Todor “Toše” Proeski was a Macedonian multi-genre singer, songwriter and actor. He was popular across the entire Balkan area and was considered a top act of the local Macedonian music scene. He was dubbed “Elvis Presley of the Balkans” by BBC News. He died in a car crash on Zagreb–Lipovac A3 highway, near Nova Gradiška in Croatia at the age of 26.
Proeski was born in Prilep and grew up in Kruševo as the son of an Aromanian family. After his musical talent was discovered at the age of 12, he was chosen to perform at the popular children’s song festival Zlatno Slavejče (eng.: Golden Nightingale) inSkopje, performing the song “Јаs i mојоt dеdо” in Aromanian language. This was his first public music performance; however, his successful career began in 1996 when he participated in the teenage music festival Melfest in Prilep.
Following this public exposure, he was awarded for his strong vocal capabilities. This led to his rise to fame when he participated in the music festival Makfest in Štip with the song “Pusti Me” (“Let Me Go”) in 1997. His fanbase quickly grew and he continued to make use of festivals, such as SkopjeFest and OhridFest, as a platform for promotion and publicity. Proeski collaborated with one of Macedonia’s acclaimed lyricists and composers, Grigor Koprov, to produce some of the greatest hits of his career such as “Usni na Usni” (“Lips over Lips”) and “Sonce vo Tvoite Rusi Kosi” (“Sun in Your Golden Hair”). In 1999, he released his debut album, Nekade vo Nokta (Somewhere in the Night), which contained eleven tracks. In the summer of the same year, Proeski performed his first solo concert in Skopje.
In 2000, Proeski participated in the Eurovision pre-selection for Macedonia in SkopjeFest. He sang “Solzi Pravat Zlaten Prsten” (“Tears Make a Golden Ring”), which won thetelevoting from the public but he finished third overall, behind Karolina Gočeva and the winners XXL. During that period, he began recording the tracks for his second album,Sinot Božji (The Son of God), which was promoted by the end of June 2000. The album brought some great hits, like “Nemir” (“Restless”) (a duet with Karolina Gočeva), “Vo Kosi da ti Spijam” (“Sleeping in Your Hair”), “Izlaži me Ušte Ednaš” (“Lie to Me One More Time”), as well as “Iluzija” (“Illusion”) (Grand Prix at the festival Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk) and “Tajno Moja” (“Secret of Mine”). Two songs are composed by Kire Kostov (winning second prize at the festival Sunčane Skale, held in Herceg Novi, now Montenegro).
The Serbian production house BK Sound purchased the rights to release Proeski’s latest album in the other former Yugoslav republics, which led to his victory of the Oscar of Popularity in those former republics for the year of 2000, and his sell-out shows in Skopje and Belgrade. Proeski embarked on an Australian tour along with other Macedonian singers in 2001.
After spending his time in recording studios in Athens, Greece, Proeski released his third album “Ako me Pogledneš vo Oči” (“If You Look into My Eyes”) on October 2002 inMacedonian and Serbian. After the release, Proeski went on a tour throughout Macedonia doing intense promotion. He also went to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, andBulgaria for further promotion. Proeski won Beovizija in Belgrade on April 2003, with “Čija Si” (“To Whom Do You Belong?”), a song which became a huge hit in Macedonia and the other former Yugoslav republics. This song was due to represent Serbia and Montenegro in the Eurovision Song Contest 2003 but the EBU stated that too many countries wanted to enter in that year and so some would be forced to withdraw. Serbia and Montenegro (who participated as one country at the time) were one of them.
To improve his singing, Proeski took classes in New York from maestro William Riley, who was also coach to famous tenor, Luciano Pavarotti. When he returned, Proeski held humanitarian concerts throughout Macedonia. He was awarded with the Mother Theresa Humanitarian Award and in 2003 he became a Regional UNICEF Ambassador.
In 2004, MKTV chose Proeski to represent Macedonia at the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest in Istanbul, Turkey, and in February, he performed eight songs, where a jury, televoting, and his own opinion chose the song. The song “Angel Si Ti” (“You’re an Angel”) was chosen by all three. In April, Proeski released his album “Dan Za Nas” (“A Day For Us”), which featured the eight songs from the Eurovision selection in Macedonian.
In May, Proeski finished 14th with the song “Life“, which was the English version of “Angel Si Ti”. Prior to the contest he was popularised by reporters due to his tremendous opera singing ability, at his press conferences.
All eight songs were recorded in English, but only the winning song of the national final, “Life,” was released. During the TV national final show, after each song was performed, a clip of the song was played in English to show viewers how it would sound if that song won the contest and was performed in English at the Eurovision Song Contest 2004 final.
In 2004 Proeski was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and recorded the song “This World” which became the UNICEF anthem. Proeski signed a contract with Dallas Records so his next album could be released in Croatia and Slovenia. To establish himself in these countries, Proeski recorded “Krajnje Vreme” with Slovenian singer, Anja Rupel. In 2005, Toše’s fifth album Po Tebe (After You) was released throughout ex-Yugoslavia. Po Tebe, is one of the most successful Balkan albums ever. It topped music charts for months inMacedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Božilak (Rainbow), was a compilation of 14 selected traditional Macedonian songs arranged by Sasa Nikolovski Gjumar, Ilija Pejovski and Soni Petrovski. The artist was backed up by a symphony orchestra on the album.
His last album Igri Bez Granici (Macedonian title)/’Igra Bez Granica’ (Serbo-Croatian title) (“Game Without Borders”) was released all over ex-Yugoslavia in August 2007.
Apart from songs in Macedonian, Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, he also recorded one song in Slovene, “Moja” (“Mine”) in 2007, and one in Italian, “Aria” (“Air”), with Italian superstar, Gianna Nannini. The list of artists who collaborated with Proeski includes Anja Rupel, Antonija Šola, Bora Čorba, Karolina Gočeva,Esma Redžepova, Gianna Nannini, Goca Tržan, Grigor Koprov, Jeff Beck, Tony Cetinski, Željko Joksimović and other notable musicians. Prior to his death, he was a student in his final year in the solo singing department of the Skopje Music Academy.
During the early morning of 16 October 2007, at approximately 6:20 a.m., Proeski died in a car accident on the Zagreb–Lipovac highway near Nova Gradiška, Croatia. He was a passenger along with his manager Ljiljana Petrović in a Volkswagen Touareg driven by Georgij Georgijevski. The Touareg crashed into the back of a truck and then into the median barrier, killing Proeski instantly, crushing the third vertebrae of his neck, although the truck sustained no damage. Proeski was asleep in the front passenger seat at the time of the crash. Of the other two passengers, only the driver suffered serious injuries (head trauma). His longtime girlfriend Andrijana Budimir is an international handball player.
Proeski’s body arrived at midnight in Skopje by helicopter of the Macedonian army, and was transported by car to his home town of Kruševo. Grieving citizens gathered to pay their last respects at the airport and also in Macedonia Square. The Embassy of the United States of America, the USAID and the Diplomatic mission of the European Unionpublished official statements on the death of Toše Proeski. 17 October was pronounced a national day of mourning in Macedonia. The three days following his death were pronounced days of mourning in the City of Kruševo.
After his death, the government of the Republic of Macedonia, gave him the title “Honorable citizen of Macedonia