenge!

KAJ BLUES ETNO - 8th release from Croatian harmonica player

Tomislav Goluban, an eminent Croatian blues harmonica musician, has been playing his music for two decades. Performing solo/duo or with a band, he has played in the United States and in some 20 European countries. Tomislav has won several of Croatia's most prestigious annual national music awards and debuted at #49 on the Roots Music Chart for the Week of May 13, 2015 with his 6th studio album titled Blow Junkie. With some of the tracks from this album Tomislav has since become a regular on the famous Sirius XM "BB King's Bluesville" program. He is the founder of the ethno blues festival in his home region of Zagorje, just north-west of the Croatian capital of Zagreb; he also works with young people, exposing them to the harmonica and music in general and hosts a blues radio show on the Croatian national radio station.

 On his 8th studio album Kaj Blues Etno, Tomislav Goluban delivers 21 tracks, showcasing some traditional Croatian (Zagorje) song sand instrumentals, and an abundance of new, self-penned material, resulting in a unique fusion of different genres and instruments. As its very title suggests, the album encompasses three themes – the traditional music of Tomislav's native Zagorje [using its native Kajkavian, or Kaykavian, dialect], the blues and ethno or world music.

 As many as forty musicians collaborated on Tomislav's new release; their outstanding musicianship and diverse musical talents proved to be a perfect vehicle for Goluban's ideas. By employing a range of musical instruments, among them bagpipe, double flute, tambura, violin, mandolin, tapan, daf, darbuka or udu drum, and by incorporating train and tractor sound effects, Tomislav creates songs that carryan instantly and fully recognizable, specific author signature.

 Kaj Blues Etno is a splendid example of the successful implementation of country/delta blues into (Kajkavian) Croatian language, giving birth to a completely ”new“ sound. With regard to Tomislav, though, this sound is anything but new. Those who follow him and know him well, know also that this has been his guiding idea, his leitmotif for years. This fusion of different musical expressions has taken impressive proportions. While some musicians can convincingly and credibly cover well-known blues standards, others are completely comfortable and confident with their improvisational skills. But what a few have attained is acreative blend of the above, and that is precisely what makes Kaj Blues Etno such an original, truly unique album.

The train has always been a source of inspiration for Tomislav; therefore, Riding the Train (Vlak vozi) is a fitting choice for the 1st single from the album. It thematizes transience, life in the fast lane, its ups and downs, the dark tunnels that eventually open up to new and sunny vistas. An entertaining video has been made (YT LINK) with a wooden toy train mimicking the real train as a central motif. Song begins with the blues harp imitating the train whistle. That whistle scream and the clickety-clack syncopation of the wheels can be heard in the preceeding track on the CD, titled Cug (Kajkavian for train), which will surely be enjoyed by many a train buff as well as many a blues fan. Because Tomislav does the train imitation on his harp real well!

TWOJ BLUES review (Poland)

TWOJ BLUES review Poland (No.64, spring 2016)

IL BLUES review (Italy)

IL BLUES review (Italy)


