Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Eurovision and Folklore

I do love brash pop music. It's fun.
Romey Madley Croft

I never knew of the Eurovision Song Contest until I moved to Germany. My friends had everyone over to watch the show, which took place Saturday night in early May.  It was a social event, something like the Super Bowl here in the States. We ate, drank and critiqued the songs. I remember it as a mix of mostly sappy love songs with a few humorous ones thrown into the mix.

Songs in a foreign language don't tend to go over well in the States, with few exceptions because people don't understand the lyrics.  In Europe, children in elementary school learn at least one foreign language so they grow up multilingual. In the United States, young people don't usually learn a second language until high school.

Today's theme is the use of Balkan folklore in Eurovision. The theme for the year 2017 was "Celebrating Diversity." I didn't find any good songs for 2017, but here are some from years past with a strong folklore flavor.

Video #1 is the Bulgarian entry for 2013, Samo Shampioni (Only Champions) by Elitsa and Stoyan.  Back in 2007 they had made it to fifth place with the song Voda (Water).

There are several folklore elements: the gaida player with the mask, the three women in the background with elaborate embroidered costumes, and Elitsa singing in the style of the Shope region.

This song placed 12th in the semi-finals; why I don't know.  I give it a "thumbs up" for energetic performance (at one point it looked like a duel of the drums) and the use of Bulgarian folk motifs.

The Serbian entry for 2010 features brass band music, very popular in Serbia.

Ovo je Balkan (this is Balkan) is the name of the song.  I detected a kolo rhythm at 1:14 and several times throughout the song.  This is a dynamic performance, a bit crazy and fun to watch.  You wouldn't know it from watching the performers, but this is a sexy love song.  It finished 13th in the finals.

Video #3 is the Eurovision entry from 2013: Alcohol is Free, from Greece.  During the intro, one of the musicians plays a tiny stringed instrument (tambouras), then all hell breaks loose after the drums and the trumpet play (at 0:41).

I found the lyrics in English translation (something always gets lost in translation) and what I got from them was a song about drunken sailors on a sea of whiskey (why not ouzo?) I give them points for a dynamic and fun presentation with the presence of Greek folklore. The band's name is Koza Mostra  (a play on Cosa Nostra, maybe?) This is definitely not a love song!

The song placed 6th in the finals.

The Croatian entry for Eurovision 2006 was Moja ┼ítikla, (My High Heel)  The dancing reminded me of the Greek Pentozali,  the choral singing is pure Croatian.harmony.

The singer, Severina, really stands out in her red dress (she tosses it at 2:20) and her passionate performance, along with her backup (wearing folk costumes) was a pleasure to watch.

This song placed 12th in the finals.  Maybe the judges and the audience just don't appreciate folklore and pop culture as much as I do.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

Beethoven with a Bulgarian Accent; Mozart Goes Greek

Bits and Pieces: More Folklore and Pop Culture From the Universe of YouTube

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