Aleksandar "Sanja" Ilić (Serbian Cyrillic: Александар "Сања" Илић; 27 March 1951 – 7 March 2021) was a Serbian and Yugoslav musician and composer.

Sanja Ilić
Ilić in 2015
Ilić in 2015
Background information
Birth nameAleksandar Ilić
Born(1951-03-27)27 March 1951
Belgrade, PR Serbia, FPR Yugoslavia
Died7 March 2021(2021-03-07) (aged 69)
Belgrade, Serbia
  • Composer
  • keyboardist
Years active1963–2021

Ilić started composing as a teenager. In 1971 he formed the rock band San, which disbanded in 1975, after the band's vocalist Predrag Jovičić died in concert from an electric shock. After this event Ilić decided not to perform live with a band again. He continued his career as a composer, composing several hit songs for Yugoslav pop and rock artists. He worked with composer and keyboardist Sloba Marković on the electronic music album Delta Project and actor and lyricist Irfan Mensur on the album Plava ptica. In 2000, Ilić formed the ethnic music ensemble Balkanika, with which he recorded five albums and had numerous performances across the world. During his career, Ilić wrote music for theatre, film, television shows and various performers. He died in 2021 in Belgrade.

He was the brother of keyboardist and Generacija 5 leader Dragoljub Ilić.

Life and careerEdit

Early life and careerEdit

Ilić was born on 27 March 1951 in Belgrade.[1] Ilić's father, Miodrag "Beli" Ilić was a well-known composer.[2] Sanja Ilić composed his first song when he was 12. At age 16, he composed the song "Baj baj baj" ("Bye, Bye, Bye"), which was later performed by Bisera Veletanlić at Jugovizija 1976 festival.[3] In 1967, he joined the rock band Vragolani (Naughty Boys), which consisted of high school students.[2] He graduated from the University of Belgrade Faculty of Architecture.[3]

With San (1970–1975)Edit

In 1970, Ilić formed the band San (The Dream), gathering former members of beat bands Smeli, Samonikli, Bele Višnje and Vragolani.[2] With San Ilić recorded five 7" singles.[2] Durig San's activity, Ilić wrote music for the film ITD (ETC.) and the rock opera Arhanđeli i automati (Archangels and Automatons) performed in Belgrade's Dadov Theatre.[2] On 2 February 1975, during a concert in Čair Hall in Niš, San vocalist Predrag Jovičić died from an electric shock.[2] After this event Ilić disbanded San and decided not to perform live wirh a band again.[2] In 1977, as a tribute to Jovičić, the members of San recorded songs they prepared for their debut album with singers Zdravko Čolić, Dado Topić, Bisera Veletanlić, Zdenka Kovačiček and Zlatko Pejaković.[2]

Post-San (1975-2000)Edit

In 1979, Ilić was a member of the supergroup Mag (Wizard), formed for the recording of the soundtrack for Goran Marković's film National Class Category Up to 785 ccm. Mag consisted of former Korni Grupa member Josip Boček (guitar), former Elipse and Korni Grupa members Bojan Hreljac (bass guitar) and Vladimir "Furda" Furduj (drums), composer and musician Sloba Marković (keyboards) and Ilić (keyborads). Mag recorded songs written by composer Zoran Simjanović and lyricist Marina Tucaković. The vocals were sung by popular Yugoslav singers Dado Topić, Oliver Dragojević, Slađana Milošević, Oliver Mandić, Zumreta Midžić "Zuzi" and the members of the band Laboratorija Zvuka.[4]

Ilić continued his career as a composer. In 1982, he composed the song "Halo, Halo" ("Hello, Hello"), with which the group Aska represented Yugoslavia in the Eurovision Song Contest 1982.[2] In 1984 he composed the hit song "Princeza" ("Princess"), performed by rock singers Dado Topić and Slađana Milošević.[2] In 1987, Ilić recorded the electronic music album Delta Project with composer and keyboardist Sloba Marković.[2] In 1992, on the lyrics of actor Irfan Mensur, Ilić composed music for the theatre play Plava ptica (Blue Bird). The songs were released on the album Plava ptica. The title track, performed by well-known Serbian actors, became a hit, largely due to its anti-war lyrics.[2]

With Balkanika (2000-2021)Edit

In 2000, Ilić founded the ethnic music ensemble Balkanika. In 2000, they released their first album, entitled Balkan 2000. Ilić composed all the tracks on the album, played piano and saz on the album recording and produced the album. The album featured numerous musicians: Brankica Vasić, Svetlana "Ceca" Slavković, Nataša Jelić, Đorđe David, Pavle Aksentijević and Dragan Ilić on vocals, Slobodan Trkulja on gajde and kaval, Dragomir "Joga" Milenković on cümbüş, Papa Nick on percussion, Branko Kljajić on bouzouki, Bora Dugić on flute, Ljuba Dimitrijević on blowing horn and shawm, Darko Karajić on oud and saz, St. George String Orchestra, Radio Television of Serbia Choir, and others.[2] After the album release, Balkanika performed across Europe, in China and in Mexico.[2] In 2000, Ilić also took part in the Balkan Horses Band project. On 10 November 2000, Ilić performed, alongsite guitarist Vlatko Stefanovski, vocalist and flutist Tamara Obrovac and vocalist and kaval and melodica player Teodosi Spasov, on a concert in Sofia, Bulgaria. The recording of the concert was released in 2001 on the live album Balkan Horses Band – Sofia 2000.[2]

