What is the “Eurovision Song Contest”?
Yearly, a big international music contest is held in Europe, called the Eurovision Song Contest. It is the longest-running annual international TV song competition, held since 1956. It is also one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world. Each participating country has to submit an original song to be performed on live television and then each country votes giving a certain amount of points to decide who is the winner. Since 1981, the winner country hosts the next year’s contest. This year it is hosted in Kiev, Ukraine, after Jamala’s victory with her emotional song “1994”, which caused controversy in Europe due to its political content.
Almost no Americans watch this contest, although hundreds of millions of people around the globe live for it (including me!)
This year, there is one song that is standing out and impressing Europe: “Origo”, sung by Joci Pápai. This will be the song representing Hungary. Joci Pápai is a Romani-Hungarian singer, rapper, songwriter and guitarist. A popular English term for Romani people is “gipsy”.
This song stands out by having ethnic sounds and dances, and its peculiar chorus. He tackles some tough topics as ethnic discrimination and prejudices. Pápai sings it in Hungarian and he describes his song as a “message of hope and strength” to all the Romani minorities in the world, who, in some countries, may feel mistreated. He also explains how he found his strength in God and he describes himself as a “believer, dreamer, father, fighter, singer, and Samurai”.
The song also tells the story of a Romani man, him, falling in love with a White European woman, and how belonging to the ethnicity he belongs to was a problem that kept them apart from each other, as he says in the song: “Hogy meghódítsd a szívem ismerned kell lelkemet” which means something like “To conquer my heart you must know my soul.”
I wanted to do a review about this song because ethnic minorities in many countries suffer from not being treated the same way as natives, and because SLA has people from different cultures within the community, and if they never feel bad because of their origins this song shows how a man is having the same troubles. Maybe you can get to feel, or at least see how he suffered with the tone of his voice.
The first time I heard this song, along with the others presented this year, I was really surprised and I didn’t really know what I just heard. First of all, I don’t understand Hungarian, but I’m pleased that he decided to sing in his national language because most of the other songs are nowadays sung in English to “make it more international”. The song could be described by people as “weird”, because it is obvious that it is not a song that is going to be played in the radio stations worldwide and that it will not please most of the people if they listen to it for the first or second time.
The live performance add a lot to the song. Pápai appears with a woman who dances with a Romani style and with movements similar to “flamenco” dances in Spain. In the official video this woman also appears dancing and there are also shots of someone’s hand touching his heart. Even if the staging is not extraordinary it complements the song, the singer, and the dancer.
Something that can also surprise the audience is how “ethnic” the song sounds and suddenly hearing how Pápai starts to rap, and is combining two styles that are completely different.
“this song is a blend of styles: electronic beats, Hungarian popular music and gipsy style.” Once, in an interview, he was asked why did he add the part of the rap in the song, and he answered “In the Eurovision Song Contest songs can only last three minutes as a maximum, and rap is the best way I can say all the things I want to say and fast enough to tell you all of them”.
Even if this song has a meaning that has to do politics, being politics a topic that the contest wants to keep apart from the festival and focus on the music, the song is receiving a good acceptance within the “Eurofan” (Eurovision Song Contest fan) community. In the betting odds provided by www.eurovisionworld.com, one of the most known Eurovision websites, he is placed 14th out of 42 countries, which is a very good placement and means that he is seen as an absolute qualifier for the finals.
I wish him and his team the best, because Hungary is not a country that has always sent good songs, but this one is making the difference and may have a good result. Though, in the semifinals of this year most of the songs are balanced and some good entries will fail to qualify just for a few points, so no one knows what could happen. In any case, he deserves qualifying to the finals and finishing in the top 15.
He will compete in the second semifinal which will take place on Thursday, May 11th. The grand final is on Saturday, May 13th.
Official Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LflrKXL022U
National Final Performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2stjsoO0NfM
Jamala’s song was titled “1944”, not “1994”.