Just how far has the influence of this magazine’s favorite subject spread around the world? So far, yours truly has reviewed blues CD’s from Australia, Africa, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and the UK. Tomislav Goluban and Nebojša Buhin provide an exciting entry to this list: Croatia.
Their latest album on the Spona label, For a Friend & Brother, contains twelve instrumentals dedicated to Nebojša’s brother Dražen, who passed away in 2012. From the most excruciating loss a human being suffers can come some of the most beautiful art s/he can create. Yes, the blues IS beautiful, as Goluban and Buhin’s masterpieces prove. This duo knows the purpose of instrumental music is twofold: to set a mood, and to let listeners achieve a powerful emotional release in the absence of lyrics. Certain fans might ask, “Where’s the ‘baby, baby, baby’, or traditional rhythms we’re used to hearing?” No one will find any of that on this album, but never fear. Its blues is as pure as it comes.
Tomislav Goluban has been honing his harp skills since 1997, and his sixth studio album, Blow Junkie, debuted at #49 on the Roots Music Chart. “Nebo” Buhin has played in front of renowned guitar masters such as Johnny Winter and Greg Koch. Both of them have performed at International Blues Challenges in Memphis, TN. Hopefully, their names will be hailed far and wide in the U.S., because all of their songs on this rip-roaring CD deserve national airplay.
It boasts a staggering total of nineteen musicians – not only Goluban on harps and Buhin on guitars, but their compatriots as well: Vlado Simich Vava on slide guitar; guitarist Mike Sponza; bassist Mario Mikor; Jurica Štelma on double bass; Mladen Malek and Igor Vugrek on drums; keyboardists Jurica Leikauff and Goran Kovačić; pianist Bruno Krajcar, Toni Eterović on synth; Boris Šaronja and Zvonimir Bajević on trumpet; Robert Polgar on saxophone; Mario Šincek on trombone, Danko Burić on viola; Igor Križanić on kalimba; Darka Veronica Bisćan on violoncello; Lela Kaplowitz on backing vocals (track nine), and also on tap dance with Lucia Kaplowitz and Bojan Valentić.
It’s truly impossible to pick the best songs on this album, so let’s go 1-2-3, for simplicity’s sake:
Track 01: “Don’t You” – Haunting, melodic, and slow, the opener captures the angst of lost love without saying so out loud. Here, Goluban’s harp does all the talking, or should I say, screaming. Lovelier than that, however, is Boris Šaronja’s tantalizing trumpet. This is a song for long, cold nights alone, perhaps with a bottle of wine for sole company.
Track 02: “St. Martin” – Directly after that, it’s time for a throw-down boogie! Whoever says that string instruments have no place in the blues hasn’t heard Danko Burić’s va-va-voom viola. Perhaps the catchiest, however, is a bouncy bass backbeat, courtesy of Mario Mikor. Such a track is perfect for live shows, whether at outdoor festivals or indoor bars. Yee-haw!
Track 03: “Thunder Night” – Get ready to tell some ghost stories, blues fans, on a dark and stormy – well, you know. With an intro that would make Edgar Allan Poe as well as Stephen King proud, Goluban’s harmonica wails tales of specters past and gone. Jurica Leikauff’s keyboards add a psychedelic touch.
For a Friend & Brother is a monumental tribute to instrumental blues fans everywhere!
BLUES BLAST MAGAZINE - Rainey Wetnight, February 2016, ISSUE 10-8, (USA)

TOP 100 - 2015

"For A Friend & Brother" is No.90 on Blues In The South magazine (UK) editor's choice of the TOP 100 blues albums of 2015.

New studio album 'For a Friend & Brother'

Seventh studio album called 'For a Friend & Brother' was recorded together with guitar master Nebojša Buhin, who hails from the Croatian town of Bjelovar. We've dedicated the album to my friend and Nebojša's brother, the late Dražen Buhin. Record company 'Spona' will release the album on September 7th, the date which would have been Dražen's 50th birthday.

ROOTSTIME, Belgium - 'Blow Junkie' album review

Rootstime - Belgium: “Discover this great blues harp blower from Croatia! “
Tomislav Goluban from Zagorje, is a Croatian blues musician, singer and harmonica player. He is primarily a blues harmonica player and has been doing this since 1997 and now also live on multiple albums. The first album he recorded with the "Little Pigeon's ForHill Blues" band. From 2010 he also draws the studio to work solo. Goluban seeks his inspiration amongst others by Sonny Terry, Slim Harpo, Paul Butterfield, Gary Primich and Kim Wilson. For other biographical information, I refer everyone to his website, which is unfortunately not always translated into English. You are notified in other words.
In a studio in Tugonica in Hrvatska, Croatia is the sixth and latest album "Blow Junkie" by Tomislav Goluban recorded. It is an album with no less than sixteen, all but one original tracks. For his new album, he gave Lovro Sicel help (guitar), Aleksandar Vesic (bass), Igor Vugrek (drums) and Nebojša BUHIN (tremolo guitar) .Eric Needs and Joe Filisko, two fellow harpists, helped him in writing the songs.
 "Harp Rockin '," a short instrumental rocker opens the album. For most of the songs written Goluban both the text and the music. For some songs, such as "what's in a name" boogie "Blow Junkie Boogie", the sultry "Electric Lights" and the title song "Blow Junkie" wrote fellow songwriter (an American living in Croatia - not to be confused with the real! ) Robert Lon Johnson texts. "Gambler's Blues" typifies almost "normal" singing Goluban and also allows guest guitarist Nebojša BUHIN, which has hung around a tremolo guitar, hear. PS. Note here also as the message of the singer! Then there's "On The Roof" with Lovro Sicel, which opens on his cigar box, which provides the necessary slides. And, "by the way" in the South need to be, because they dance on the roof. For the jazzy track "Blues For Mother Earth" Goluban blowing a chromatic harmonica, to then continue with a second (short) instrumental "Boogie 44". "Drivin '& Ridin'" is equally funky and is a tribute to "your machine". Goluban continues with another boogie "Forhill's Boogie" and before that literally drops his voice an octave. Ditto goes for "Two Rockets" to pause after a slow blues "Until The Morning Comes"; whereby the listener after all that dancing, just do not fall into limp. Third and penultimate instrumental "Freedom King" (the quiet campfire valve "Springtime Fever" is the last). Mel London's "Messin 'With The Kid" (as he does often) Goluban's tribute to one of his predecessors ligustere. The song, a blues standard, we also know from Junior Wells and Muddy Waters, is attributed to Mel London, who was also the owner of 'Chief Records. We conclude the review with "Speedin 'Train", which was already known in Croatia in a pop version.
Tomislav Goluban can call itself a true "Blow Junkie". With this great harmonica blues album, you can get acquainted with blues from Croatia, a country where you do not really expect blues and roots music. Let yourself be sure to check surprise by Tomislav Goluban - Lovro Sicel - Aleksandar Vesic - Igor Vugrek & Nebojša Buhin!
ROOTSTIME - Eric Schuurmans, BELGIUM , August 2015

