14 May 2016

Eurovision 2016

AP photo - BBC
For the first time in history, the Eurovision Song Contest Finals were broadcast in the US….and I nearly missed it. Had I not seen a piece on BBC yesterday, I wouldn’t have known that the competition was even on. (it’s another minor miracle that one can now get BBC World in the USofA.) 
     Most Americans have never heard of Eurovision. Saying it’s a song contest simply does not convey the enormity of an event that keeps half the world glued to their TV sets.There is nothing to compare it to. Sporting events attract a certain type; reality shows – another. But it seems everyone, across all sectors of society watch and, more importantly, vote for the Eurovision contestants.
     At first I didn’t even try to see if I could get it on TV or the internet since past years have proven to be a waste of time. However, I finally did go on the Eurovision site, clicked on Watch the Finals Live, and then was quickly flashed the “You cannot watch from your part of the globe”.
     I thought I might as well see if it was on TV. And low and behold, it was on LOGO TV. The channel description on DirecTV states: MTV Networks’ LOGO is for gay and lesbian viewers. I found this rather funny – Eurovision is watched by everyone on the other side of the planet, and now also Australia, but it appears only LOGO had the sense to get the rights.
     I believe the first time I ever watched the competition live was in Israel. I know for sure that I watched Dana International win for Israel in 1998. Back then, it seemed entrants sang mostly in their native languages. The rules changed back and forth regarding the use of English and I think this year everyone sang in English or in a combination with their country’s language.
     In years past, I well remember the kitschy costumes and staging and bubble-gum-pop-y tunes. But I adored it, as did the millions watching. Although I missed the first two hours of the live broadcast today, I simply went online to watch a few of the entrants. (That, one can do.)  Catchy tunes, beautiful voices, even if the ones I saw were of that bubble-gummy-love genre. And that’s just how I remembered Eurovision. What I hadn’t expected was the winning entry from Ukraine.
     “1994”, sung by the Ukrainian singer Jamala, is beautiful in every way. The lyrics refer to the deportation of Crimean Tatars under Stalin. It is based on her family’s personal history. The words and her performance were both haunting and moving.

     Right now I am going back on the Eurovision site to take a look at the other entrants. It is truly a marvelous spectacle. If I happen to be stuck here next year, rather than in a country that joins in with the Eurovision fever, I will be tuning into LOGO TV once more.