TURIN, May 15 — Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest on Sunday, riding a wave of public support across Europe for the beleaguered nation and carried along by an infectious hip-hop tune.
Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finals of the world’s largest live music event with Stephaniea rap lullaby mixing Ukrainian folk with the modern rhythms of an energetic breakdance group.
“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azоvstal now,” frontman Oleh Psiuk implored in English from the stage after their performance was greeted by an enthusiastic audience.
Great Britain came second with Sam Ryder. space man and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain, with the sexy reggaeton Slow motion by Chanel.
Ukraine beat dozens of over-the-top acts at the kitsch and quirky annual music event, including Norway, whose Subwoofer sang over bananas dressed in yellow wolf masks or Serbia Konstrakta, who questioned national health care while meticulously rubbing their hands on stage.
“Only at Eurovision do people celebrate bananas, heartbreak and wash their hands in one show,” Swedish fan Martina Fries told AFP on Saturday ahead of the final.
“Eurovision is a way to show that different countries can celebrate together peacefully.”
back to front
The joy of Eurovision is in the camp and clowning around, though the nearly three-month-long war in Ukraine weighs heavily on the festivities.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after its neighbor Moscow invaded.
Written before the war, Kalush Orchestra’s Stephanie mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music with an invigorating hip-hop beat and nostalgic lyrics reminiscent of the motherland.
The group has achieved a crowd-pleasing cultural mix with the sound of obscure flute-like folk instruments and the sight of embroidered ethnic clothing on stage added to breakdancing and rapping.
President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the group for winning the contest.
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.
Representing Ukraine at Eurovision while loved ones are suffering at home has been difficult, with a member of the band currently fighting to defend Kyiv, Psiuk told AFP.
“We are very worried about him and hope to see him safe once he returns.”
Other more restrained offers included Greece die together by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and Brividi (Shivers), a duo of Italians Mahmood and Blanco.
Italy hoped the gay-themed love song would bring them a second straight Eurovision win after last year’s Zitti and Buoni (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.
After a quarter of a century of exclusion from the top spot, Britain had hoped for a winner in space man and its highs belted out by the affable, long-haired Ryder.
On the fashion side, the Lithuanian Monika Liu has generated as much buzz on social networks for her bowl cut as for her sensuality and elegance. Sentimentai.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Sheldon Riley – one of the few non-European Eurovision contenders – sang his assertive ballad Not the same through a shimmering veil laden with crystals.
And since no Eurovision is complete without a handful of gyrating, swaying bodies on stage, Spain’s Chanel came to the rescue with her energetic dance and memorable “hypnotic booty” chorus.
The Eurovision winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals and members of the public from each country, with votes for their country of origin not permitted. —AFP