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21
April
2019

Bringing The Eurovision Song Contest To Difficult Destinations

Bringing The Eurovision Song Contest To Difficult Destinations

As the Eurovision Song Contest gets ready to descend on Tel Aviv, many have begun to air their personal views on the State of Israel and whether they feel it is a destination that the Song Contest (and hence the artists and fans) should attend. This is not the first time that the Contest has made the journey to Israel, nor is it the only location that brings up the uncomfortable question of attending in a ‘difficult destination’.

Israel has previously hosted the Eurovision Song Contest twice without consequence, but admittedly at a time where Eurovision was essentially a very different beast on a much smaller scale. We do however have similar instances over the past decade of what we shall dub ‘modern Eurovision’ (ala the large venues, public tickets, Euroclubs and Euro Villages); Russia in 2009, Azerbaijan in 2012 and Ukraine in 2017.

The Junior Eurovision Song Contest has just as much history of travelling to such ‘difficult destinations’ in its 16 year history as its older adult sibling.  That Contest has visited the previously closed Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine twice, including in 2014 when those in attendance actually witnessed the beginning of the Euromaidan uprising in the surrounding Kyiv streets.

There is no doubt that whilst several fans attended those locations listed above, some chose to stay at home.

Moscow Olimpisky, Home of Eurovision 2009 (Image: Ewan Spence)

Moscow Olimpisky, Home of Eurovision 2009 (Image: Ewan Spence)

When Moscow hosted the Song Contest in 2009, many concerns were aired in regard to the rights of the LGBTQI communities and the recent conflict in Georgia (which also saw that country removed from the competition when entering a politically charged song).  In this way, very little has changed for the nation of Russia should it potentially win and host now. The EBU deemed it fit to host then, and the country managed to put on a show that was one of the biggest and most extravagant. On the ground, whilst there were some protests, it provided a positive environment for most who were in attendance, without many of the security concerns people believed would be present.

Whilst we focus on Israel this year, under scrutiny it would be hard to find a single destination which has a clean record when it comes to human rights, the environment or any other big societal concerns. If we take out nations who have a history of corruption, human trafficking, anti-homosexuality acts, forced labour or imprisonment of minorities, we would be struggling to take a holiday at all.

Baku 2012 Stage (Andres Putting, Elke Roels, Thomas Hanses / EBU)

Baku 2012 Stage (Andres Putting, Elke Roels, Thomas Hanses / EBU)

Operating with these high moralistic intentions, given much of society’s dissent of US President Donald Trumps policies, do we as people stop travelling to places like Hawaii, Las Vegas or New York?  Annual visitation records show it clearly not to be. When examining even more politically challenging locations such as China, we see year on year growth of 30 percent, and figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation show that Iran has four percent tourism growth. Simply put, the passion to travel outweighs whatever outrage many may harbour in passing thought, and the curiosity to explore new locations, to learn and connect with people beyond normal circles kicks in.

Ultimately, everything needs to be weighed up. Reflecting on the political issues of a nation (which is separate to safety), one must understand that ‘Government’, the concept of ‘State’, and ‘The People’ that reside in it are very different things.

The Icelandic entrants for 2019, Hatari, have made it clear that their participation is fraught with such contradictions, no matter where you choose to travel.  Lead singer Matthias Haraldsson in his interview with the Independent:

Clearly there’s a huge distinction between the actions of the Israeli state as an institution, at which criticism is directed, and the Israeli people. You can sign up to a contract that says you’re not allowed to be political in the competition, but if anyone thinks they’re going to Tel Aviv without a political message they couldn’t be more wrong.

Under examination, there is no such thing as a truly ethical destination. There is no harm in having an opinion and exercising it, nor are there issues with taking on board concerns of safety, and subsequently choosing to then stay at home.

Travel should generally be enjoyable, light-hearted and carefree. It should also be life changing – an opportunity for learning about other cultures and histories. I have chosen to go to Tel Aviv, because I believe it is beneficial. I want to know more, I want to understand. As someone in the travel industry, I have an innate sense of curiosity and wish to visit new locations, such as Israel.

The best trips you take will most likely have some effect on you, having thoughts and perceptions reshaped by what you witness personally, not what you receive second-hand from the likes of a guide book or a news broadcast. What I see, the people I meet, the experiences and locations I visit, will all ultimately shape my beliefs on a nation. In this instance, there is the chance to make a broader perspective your favourite souvenir.

