ONE of the most hotly contested Eurovision Song Contests in recent memory saw Ukraine’s entry awarded with a victory that will do little to dissuade critics that the competition has become something of a political mouthpiece.
Singer-songwriter Jamala, whose full name is Susana Jamaladynova, won the 2016 edition on May 14 with her politically charged rendition of the Crimean Tatar ballad ‘1944’, which evokes the deportation of thousands of her ancestors by Stalin at the time.
Embracing victory, Jamala said she hopes the award shows that the continent was “ready to hear about the pain of other people” and urged “peace and love” to the cameras in Stockholm.
Opinion is split on whether the song won on its own artistic merits, and it is certainly one of the most poignantly beautiful expressions the contest has seen, or whether the result was a predetermined statement of disapproval against Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
While loudly welcomed by the vast majority of Crimeans, the move, following an American and EU backed coup in Ukraine, has been heavily criticised by western politicians and media. The Tatar minority, now under Russian sovereignty, have been vocally opposed to the change and intensive crackdowns have weakened the Tatar political authorities.
“Of course it’s about 2014 as well. These two years have added so much sadness to my life. Imagine – you’re a creative person, a singer, but you can’t go home for two years. You see your grandfather on Skype, who is 90 years old and ill, but you can’t visit him. What am I supposed to do: just sing nice songs and forget about it? Of course I can’t do that” said Jamala who has been living in Ukraine since the events unfolded.
The decision has been widely condemned within Russia, with nationalist elements in the country previously considering the victory of Austrian transgender contestant, Conchita Wurst, another example of the contest being more an outlet of western propaganda than musical talent.
This year’s Eurovision also saw guest nation Australia almost steal victory with Dami Im’s Sound of Silence, while Russia, favourites among bookmakers, came third. Joe and Jake from the UK continued Britain’s historical relationship with the judges by coming 24th out of the 26 entries.