One of my childhood memories from Spain is the annual Eurovision Song Contest (Concours Eurovision de la Chanson in French), usually hold in spring by the country that won the previous event.
Its founding stemmed from a desire to promote cooperation between Western European countries on a continent deeply divided by the Cold War (1947-1991).
The first winner was Lys Assia (1924-2018), who triumphed in 1956 in her native Switzerland. After this, the Swiss Confederation would have to wait 32 years to come in first again.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, between 16 and 18 countries were regularly competing each year, gradually including non-European nations like Israel, which debuted in 1973, and Morocco, whose only appearance was in 1980.
After the Iron Curtain finally fell in 1989, Central and Eastern European countries like Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and even reborn Russia started participating for the first time.
Though despite its reputation of often just being kitsch, Eurovision became a launching point for artists who went on to achieve worldwide fame.
These include Swedish band ABBA, formed by Agneta Fältskog (born 1950), Björn Ulvaeus (born 1945), Benny Andersson (born 1946) and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (born 1945), French Canadian Céline Dion (born 1968) competing for Switzerland, Spanish heartthrob Julio Iglesias (born 1943) and British-born Australian Grease star Olivia Newton-John (born 1948), representing the United Kingdom.
Apart from 2020, when it had to be cancelled due to COVID, Eurovision has been held annually. The Republic of Ireland holds the record for the most victories, with seven wins in total.
I haven’t watched the show in decades, mostly due to the fact that my last television set broke down in 1991 and I never bothered to replace it, but in those days I was an avid fan of a competition that nowadays I consider quite tacky.
On May 14th, 2022, Eurovision took place again, this time in Italy. Guess which country won by a large margin? Ukraine! What a coincidence! Who could have predicted that considering the current Western mood?
As the voting process descended into politically motivated chaos, Kalush Orchestra, an all-male band which focuses on hip hop with folk motifs and elements from Ukrainian traditional music, won with an incredible 631 points.
All five men, who had been granted special permission to leave their country to attend, following their success were immediately ordered to return to their war-torn nation to continue fighting the Russian invaders. Let’s hope that their lucky streak continues on the battlefield!
Interestingly enough, Kalush Orchestra initially took second place in the final of the national selection, though the group were offered the chance to represent their homeland just two days before the armed conflict with Moscow broke out.
Initial winner, female rapper Alina Ivanivna Pash (born 1993), withdrew due to controversy regarding a trip taken to Crimea in 2015, a former part of Ukraine which had returned to Russian rule in 2014.
So Kalush Orchestra’s participation was politicized news from the very beginning and its sweeping victory is just the icing of the cake in times were objectivity and rational thinking seem to be increasingly scarce commodities.
P.D.: Not surprisingly, Russia was banned from taking part on February 25th, 2022.