Meet the Music Icons of Split: Neno Belan and Đavoli

Daniela Rogulj

How much do you know about Neno Belan and Davoli?

If you’re in Split, chances are you’re a fan of Neno Belan and the band he fronted back in the 80s, Đavoli. Songs that break hearts and have had girls chasing boys for decades, here’s a bit about one of the most legendary bands and frontmen to come out of the Dalmatian capital.

Davoli is a rock and pop band founded in Split in 1984. The original composition included Neno Belan (vocals, guitar), Igor Kmetić (saxophone), Dragiša Mandic (bass guitar) and Željko Hajsok (drums). 

The leading man of Davoli was guitarist and singer Neno Belan who played in ‘Narodno blago’ before Davoli – Narodno blgao was known for performing with rock and roll greats The Ramones and The Rolling Stones. Forced to put his dream on hold in 1980 to serve his military duties, soon after he returned to Split, Belan founded Davoli. The band was named after the song “Diavoli” by Belgian singer Rocco Granatta.

Davoli held their first concert at the Sailing Club ‘Bilo jidro’ on November 27, 1984, and performed cover songs from the 1950s and 1960s to build their music repertoire. Their major compositions were inspired by Italian canzone and early rock and roll, and they later joined forces with manager Robert Čarleta (Charlie), who booked them an evergrowing list of appearances.

In 1985, Čarleta opened a sixties club where Davoli played one of their most memorable gigs. Their repertoire consisted of twist and old rock and roll hits with Zlatko Volarević (later a member of Crvena Jabuka) on keyboards, and Dean Radovniković on drums. 

Davoli is also known for playing shows at many of Split’s most famous venues including Shakespeare or STOP. Their greatest hits from this period were compositions “Speedy Gonsales”, “Lucija”, “Peggy Sue”  and many others later found on their albums.

Already after their first recordings, the record label Jugoton offered the band a contract and announced a promotional single featuring the songs “Kucaj opet”, Zvuci ulice”, “Večeras” and “Nebo vraća osmijeh”. Produced by Željko Brodarić Jappa, the compositions became a major radio success. The song “Kucaj opet” was a successful work of the old hit “Keep On Knockin” and was performed on their first television appearance on ’Stereovizija’.

In mid-1986, Davoli released their first album ‘Love and Fashion’, issued by Jugoton and produced by Ivan Stančić. The album was named after a 1960s domestic film directed by Ljubomir Radicevic. The album achieved great success in the entire Yugoslavia region, and with their combination of multilevel singing similar to that of Dalmatian klapa, they were considered “a mix of Mediterranean atmosphere and the western way of play”. While Belan wrote all of Davoli’s songs, the lyrics were written by Robert Čaleta. 

Davoli’s second studio album ‘Hallo Lulu 22’ was released in 1987 on Jugoton, once again produced by Željko Brodarić Jappa. The album’s name was taken after a cigarette paper which was produced at the tobacco factory in Rijeka. 

‘Ostani uz mene’ was their third studio album released in 1988 by Jugoton. On the eve of the recording, Zlatko Volarević left the band for Crvena Jabuka, only to be replaced by keyboardist Dragan Lukic. Matko Petric replaced Dean Radovnikovic on drums.

During this time, Davoli performed at festivals all over the country. In 1988, they performed the song “Večeras” at the Split Festival, and Belan participated at the International Music Fair (MESAM). Unfortunately, at the end of 1988, Davoli was in a traffic accident on their way to Niš, and for that reason, they decided to bring things to a halt.

The following year, Davoli’s song “Dugo, toplo ljeto” won first place at the Split Festival, and later in 1989, they released the compilation album ‘Balade – Kada se nađem u predjelu noći’, which contains the hit “Dugo, toplo ljeto”.

At the beginning of 1990, Davoli went on a two-month tour of Russia, and after they returned, frontman Neno Belan decided to devote himself to his solo career. In 1991, under the name ‘Neno Belan and Davoli’, he released the single ‘Rock galama’. Later that year at the Split Festival, Belan and Anja Šovagović, never saw their performance at the Split Festival due to the Homeland War.

The farewell concert of Davoli was held on New Year’s Eve in 1993 at the newly opened Zagreb club Hard Rock Caffe.

In mid-1998, Davoli rejoined forces with an ensemble including Neno Belan (vocals), Igor Kmetić (saxophone), Dragiša Mandić (bass guitar) and new members of Leo Rumor (drums), Olja Dešić (guitar) and Vedran Križan (keyboards). The same year, they released the album ‘Space Twist’ featuring new compositions and old hits such as “Baby I Love You” (Phil Spector), “Memphis Tennessee” (Chuck Berry), and “Biondina” (Rocco Granatta).

At the Split Festival, they performed “Ivona” and won third place, and with the song “Nemoj mislit da je kraj”, they participated at the Zadarfest the same year. 

The group did not last long, though, and Belan continued to work with Fiumensi in Rijeka. Together with Fiumensi, he has released ‘Luna & Stelle’ on Dallas Records. 

Belan continues to play his Davoli hits around Croatia, and tonight on the Split Riva, you will have a chance to see Neno Belan perform for the Sv. Luce humanitarian action! The concert begins at 19.00. 


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