In 2004, Ilić released his second album with Balkanika, Balkan koncept (Balkan Concept). Among Ilić's new collaborators were Izet Kizil (percussion), Peter Kostadinov (gajde), Miljan Miljanić (gusle), Rastko Aksentijević (šargija). Once again, Ilić was author of all the tracks. The album featured a new version of the song "Plava ptica".[2] In 2006, the band held a concert at Belgrade's Kalemegdan Fortress. The recording of the concert was released on the video album Live at Kalemegdan.[2]

In 2009, Sanja Ilić and Balkanika released the album Ceeepaj (Gooo), with which they moved towards Balkan brass sound. The album featured a cover of the song "Maljčiki" (Russian for "Boys"), originally recorded by the Yugoslav new wave band Idoli.[5] In 2013, Ilić composed the work Constantinus Magnustantinus Magnus, which was performed in Belgrade and Niš as a part of the celebration of 1700 years since the Edict of Milan. The work was performed by more than 200 performers, including the Belgrade National Theatre orchestra, choir and ballet dancers. Constantinus Magnustantinus Magnus featured elements of the music of ancient Rome and was partially performed on ancient Roman instruments.[6] In 2018, Ilić and Balkanika represented Serbia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal, with the song "Nova deca" ("New Children").[7][8]

In 2020, Balkanika released their fourth studio album, Stand Up. The album featured a new version of "Nova deca" as the bonus track.[9]

Other worksEdit

Ilić composed songs for numerous Yugoslav performers, including Bisera Veletanlić, Lutajuća Srca, Zdravko Čolić, Zlatko Pejaković, Jadranka Stojaković, Suzana Mančić, Zdenka Kovačiček, Neda Ukraden, Maja Odžaklievska, Leo Martin, Slađana Milošević, Gabi Novak, Radmila Karaklajić, 7 Mladih, Jasna Zlokić, Doris Dragović, Bora Dugić, Louis, and others.[10]

During his career Ilić wrote over 1000 compositions for theatre, films, TV shows and commercials.[2] He wrote music for films Dark Echoes (1977), Transfer (1980), Strange Night (1990), Vukovar: A Story (1994), The Border Post (2006), Ambulance (2009) and Ice (2012).[11]


Ilić died on 7 March 2021, in Belgrade, at the age of 69, due to complications caused by COVID-19 during the COVID-19 pandemic in Serbia.[12] He was buried at the Alley of Distinguished Citizens in the Belgrade New Cemetery, next to his wife, Zlata Petković.[13]

On 28 June (Serbian national holiday Vidovdan) 2021, Ilić was posthumously awarded the Golden Medal for Merits by the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić.[14]


Ilić's brother Dragoljub Ilić is the leader of the hard rock band Generacija 5. The band was named after Sanja Ilić's suggestion; after reading a newspaper article about fifth generation computers, Sanja Ilić suggested the name Generacija 5 (Generation 5).[15]

Ilić was married to Serbian actress and model Zlata Petković until her death in 2012. They had one son together, Andrej, who was born in 1984.[16]


With SanEdit


  • "Tebe sam želeo" / "Helena" (1971)
  • "Papirni brodovi" / "Hej, malena" (1973)
  • "Legenda" / "Milena" (1974)
  • "Jedan svet za sve" / "Srce na dlanu" (1974)
  • "Anabela" / "Zvezda ljubavi" (1974)


Studio albumsEdit

  • Delta Project (with Sloba Marković, 1987)
  • Plava ptica (1992)

With BalkanikaEdit

Studio albumsEdit

  • Balkan 2000 (2000)
  • Balkan koncept (2004)
  • Ceeepaj (2009)
  • Stand Up (2020)

Video albumsEdit

  • Live at Kalemegdan (2006)


  1. ^ "Времеплов (27. 3. 2011)" (in Serbian). Radio-Televizija Srbije. 27 March 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Janjatović, Petar (2007). EX YU ROCK enciklopedija 1960–2006. Belgrade: self-released. p. 104.
  3. ^ a b ""Наша прича" Сања Илић Балканика (текст)" (PDF) (in Serbian). Radio-Televizija Republike Srpske. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  4. ^ Originalna muzika iz filma Nacionalna klasa at Discogs
  5. ^ Ceeepaj at Discogs
  6. ^ "Sanja Ilić - Konstantinus Magnus",
  7. ^ Welsh, Eleanor (20 February 2018). "Serbia: Sanja Ilić & Balkanika win Beovizija 2018 and will represent Serbia in Lisbon!". ESCToday.
  8. ^ Gligorov, Miki (20 February 2018). "Sanja Ilić and Balkanika win Beovizija 2018". escXtra.
  9. ^ Stand Up at Discogs
  10. ^ Sanja Ilić writing credits at Discogs
  11. ^ Sanja Ilić at IMDb
  12. ^ "PREMINUO SANJA ILIĆ: Osnivač "Balkanike" izgubio bitku sa koronom". (in Serbian). Novosti. 7 March 2021.
  13. ^ "POSLEDNJI POZDRAV SANJI ILIĆU: Kompozitor sahranjen pored bivše supruge, glumice Zlate Petković",
  14. ^ "Vučić odlikovao i Sijarta, Mandića, umetnike preminule od korone…",
  15. ^ "Generacija 5: Grupa brža od uspeha",
  16. ^ "Andrej Ilić: Preko potreban odmor". Hello. 2 February 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2015.

External linksEdit

Preceded by Serbia in the Eurovision Song Contest
(with Balkanika)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Beovizija winner
Succeeded by