When a country with concerns wins the Eurovision Song Contest, it is up to the European Broadcasting Union to examine the safety concerns, not its political environment, religious beliefs or human rights records. In this way, it stays true to the foundations of the Song Contest, to overcome and use music as a method to actually bring people together. We need to have faith in this, just as we have faith that the participants will uphold the rules of the show.

There is nothing inherently wrong in wanting to be part of that moment or experience. Likewise, if you choose not to be part of that, it is a worthy decision you can make for whatever reason. You shouldn’t be demonised for either choice.

The Eurovision Song Contest is the medium by which I get to view such destinations.  My own attendance at the Song Contest revolves in around being a fan of music and also a reporter of the event.  I am not a political expert; I am not skilled or knowledgeable enough to comment on local affairs, war or geopolitics. The experience of Azerbaijan’s hosting in 2012 whereby many in the press centre were questioned about what we thought of Armenia continues to leave a bad taste.

Eurovision travelling to a country where such concerns lie shines a spotlight on the destination, and it’s the host nations chance to show itself to the world.  Journalists with a background in politics have the chance to report on the country through the lens of the Song Contest.

Categories: ESC Insight

20
April
2019

The Importance Of Bringing The Eurovision Song Contest To Difficult Destinations

The Importance Of Bringing The Eurovision Song Contest To Difficult Destinations

As the Eurovision Song Contest gets ready to descend on Tel Aviv, many have begun to air their personal views on the State of Israel and whether they feel it is a destination that the Song Contest (and hence the artists and fans) should attend. This is not the first time that the Contest has made the journey to Israel, nor is it the only location that brings up the uncomfortable question of attending in a ‘difficult destination’.

Israel has previously hosted the Eurovision Song Contest twice without consequence, but admittedly at a time where Eurovision was essentially a very different beast on a much smaller scale. We do however have similar instances over the past decade of what we shall dub ‘modern Eurovision’ (ala the large venues, public tickets, Euroclubs and Euro Villages); Russia in 2009, Azerbaijan in 2012 and Ukraine in 2017.

The Junior Eurovision Song Contest has just as much history of travelling to such ‘difficult destinations’ in its 16 year history as its older adult sibling.  That Contest has visited the previously closed Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine twice, including in 2014 when those in attendance actually witnessed the beginning of the Euromaidan uprising in the surrounding Kyiv streets.

There is no doubt that whilst several fans attended those locations listed above, even more chose to stay at home.

Moscow Olimpisky, Home of Eurovision 2009 (Image: Ewan Spence)

Moscow Olimpisky, Home of Eurovision 2009 (Image: Ewan Spence)

When Moscow hosted the Song Contest in 2009, many concerns were aired in regard to the rights of the LGBTQI communities and the recent conflict in Georgia (which also saw that country removed from the competition when entering a politically charged song).  In this way, very little has changed for the nation of Russia should it potentially win and host now. The EBU deemed it fit to host then, and the country managed to put on a show that went down in history as one of the biggest and most extravagant. On the ground, whilst there were some protests, it provided a positive environment for most who were in attendance, without many of the security concerns people believed would be present.

Whilst we focus on Israel this year, under scrutiny it would be hard to find a single destination which has a clean record when it comes to human rights, the environment or any other big societal concerns. If we take out nations who have a history of corruption, human trafficking, anti-homosexuality acts, forced labour or imprisonment of minorities, we would be struggling to take a holiday at all.

Baku 2012 Stage (Andres Putting, Elke Roels, Thomas Hanses / EBU)

Baku 2012 Stage (Andres Putting, Elke Roels, Thomas Hanses / EBU)

Operating with these high moralistic intentions, given much of society’s dissent of US President Donald Trumps policies, do we as people stop travelling to places like Hawaii, Las Vegas or New York?  Annual visitation records show it clearly not to be. When examining even more politically challenging locations such as China, we see year on year growth of 30 percent, and figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation show that Iran has four percent tourism growth. Simply put, the passion to travel outweighs whatever outrage many may harbour in passing thought, and the curiosity to explore new locations, to learn and connect with people beyond normal circles kicks in.

Ultimately, everything needs to be weighed up. Reflecting on the political issues of a nation (which is separate to safety), one must understand that ‘Government’, the concept of ‘State’, and ‘The People’ that reside in it are very different things.

