Music – Turin ESC in the Shadow of War – Culture

Turin (dpa) – A big, colorful party, where daily politics is left out. That’s how the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) likes to see itself. “Texts, speeches and gestures of a political nature” are even explicitly forbidden on stage.

In a year in which Russia is attacking Ukraine and almost the whole world is feeling the effects, the Grand Prix can hardly ignore the events. The organizers already excluded the Russian entry from the competition as a reaction to Russia’s war of aggression. The Ukraine Act, on the other hand, is highly traded. The country competes in Turin, Italy, with the band Kalush Orchestra. If the bookmakers have their way, the group is sure to win – not least out of solidarity.

Oleh Psjuk wrote the song before the outbreak of war

“Stefania” is the name of the song that the six Ukrainian musicians want to present to a worldwide audience when they reach the final. The song is a mix of rap and Ukrainian folk music. A warbling flute alternates with hymn-like Stefania calls and brisk hip-hop passages. Rapper Oleh Psjuk wrote the song before the outbreak of war and dedicated it to his mother, as the 27-year-old told the German Press Agency (dpa).

The fact that the audience may have voted Ukraine number one out of solidarity and not because the song is the best is a minor matter. “It would be the victory of all Ukrainians,” said Psyuk. He left open whether she would take a stand against the war on the international stage in her show: “We made a few costume adjustments and added a few changes to our performance.” However, he pointed out that there are certain rules for appearance and performance at Eurovision.

The Kalush Orchestra would not have traveled to Turin at all. They took second place in the national preliminary round in February. Alina Pash won with “Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors”. The 29-year-old was later criticized for a trip to Russia’s annexed Crimea in 2015 and allegedly forged papers. Pash then withdrew her participation.

Germany is already in the final

Psjuk and the Kalush Orchestra first have to advance in the semifinals on Tuesday. According to their own statements, they were not able to rehearse in Ukraine because of the war and only had the opportunity to do so again after they had left the war-torn country with a temporary permit in Turin. The venue already has a competitive atmosphere. The finals will be held at the Palasport Olimpico, a multipurpose arena the city built for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Already pop queen Madonna, Lady Gaga or Depeche Mode filled these ranks.

Germany is already set for the final on Saturday with Malik Harris and “Rockstars”. Observers do not ascribe great chances of winning to the emotional pop song of the 24-year-old from Landsberg am Lech in Bavaria. Last year, Germany took 25th place in the final with the song “I Don’t Feel Hate” by Jendrik.

Next year in Ukraine?

The Italian rock band Måneskin won in 2021 in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam with “Zitti e buoni” (Quiet and good), which is why Italy is hosting the Grand Prix this year. The Italians are again contenders for the top tier this year. The singer duo Mahmood and Blanco represent the southern Europeans with the ballad “Brividi”. The Milanese Mahmood also already has ESC experience. In 2019, the 29-year-old was narrowly beaten by Dutchman Duncan Laurence at the Grand Prix in Tel Aviv.

But if Ukraine really wins the race, the ESC organizers may face a dilemma. According to the usual rules of the singing competition, the ESC 2023 would then have to take place in the country of the winner – in this case in the potential crisis area Ukraine. The ESC organizers do not want to commit themselves to the dpa request on this point. “It’s too early to speculate about next year’s ESC host,” said a spokesman for the European Broadcasting Union EBU in Geneva.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:220509-99-215520/4