A national day of condolence and a 500-strong boat regatta: how Croatia is celebrating the memory of Oliver Dragojević

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Time Out contributors

Reaction to the death of popular singer Oliver Dragojević has been unprecedented. After the sad news was announced on the morning of Sunday July 29, Dragojević's music could be heard on radio stations everywhere. Although a singer associated most with the seaside region of Dalmatia, where Dragojević was born, grew up and first established his career, the loss was felt not only across the whole of Croatia, but also in Serbia and Bosnia where he had many, many fans.

In Zagreb, following a successful Crossover Festival in park Ribnjak, the DJ chose on Sunday to end proceedings not with the jazz music which the festival had been celebrating for five days, but with the music of Dragojević. It was a tribute that has been mirrored around the country. In Zadar, on the same evening, a large group of public singers and tambura players gathered spontaneously in the centre of town to sing Dragojević songs.

On Monday July 30, just 24 hours after Dragojević's death, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced that, at a special meeting of the government, it had been decided to make Tuesday July 31 a National Day Of Condolence. No planned events will be cancelled, but the Croatian flag will fly at half-mast on all official buildings.

On the evening of the National Day Of Condolence, around 500 boats from the islands of Hvar and Vis will gather between Hvar and Pakleni, while a catamaran holding Dragojević's coffin will sail past towards Vela Luka on the island of Korčula, where Dragojević grew up.

The catamaran carrying the coffin will depart from Split at 7.50pm, with large crowds also expected to wave goodbye to the singer who made a name for himself in the city. The catamaran is expected to reach Hvar at around 8.30pm, at which time the organised procession of boats and accompanying salute will take place. Following the salute, the boat will make its way to Korčula, Dragojević's final journey being serenaded by the seagulls he most famously sang about in life.

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