The Icelandic entrants for 2019, Hatari, have made it clear that their participation is fraught with such contradictions, no matter where you choose to travel.  Lead singer Matthias Haraldsson in his interview with the Independent:

Clearly there’s a huge distinction between the actions of the Israeli state as an institution, at which criticism is directed, and the Israeli people. You can sign up to a contract that says you’re not allowed to be political in the competition, but if anyone thinks they’re going to Tel Aviv without a political message they couldn’t be more wrong.

Under examination, there is no such thing as a truly ethical destination. There is no harm in having an opinion and exercising it, nor are there issues with taking on board concerns of safety, and subsequently choosing to then stay at home.

Travel should generally be enjoyable, light-hearted and carefree. It should also be life changing – an opportunity for learning about other cultures and histories. I have chosen to go to Tel Aviv, because I believe it is beneficial. I want to know more, I want to understand. As someone in the travel industry, I have an innate sense of curiosity and wish to visit new locations, such as Israel.

The best trips you take will most likely have some effect on you, having thoughts and perceptions reshaped by what you witness personally, not what you receive second-hand from the likes of a guide book or a news broadcast. What I see, the people I meet, the experiences and locations I visit, will all ultimately shape my beliefs on a nation. In this instance, there is the chance to make a broader perspective your favourite souvenir.

When a country with concerns wins the Eurovision Song Contest, it is up to the European Broadcasting Union to examine the safety concerns, not its political environment, religious beliefs or human rights records. In this way, it stays true to the foundations of the Song Contest, to overcome and use music as a method to actually bring people together. We need to have faith in this, just as we have faith that the participants will uphold the rules of the show. To judge ones’ moral character more worthy than another is simply not the ethos of Eurovision.

There is nothing inherently wrong in wanting to be part of that moment or experience. Likewise, if you choose not to be part of that, it is a worthy decision you can make for whatever reason. You shouldn’t be demonised for either choice.

The Eurovision Song Contest is the medium by which I get to view such destinations.  My own attendance at the Song Contest revolves in around being a fan of music and also a reporter of the event.  I am not a political expert; I am not skilled or knowledgeable enough to comment on local affairs, war or geopolitics. It is not the role of the uneducated fan media to pass comment; despite what some may think. The experience of Azerbaijan’s hosting in 2012 whereby many in the press centre were questioned about what we thought of Armenia continues to leave a bad taste.

Eurovision travelling to a country where such concerns lie shines a spotlight on the destination, and it’s the host nations chance to show itself to the world.  We can and should leave it to journalists with a background in politics to have the chance to report on the country through the lens of the Song Contest, both good and bad.

Categories: ESC Insight

18
April
2019

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: She’s Playing That Song Again

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: She’s Playing That Song Again
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20190417_news_623/escinsight_20190417_news_623.mp3

It’s Destination Spain this weekend as the preview tour rolls into Madrid and for many artists its the inal ‘big stage’ time before they arrive at the Eurovision Song Contest, a Contest with a few more guest slots announced this week.

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: She’s Playing That Song Again

The return of the triangles, the remixes of promotion, and the sofa tours across the continent… plus a Eurovision Thought from Forest FM’s Ciaran Urry-Tuttiett. Ewan Spence and the ESC Insight team cover the latest news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.

Follow these links to find out more about Moscow’s Eurovision Party, Spain’s Preview Party, and Glasgow’s Ne Party Pas Sans Moi. Follow the M&M Production Diary here.

As May draws ever closer, stay up to date with all the Song Contest news by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

18
April
2019

10 years ago – What has become of Eurovision’s Top 10 from 2009?

10 years ago – What has become of Eurovision’s Top 10 from 2009?

Alexander Rybak

2009 was a great year for Eurovision. Norway reigned supreme and the United Kingdom ended in top 10 (yes, you heard that right). A decade has passed, there have been deaths, babies and weddings. We take a closer look at what happened to the participants that finished in top 10 in 2009.

10. Inga & AnushJan Jan (Armenia)

Sisters Inga and Anush Arshakyan released a studio album and a tour following their 10th place at Eurovision. It has been five years since they released another album, their 2014 album Sketches. The following year the oldest of the sisters, Inga represented Armenia at the Eurovision Song Contest again, but this time as part of an Armenian super group Geneology. All members of the band were either Armenian or of Armenian descent. Their entry Face The Shadow qualified for the final and finished in 16th place.

