I emigrated to Britain in 1967, April 17th, to be precise (one day before my 19th birthday), to train as a nurse. It was a very strange journey having some perceptions changed dramatically and some reinforced in ways I least expected. As a young, vulnerable and inexperienced teenager, it would prove to be an exciting move, but a real baptism of fire, and without any relatives for support either.
Just over one month from my arrival, I was exposed to something even more strange called the Eurovision Song Contest. It was in its 11th year, still a fledgling event that was not quite sure of how to manage itself, as it was obviously learning rapidly about maintaining European harmony! But if nothing else, it was most entertaining! I made the mistake of watching the contest that Saturday night on May 24th. Bad move! I became severely hooked on it.
Forty two years later, I am excitedly looking forward to the 54th Eurovision Song Contest on May 16th in Moscow, because I love anything that brings countries together, that aids understanding between them, that celebrates cultures and differences and, most of all, that revels in mutual respect and raising cultural awareness. Forty two countries will be taking part before elimination, with 25 in the actual Final next weekend. Back then, in Lugano, Switzerland, on that first nervous night in 1956, they were not quite sure of the rules. Seven countries entered (France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg) and were each allowed two songs. Each country could also vote for whomever they liked as well as themselves. The actual voting was never revealed, but, not surprisingly, everyone came second with Switzerland (represented by Lys Assia) having the winning song, Refrain. I think that kind of skewed result must have revealed that the voting was not quite right because no one has been able to find out exactly how the countries voted! Austria, Denmark and the UK did not participate that year because they missed the deadline for entries.
With the formation of the European Broadcasting Union -EBU- in February 1950 (23 broadcasting organisations from Europe and the Mediterranean), at a conference in the United Kingdom, the potential for great events was not lost on the founders. Four years later, the first European Network broadcast of a festival held in Montreaux was watched on over four million television sets across Europe 'in homes, bars and shop windows'! A year later (1955), the idea for the Eurovision Song Contest was conceived in Monaco by Marcel Bezençon, a Frenchman working for the EBU. The competition was based upon the Italian Festival di Sanremo and was also seen as a technological experiment in live television. In those days, it was a very ambitious project to join many countries together in any kind of international network as there was no satellite. Yet, without interruption, the Eurovision Song Contest has been broadcasted every year since 1956, making it one of the longest-running television programmes in the world.
Not only that, but the Contest has also spawned two other competitions: The Junior Eurovision Song Contest (since 2003) and the Eurovision Dance Contest (2007). The competition is also broadcasted in Australia, Canada, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Jordan, Korea, New Zealand and the United States, even though these countries do not participate and many people in those countries are not yet aware of it. Today, worldwide audiences of the contest runs into at least a billion.
The Eurovision Song Contest has been famous for many things, like launching ABBA, Celine Dion, Dana and the incredible Riverdance on the world stage; for having some real turkeys for winners; for having FOUR winners in one year, a virtual farce that was, and for its blatantly biased and political voting patterns. But what has amazed me about the Contest is how it has evolved from a very straight-laced gown and tuxedo event, the audience dressed impeccably, with singers singing predictably bland songs that reflected the time, sung against simple backgrounds, everything very controlled and 'safe' (compare that first winner to current songs!), to the free-for-all technologically enhanced song-fest we now enjoy. I guess one either loves or loathes the songs but one can never fault the Eurovision Song Contest for sheer entertainment value or it's potential to launch great singers!
To follow the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), click on Meet the 42 Participants, then Click on PREVIEW VIDEOS, and you will be able to see each entry better and get a flavour of potential winners much easier.
Ms CYPRAH'S 2009 ESC Top Tips
* Bosnia & Herzegovina
* United Kingdom
Do you agree or do you have other favourites?
Who can forget ABBA in 1974 singing their way to superstardom and world domination in Brighton, UK! Listen to the song that started it all for them. It seems like only yesterday. The announcer said 'One to watch'. Little did we all know. :o)
Watch Jade Ewen, the UK entrant, in her very first rehearsal. Aren't she and the song just wonderful? :o)
(I am shamelessly nationalistic for this entry because Britain has had a run of awful songs. Thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber, who will also be playing the piano on the night, it is nice to have a potential winner and someone who can actually SING. What a star she is! You GO GIRL!)