It’s the annual rallying cry. When May approaches, there is one week in Europe where every member of every margin of life puts on as many colors as there are in the rainbow and beyond, and shows the whole world what makes them unique. With the grand showcase of talent and artistry that the Eurovision Song Contest is, we also see cultures of each walk of life blend, and dance with one another in the most epic confluence of sound. In this space, no one is forgotten. Everyone is a star.
Parlez-vous français ? Great music doesn’t need to be tied down by understanding the lyrics a lot of the time, and Eurovision is our window into the world of finding joy in experiencing different languages through the sound of beauty. Kalush Orchestra’s victory in Turin in 2022 was a young anthem for Ukrainian morale. A testament to family, homeland, and most importantly, the lead rapper Oleg’s mother; the winning song Стефанія (Stefania) was performed all in Ukrainian. Although most of Europe and Australia may not speak the Slavic language, building bridges for the group was not difficult. The elements of the song’s stage design, the charge of the performers, and the exclusive quality of both hip-hop and traditional Ukrainian orchestration solidified the group’s golden spot.
This year, as the contest is being hosted in Liverpool, in the United Kingdom on behalf of Ukraine, viewers worldwide can be exposed to the language and aesthetics of Finnish, Spanish, Hebrew, Italian, Croatian, Armenian, Portuguese, Serbian, French, Latvian, Slovenian, Moldovan, Lithuanian, Albanian, and Ukrainian. The other 26 entries are either fully or partially in English.
Eurovision is a place where stories collide. As the years go on and the contest continues to mature, faces of different colors that represent a myriad of ethnic backgrounds begin to flourish. This year, representing Ukraine as half of TVORCHI, the lead vocalist Jeffery Kenny, a Nigerian-Ukranian man, is the second black participant to represent Ukraine in the 17 years of the country’s submissions.
Especially for being a host entry, this is quite significant. The previous black contestant was the singer Gaitana in 2012, who landed at 15th place in the grand final in Baku. Coming to compete this year are two women with Moroccan heritage: La Zarra from France and Loreen from Sweden. The nation of the Faroe Islands also has a hand in the pot, thanks to the performer Reiley, representing Denmark, who hails from the archipelago. From here, I’d like to mention the context outside of the contest that makes three minutes onstage incredibly important.
I myself am a Filipino-American man – a member of the daughter cultures of a Europe long gone. There are a number of things I understand about the way we celebrate diversity in Eurovision that come from my own experience of sensing my apart-ness from the majority. As the nations of the world wane and wax from ideas of progress and inclusion, the whole of Europe, similarly to the United States and the rest of the western world; is coming to reckon with the fact that conflict brings people together from far places. As the cultural body of our planet shifts and mixes around, we can expect to see members of every descent take the stage every step in the future; such is the dream of Eurovision. Built up in 1956 with the philosophy of mending a broken Europe following the last greatest modern global conflict, the benchmark creed is that we believe art has no barriers, we are all human, and we have some pretty damn good music.
With exposure to unfamiliar cultures, we allow ourselves to expand our vision into that of the artists. To be demonstrated in Liverpool will be a hyperballad with electronic-traditional Albanian instrumentation. France is combining platinum disco with its personal chanson style. The rolling beat to Georgia’s song is in tandem with the stunning traditional design in glimpses of its visual choreography. Israel’s song has an industrial-meets-Middle-Eastern breakdown unlike anything else in the last quarter of the track. Moldova’s entry dresses the arena in a deep forest for a prayer of passion, rife with indigenous melody. Spain enchants and entrances the continents with a stellar test of vocal ability in the New Flamenco genre. Sweden will use the stage to tie ancestral, symbolic designs of the Berber Tribes into Liverpool and back to Stockholm. Over the three nights when we come together, the lights open up, and every story matters.
Join us for the party. Here, in the beating heart of the greatest music celebration on Earth, we as viewers are asked the same question posed to the artists performing for millions of people: do you dare to dream?
One thought on “The Diversity we can SEE and HEAR at Eurovision 2023”
Also, it seems as if Ukraine has grown/matured over the past decade. I remember Gaitana having a rough experience before and during the contest because many folks said that she wan’t Ukrainian enough (“she does not represent the Ukrainian soul”) to represent the country.
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