9. ReginaBistra Voda (Boznia & Herzigovina)

The rock band released three albums following their time at Eurovision in 2009. Sadly, bass guitarist Denis Čabrić died of a heart attack on holiday in Croatia with his family on the of 16 August 2016. He was just 49 years old. The band continued and their last album U Scru was released in 2017.

8. Patricia KaasEt S’il Fallait Le Faire (France)

Once it was known that Patricia Kaas would represent France in the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 in Moscow her fans took part in an online poll in several countries where they selected their favourite song from her Kabaret album. The song Et ‘il Fallait Le Faire (And if it had to be done) received a clear majority of the votes and was then chosen as the French entry for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009.

Since Eurovision, Kaas continued to enjoy success, but not just in singing. In 2011 she released an autobiography which was a bestseller and was translated into more than six other languages. Later Kaas starred in a musical show where she performed some of the most popular and successful songs of French cabaret performer and film actress Edith Piaf. The show opened in some of the most prestigious venues in the world such as the Royal Albert Hall in London and the Carnegie Hall in New York. As part of the tour, Kaas also returned to Moscow to perform at the Operetta Theatre.

7. Sakis RouvasThis Is Our Night (Greece)

Sakis Rouvas married his long term love Katia Zygouli

Sakis Rouvas has not let the grass grow from under his feet. Since his time at the contest in 2009, the Greek singer has been a television host, a voice actor, a club & restaurant owner, a film production company owner and a songwriter. In 2010, one of his clubs caught fire sustaining more than four million euros of damage. In 2011, Sakis became a father for a second time, to a son. In 2013, they welcomed another daughter into the world and yet another child in 2016. The following year, Sakis and his long term girlfriend of 14 years Katia Zygouli finally got hitched.

6. Urban SymphonyRändajad – (Estonia)
Urban Symphony brought Estonia there best score since 2002 when they performed Rändajad(Nomads) at the grand final in Moscow. The following year, the band announced a hiatus and lead singer Sandra Nurmsalu used this time to concentrate on raising her child. In 2012, Nurmsalu returned to music as a solo artist and her vocals featured on a song called Sel Teel which went straight to the top of the Estonian charts and enjoyed some success around Europe. Nurmsalu has attempted to represent Estonia in 2014 and 2019, but was unsuccessful in her endeavors.

5. Jade EwenIt’s My Time – (United Kingdom)

Jade Ewen performing as Princess Jasmine in the stage version of Aladdin

After being the most successful Eurovision participant for the United Kingdom in recent years, Jade Ewen recorded a single My Man. The song was released, but was abandoned as Ewen had received an invite to join UK girl group Sugababes as a replacement for the last original member Keisha Buchanan. The band had a couple of singles that achieved moderate success but eventually fizzled out. Since then, Jade has gone back to her roots as a stage performer and has appeared in musicals all over the world as well as appearing in the odd reality TV show and acting in occasional television episodes.

4. HadiseDüm Tek Tek – (Turkey)

Belgian born Hadise focused her attention on the Turkish market after representing the country at Eurovision, making her the most popular celebrity in Turkey that year. In 2011, Hadise released another Turkish album which was a great success and it was followed by other albums in 2014 and 2017. The latter album caused some controversy. One of the singles from the album Sıfır Tolerans was accused by the Radio and Television Supreme Council of being too erotic and as a result, all the media that had broadcast the song, were fined. Hadise hit out at this decision claiming that the decision was sexist against women saying that men can sing about what they like and yet the woman is punished for doing the same thing.

3. AySel and ArashAlways – (Azerbaijan)

Aysel Teymurzadeh and Arash joined forces to bring Azerbaijan their first ever top 3 placement at the contest. Originally solo artists, the duo toured a little following their success at Eurovision before ultimately reverting back to their solo careers. Aysel got married in 2012 and has had three children; two sons and a daughter.

Since his time at the contest, Arash has also walked down the aisle. He married his long term girlfriend in Dubai in 2011 and in the following year, the couple welcomed twin boys into the world. In 2014, Arash released the album Superman which featured duets from T-Pain and Sean Paul. A couple of years earlier he played a part in Iranian movie Rhino Season.

