Jamala at Eurovision

May 16th, 2016 Sections: News, Who's Who

esc_generic_blackThe Eurovision Song Contest has always struck me as a very strange phenomenon …

I can’t help wondering if songs are suitable subjects for such competition …just what is the basis for a judgement … the music, the lyrics, the performance, the staging, language, nationality, political influences, popularity … they all seem to be involved.

As I understand it, the voting system that has recently been introduced allows for juries to consider the entries on their technical merits, (the range of skills involved, the interpretation), and then there is a popular vote which awards points according to votes cast in a telephone poll … how democratic!

According to the reports of this years contest, the popular vote overturned the results of the ‘professional’ juries … to bring about a tense and exciting finish … and a surprising winner.

… but, is the winning song any good?

Now I’ll be honest and say upfront that, in my opinion – and it is only my opinion, this year’s winning song may have been judged the best of the bunch … the best entry submitted this year … but it is nowhere near as being in the same league as Waterloo … which won the competition for Sweden in 1974 and is, perhaps, the most successful Eurovision of all time.

I have to admit, however, that it is extremely successful and, apparently, very popular … with a sixty year history behind it, and incredible audiences world wide – not just in the Europe … indeed – for the last two years, Australia has added to this global footprint by competing … almost winning this year (well, according to the specialist, technical, ‘professional’ juries).


Of course, the competition has also been dogged throughout that sixty year history by controversy … often not directly related to the music.

  • Votes tend to be allocated by national juries according to language or ethnic connections – rather than about the songs themselves; …
  • contestants have been booed during their performances; …
  • the quality of the songs is often criticized … because it is a contest and the need for entries to win votes can subjugate technical qualities, resulting in entries that are a”mishmash of power ballads, ethnic rhythms and bubblegum pop” – I love that quote; …

I am reminded of the comment of one British entertainer … Richard Stillgoe … who said that winning entries needed to language neutral – using words that can easily be transferred from one language to another – or simply be ‘nonsense sounds’ like La la la … should be repetitive and  have an upbeat, fairground type tempo … and his proposed stereotypical entry was Beefsteak – the word Beefsteak is found in most European languages – and the lyrics were basically Beefsteak, Beefsteak, La la la la, over and over … and over again.  A guaranteed winner! … but of dubious quality.

  • the voting system is strange and lopsided – with each nation getting the same number of votes irrespective of their size; …
  • political and social issues raise their ugly heads … there’s been a transsexual winner, a transvestite winner combining a beard with a dress and Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine and policies towards gay rights have led to protests; …
  • and so on.

This year … controversy abounds … the winning entry came from Ukraine, performed by Jamala, (Susana Camaladinova), a Crimean Tatar whose family were forcibly resettled from Ukraine to Central Asia during the second World War as part of Operation Lentil … with unpleasant stories about the deprivations and conditions surrounding the deportations.

Incidentally, there is also a family connection to the composer Khatchachurian.

The Ukranian entry for this year’s competition, 1944, reflects those events … bringing complaints from Russia which seems to see any criticism of the former Soviet Union as an attack on it … especially when emanating from one of the former republics of the USSR.

The iofficial logo for this year's competition

The iofficial logo for this year’s competition

So, as well as being imbued with dramatic and emotional context, the song doesn’t bring nations together – as the was the intention behind the competition when it was established back in 1956, and the slogan behind this year’s competition … but actually helps to drive a wedge between two of the competing nations, driving them even further apart.

Kyrgyzstan is not a member of the European Broadcasting Union and didn’t copmpete.  There was, however, a Kyrgyz connection in that she was born in Osh in 1983 … and the family returned to Ukraine only after the demise of the Soviet Union and Independence.  There has been some interest in the result … largely from the country’s ‘libertarian’ wing … including people who could be considered as supporters of Ukraine and critics of Russia … but, so far, little effort made to claim Jamala as “one of our own”.

It will be interesting to see if that changes …


For the record: here’s a clip of the winning entry:




There is one comment. to “Jamala at Eurovision”

  1. Guest
    May 18th, 2016 at 11:21

    Very interesting opinion about #Eurovision. No one claims that #Jamala is Kyrgyz, but we have sentiments anyway.

Comment closed.