I know Portugal won the Eurovision Song Contest, but Sweden won the Eurovision. As I am obsessed (not only with Eurovision but also) with nation branding and perception, I look at the results from a branding perspective. And I will argue that Sweden – not Portugal, not even the host country Ukraine – won the Eurovision.
Last Saturday, countries from across the European continent came together for the 58th time, for the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, Sweden….but not Turkey!
Turkey explicitly expressed its concerns about the fairness of the contest – a concern that has not been voiced by any other country before. Therefore, Turkish decision is indeed a symbolic action that has implications for its reputation (or brand) as part of the European society.
As seen in the video above, it is quite difficult to take Eurovision seriously and discuss its fairness. But Turkey did it. What was Turkey thinking?
Another Eurovision season is over! Sweden’s Loreen won the title, and is bringing Eurovision back to Sweden after over a decade (and unfortunately around a month after my fellowship in Stockholm ends!) I don’t think I ever hid my love and appreciation for the Eurovision Song Contest. It is more than a song contest, it is indeed a part of European identity and politics. After reading a great post on politics of Eurovision by Yelena Osipova, and an incredibly awful post written from an American exceptionalism point of view, I want to say a couple of words on European brand and Eurovision.
First of all, congratulations to Germany and Lena for winning Eurovision 2010. I already started to get excited for Eurovision 2011 in Germany. As I said in an earlier post, Eurovision presents a snapshot of European politics in less than three hours. The songs started to get more ‘global’, there are more songs in English and less local instruments. But still, it is possible to see how Eurovision can be a public diplomacy project, how it can get people together – or not. This is why I decided to write about my ideas, especially about Turkey, Greece, and Armenia in Eurovision. I am still amazed by how these nations can be culturally so similar and have so many political problems at the same time.
Let me organize my arguments in three categories: lyrics, similarities in music/culture, and voting politics. Armenia’s song was called ‘Apricot Stone’. Given the political context of Eurovision, Turkey claimed that “the song hinted at 1915 events”. Turco-Armenian relations are already bad enough, we definitely do not need a song, or misinterpretation of a song to aggravate the situation. As the song was mentioning Armenian motherland, many Turks were confused about its intentions. Even the Turkish commentator suggested that Eva should drop her apricots stones in her country, not in someone else’s. Eva’s manager try to explain the main idea beyond the lyrics, but I frankly don’t think he is a credible source for Turkish people.
Manga’s song was ‘We could be the same’. (By the way, also congratulations to Manga – they became 2nd). Their lyrics were also worth mentioning: ‘I can see that this could be fate/I can love you more than they hate/Doesn’t matter who they will blame/We can beat them at their own game’. I am glad that I am not the only one who thought these words had to do something with Turkey – EU relations. I mean, come on! We entered the contest with another rock(ish) band! Manga, as well, claimed that their lyrics did not have political aims – then again, it is very difficult to believe them, given the setting in their official video clip.
When I first listened to Greece’s song, it sounded so familiar. I mean, Turkey pretty much has same instruments but there was something more. Then I remembered, we had a very similar song in 1977 (I am no music expert, but if a rhythm reminded me of a 1977 song, there should be a similarity.). Living under the same authority for centuries and still living in the same region, it is not surprising to find similarities between songs.
I also learned about the importance of apricots for Armenians! Shocking story, apricots are pretty important for Turks, too. We are the leading producer (and I do have an apricot tree in my backyard). I was amazed by the beautiful duduk melodies by Gasparyan – I listened to that part over and over again. And yet another shocking story, we have the same instrument. Gasparyan had (maybe still has) quite a large audience in Turkey, especially after his joint work with Erkan Ogur in 2001.
Voting is the most political part of Eurovision. Turkey gave 12 points to Azerbaijan (one nation, two states), Greece to Cyprus, Cyprus back to Greece (I am sure it was particularly difficult this year for Greece to give 12 points to Cyprus), Armenia to Georgia. No points came to Turkey from Armenia, Greece, or Cyprus.
To summarize my thoughts, we can react to these similarities and differences in two different ways. Firstly, we can take the voting road. We can claim how Greeks steals Turkish rhythms, how Turks portray a fabricated image, how Armenia blames Turkey, etc. etc. We can use Eurovision as a platform to continue nationalist struggles and blame each other for stealing our own symbols.
Or, we can just realized that all these symbols, rhythms, instruments belong to all of us, living in the same region. At least, I hope we will realize this fact. Let’s see what happens in the 56th Eurovision Song Content next year in Germany.
PS: Seriously, Greece – 12 points to that song? Come on!
This blog post is also posted on http://placebranding.ning.com/.
It is that time of the year again! We are only a few weeks away from Eurovision! Last year, to my surprise, I met some people who didn’t know about this beautiful event! I thought Eurovision was the second biggest event in the universe – the first being, of course, the World Cup.
When something is an inherent part of your culture and life, it is very difficult to explain it, especially when other people have no idea what you are talking about – “It is like American Idol – but an entire continent competes” or “It is a parade of songs and stage shows that have never left the 80s” or simply “Just watch it, it is fun”. Last year, I watched the final with friends from Nepal, New Zealand, and the UK. It was really interesting and funny to see non-European reaction to the contest.
Let me try to explain what Eurovision is. Once upon a time European countries came together and started an organization called European Broadcasting Union (EBU). EBU decided to do something to bring European countries together after the World War II, and tried to test the broadcasting technologies. Eurovision, a song contest broadcasted simultaneously in several countries, started in 1956. And we still watch it, and no, apart from Ireland, we are still not bored (Ireland won Eurovision seven times). The winner country gets to host the following year’s contest. Last year, Norway won, and Eurovision 2010 will take place in Oslo, Norway.
Eurovision, for me at least, presents a snapshot of European politics, as well as our deep commitment to disco era. Last year, I was in a position to explain why Scandinavian countries give 12 points to each other, why it is a big issue when Turkey votes for Cyprus, and why we pretend to speak French (deuze pointe). Now, on one hand, we forget about politics – Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and even Israel are seen as ‘European’ countries, we love to hear them sing together. On the other hand, when it comes to voting, we are reminded how powerful political relations are in Europe – i.e. 12 points are exchanged between countries with strong ties (yes Scandinavian countries, I am talking about you!! Stop doing that!).
Long story short, thanks to Eurovision, people see at least some faces, melodies, and lyrics from all around the continent. Visit Eurovision’s website at http://www.eurovision.tv/page/home and be a part of this great event!
PS: This is Turkey in ESC 2010:
and this is my favorite song thus far – Iceland: