Macedonian Media Stonewalls Popular Hip-Hop Artist's Pro-Freedom Song

A still from Toni Zen's video clip "Under Control."

A still from Toni Zen's video clip “Under Control.”

Toni Zen was once, not so long ago, Macedonia's biggest hip hop star, a media darling whose every move was followed. Since releasing a song about freedom of speech, however, Zen seems to have been dropped by Macedonian media.

Often praised for his good looks by media at home, always interesting as the bodybuilding buddy of [then] prime minister's chief bodyguard – who was also featured in one of Toni's music videos – and in the spotlight of regional media abroad during his participation in regional version of Survivor reality show, Zen could often be seen on front pages and television screens. He even appeared as kids’ idol on notebooks, making spectacular concerts in Skopje's biggest arena.

Zen was a popular staple that the country's media members seems to love to talk about until March 2013, when the hip-hop artist released the video for his new song, titled “Under Control” (Под контрола), featured below. The musician has since seldom been seen in Macedonian and regional media, although the song has been quite popular among his fans.

…Медиумски притисок
со бомбардирање реклами
вака се прави
„Не размислувајте сами!“

Слободата на говорот
затворена во шахта
во канализација
фрлена целата правда

Нè скараа нè степаа
од коренот нè сменија
фаќаат сеири
додека дигаат империја…

…Знам дека не е вака
како што ни зборат
ние не сме вакви
не држат под контрола

Се знае дека
сè е под контрола…

…Media pressure
bombardment with commercials
this is how you do it
“Do not think on your own!”

Freedom of speech
closed in a shaft
as justice
goes down the drain

They made us quarrel and fight among ourselves
they changed us from the root
and have fun regarding our misery
while building their empire…

…I know the things
are not as they say
this is not us
they keep us under control

It is known
Everything is under control…

Zen's song and the ambitious, well-executed video directly refer to the stifling of freedom of speech and social disparity in Macedonia, with audio and visual references to works by American comedian George Carlin and British author George Orwell. The music video received critical acclaim and was selected the best video of 2013 by the jury of popular annual manifestation Zlatna Buba Mara. Very few people have been able to see, however, as it has been completely absent from mainstream Macedonian media. The artist's performing career has also come to a near stop and he now rarely appears at public events.

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