2. YohannaIs It True? – (Iceland)

Yohanna still continues to be the most successful Icelandic artist at the Eurovision Song Contest. In 2010 she returned to Eurovision but as a spokesperson providing the Icelandic votes. Yohanna entered the national selection in the hope of representing her country again in 2011 and 2013, but failed to be selected. The singer moved to Norway and has released a series of non-album singles. In 2015, Yohanna gave birth to her first child.

Alexander RybakFairytale – (Norway)

2018 Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final

Rybak has had a strong affiliation with the Eurovision Song Contest since he won in 2009. He performed during the interval during the 2011 and 2016 contests and returned as a participant in 2018 with That’s How You Write A Song. He has appeared as a contestant in Sweden’s version of Strictly Come Dancing and wrote a song for children’s movie How To Train Your Dragon 2. His voice was also used in the Norweigan dubbing for this same movie.

Alexander has released several singles and albums with many of these being sang in Russian.

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Categories: Eurovisionary

18
April
2019

Newsletter: What To Expect From The Eurovision 2019 Stage…

Newsletter: What To Expect From The Eurovision 2019 Stage…

Also in this week’s newsletter, preview party season enters full swing, a Portuguese icon passes away and the official Eurovision 2019 album is released to digital platforms.

You can read the newsletter in full here, or subscribe for a regular dose of Eurovision insight and analysis delivered direct to your email inbox.

Remix Roundup – Alternative Versions Of The Class Of 2019

With the release of the official Eurovision CD this week, it’s easier than ever to hear all 41 of this year’s entries before the shows begin – if you so choose. But in case you’re already craving some alternative twists on this year’s crop, check out this list of some of the best remixes and re-imaginings from the class of 2019…

Armenia | Srbuk – Walking Out (Piano Version)

In its original form, this year’s Armenian entry is a dramatic pop stomper, complete with barnstorming key change and diva wailing. However, Srbuk showcases her range on this delicate Piano cover, released to digital music services this past weekend. Dare we say this classy cocktail lounge cover works just as well as the original?

Israel | Kobi – Home (DJ PM Remix)

Israel’s home entry for 2019 has received a fairly mixed reception from fans. A mournful, theatrical ballad, it’s a world away from the feel good likes of Toy, Golden Boy and I Feel Alive. Fortunately, this remix kicks a bit of energy into proceedings. Too late for a Serhat-inspired petition?

Italy | Mahmood – Soldi (Benny Benassi Remix)

The massive domestic success of Italy’s entry has led to a number of high profile remixes, including this excellent reworking from electro pioneer Benny Benassi. It’s fairly low-key as these things go, retaining the song’s propulsive structure and underpinning it with a burbling club backing.

Norway | Keiino – Spirit In The Sky (Acoustic Version)

As one of the most agreeably silly entries in this year’s lineup, you wouldn’t think there was much call for an acoustic mix of Norway’s folk-pop banger. However, this campfire-ready version works surprisingly well, particularly when it comes to Fred-René Buljo’s joiking segments, which sound genuinely powerful and authentic in this setting.

San Marino | Serhat – Say Na Na Na (Wideboys Feel The Rainbow Remix)

Rapidly emerging as one of the major fan favourites from this year’s Contest, San Marino’s comeback kid Serhat has served up a whole EP’s worth of remixes for Say Na Na Na. This mix adds a smattering of house piano that suggests shades of 90s Pet Shop Boys. At this point, it’s not even the guilty kind of pleasure any more.

You can stay up to date with all of the latest Eurovision news and analysis right here on ESC Insight. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Categories: ESC Insight

11
April
2019

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Start Counting Down The Previews

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Start Counting Down The Previews
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20190408_news_621/escinsight_20190408_news_621.mp3

Mark Amsterdam off your preview checklist. Next up is Riga, then London. Get that stage time in, you’ll need it or Tel Aviv!

Eurovision Insight News Podcast: Start Counting Down The Previews

Concerts, confirmations, and curiously missing triangles. Plus a Eurovision Thought from 58 Points’ John Egan. Ewan Spence and the ESC Insight team cover the latest news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.

Follow these links to find out more about London Eurovision Party, Riga’s Eurovision PreParty, Moscow’s Eurovision Party, Spain’s Preview Party, and Glasgow’s Ne Party Pas Sans Moi. Follow the M&M Production Diary here.

As May draws ever closer, stay up to date with all the Song Contest news by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is  available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

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