Mika Launikari


Eurovision Song Contest for the 60th time - Cross-cultural ponderings and wonderings

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Only a decade after the 2nd World War, the European Broadcasting Union established the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) as an attempt to unify Europe through music, to encourage cultural exchange and sharing as well as to construct a common European popular sphere. In 1956, when the ESC was organized for the first time in Lugano (Switzerland), Europe was still recovering from the war that had divided the continent into two separate political systems in 1945 due to an ideological conflict between East and West.

The Swiss organisers of the ESC 1956 were brave, they had a vision and most importantly they understood the revolutionary power of having the live singing contest broadcast on the television. Their technological experiment succeeded and the rest is history. Since its creation, the ESC has snowballed in popularity and grown to one of the most-watched events in the whole world with hundreds of millions of spectators annually.

Over the years, colourful, amusing and even phenomenal performances have been seen on the ESC stage, but sometimes also acts that some people would call foolish farces or freak shows. All in all, this contest has developed significantly in size, geography, diversity and content, and has to date become a spectacular multicultural gathering with more than forty nations singing and competing under the flag of Eurovision.

We may of course wonder, whether it is really all the songs that attract the viewers to watch the show, or is it rather the uniqueness of the event itself that magically captures the TV-audience. But for many Europeans, despite its superficial pop music kitsch and commercial aspects, the ESC is their favourite annual TV entertainment — a show that makes them both love and hate the rest of Europe.

Often the ESC is plagued by accusations of political and geographical biases. The citizens of all the participating countries are televoting for their favourite performance, but as they are not allowed to vote for their own acts, they in particular tend to vote for performances from countries, whose cultures, languages and geographical location resemble their own. However, despite any such accusations, speculations and critical remarks, which actually only give additional flavour to the contest, this grandiose event definitely contributes to creating a community of togetherness and belongingness across Europe.

The promotion of a European identity is part of the unofficial agenda of the ESC. Does this really happen or is it rather so that the different national identities only get stronger as so much national pride is linked to the competition every time? Or should the ESC simply be seen as a forum that allows the promotion of a European identity by encouraging the expression of all the national and cultural diversities? At the end of the day, no matter who or which country happens to be on stage at the ESC, we Europeans should all feel assured that we are an integral part of Europe.

This year’s host for the 60th Eurovision Song Contest will be Vienna, the impressive capital city of Austria. An amazing feature this time is that Australia from Down Under has been given the permission to participate in the ESC. Okay, even if the Aussies are great fans of the ESC, I personally think that they due to their ESC participation should slightly modify their country name. How about calling them Eustralia from now on ;-) !?

The official ESC 2015 site: http://www.eurovision.tv/

Photo: www.ogaespain.com