BLUES BLAST MAGAZINE - 'Blow Junkie' album review (USA)

BLUES BLAST MAGAZINE - Issue 9-24 June11, 2015, John Mitchell (USA)

Croatian musician Tomislav Goluban has been playing harp since 1997 and finds his inspiration among US players such as Paul Butterfield, Kim Wilson and Gary Primich.  Two contemporary harp players, Joe Filisko and Eric Noden are credited for their assistance with songwriting on this CD.  The material is all original bar one cover and was mainly written by Tomislav, with assistance on four songs by expat American Robert Lon Johnson (not that Robert Johnson) who lived and played in Croatia for a period of time and collaborated with Tomislav.  The band is Tomislav on harp and vocals, Lovro Sicel on guitar and B/V, Aleksandar Vesic on bass and Igor Vugrek on drums.  Additional guitar on one track is by Nebojsa Buhin.

The CD opens with an instrumental appropriately entitled “Harp Rockin’”.  “Blow Junkie Boogie” follows with some dirty slide work underneath the harp, a solid boogie rhythm being maintained throughout.  From the lyrics we gather that the ‘blow’ that interests Tomislav is through his harp, not illegal substances!  Tomislav sings in quite a deep voice with an accent but the lyrics are perfectly understandable on most tracks; it is only really when Tomislav tackles the cover song that one really hears the difference as the lyrics are so familiar.

“Electric Lights” drops the pace a little and “Gambler’s Blues” is an attractive tune with some echoey guitar from guest Nebojsa and some good picking by Lovro as Tomislav recounts the story of an addiction to the tables, as well as taking a solid solo on harp which also complements that echoey guitar sound.  “On The Roof” ups the pace with some cigar box slide work as Tomislav tells us about people “dancing on the roof” after he “moved down south to play some blues” – one of the standout tracks here.  “Blues For Mother Earth” bears some similarity lyrically to the Memphis Slim song but is wrapped up in a breezy pop tune that talks of ‘peace and love’ with some more good picking from Lovro and harp by Tomislav.  The instrumental “Boogie 44” acts as an intermission on the album at the half way point with Tomislav playing brightly over the foot-tapping rhythm.

“Drivin’ And Ridin’” is a funky tune about…driving around in a car!  Another boogie number entitled “Forhill’s Boogie” precedes “Two Rockets”; on both these songs Tomislav sings in a deeper voice which does not always make for easy understanding.  “Two Rockets” borrows a little from “Bullfrog Blues” in its lyrical structure but whips along enjoyably.  The band drops the pace for “Until The Morning Comes”, Tomislav’s harp having something of a campfire feel as befits a tune with a country feel.

“Freedom King” is another instrumental with some tough harp on top of a rocking riff before the cover of Mel London’s “Messin With The Kid” appears.  Tomislav feels that “every blues album must have at least one cover song to pay tribute to the legends”; this is his choice here and his playing is very good indeed.  “Speedin’ Train” was apparently a pop hit in Croatia and Tomislav and his American friend RLJ translated it into English and to a blues idiom.  As befits the title the track increases in pace and Tomislav produces some fine ‘train’ sounds on his harp.  A second version of the title track, this time simply entitled “Blow Junkie” is set at a less frenetic pace than the first version earlier on the album.  “Springtime Fever” closes the album with a laidback instrumental on which Tomislav hits some very low notes on the harp.

This was the first time that Croatian blues has crossed this reviewer’s path and it is good to hear the enthusiasm that people in countries distant from the USA have for the music we all enjoy.  This album is well-crafted and recorded and deserves a listen. Good luck to Tomislav and his band in spreading the blues word in Croatia.