Possible Artists: Georgia

Hey everyone and welcome back to the ‘Possible Artists’ series! Today, we’ll take a look at the eastern country of Georgia and see which artists I’d like to see represent the country. Georgia isn’t very known internationally for its music and its musicians, but I’ve picked the two best artists that Georgia has to offer! Who are they? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out!

Lela Tsurtsumia: a good choice for Georgia?
Lela Tsurtsumia: a good choice for Georgia?

Georgia has very few musicians that have cracked international charts; they’ve either been in Eurovision or they have had to emigrate from the country. Katie Melua, who’s actually from Georgia, has done this and she’s now a British citizen, so therefore, I can’t recommend her. My primary recommendation to GBP, however, would be Lela Tsurtsumia. Tsurtsumia is considered to be Georgia’s most popular singer, with her style being more towards pop and soul, although she has released some traditional songs throughout her career. Her song “Idumali Ghame” (“Mysterious Night”) is one of her most recognisable songs of her discography.

This jazz-ballad song was released in 2002 and it became a hit in the Georgian charts. The date of release, however, isn’t specified, so we’re not sure if the song would have passed the September 1st rule (which is tomorrow, people! Be excited!) and would have been allowed to go to Eurovision either in Tallinn or in Riga, if Georgia was in the contest around that time. but they didn’t join the Eurovision family for another five years, when Sopho Khalvashi dropped the ethnic bombshell that was ‘Visionary Dream’.  Anyway, Lela isn’t just about the Georgian songs either! Oh no, she’s even been partial to covering some English songs too! The clip below is her cover of the 1998 song, ‘Strong Enough,’ by Cher.

Obviously, because this song is a cover, the song wouldn’t be able to go to Eurovision, but this song, and indeed this genre, would probably be best suited to her voice. If she re-wrote the lyrics into her native Georgian, maybe the song would have sounded better and there may have also been less or even no computer-enhanced notes that were dropped here and there during her performance. It’s good, though, to hear singers from countries that aren’t the best at English release singles that are in English! Well done Mrs. Tsurtsumia, you’ve outdone yourself!

As I said at the beginning of the article, Georgia wouldn’t be the first country that would pop into your head when you’re asked to think of a country that has a great music scene. So for my second recommendation would be Mariam Kakhelishvili. Kakhelishvili should be ringing bells for you if you’re a Eurovision fan! Mariam, now 17 years old, took part in Junior Eurovision three years ago in Minsk and came in a fantastic 4th place! She’s been labelled as “Baby Gaga” for her eccentric sense of style in fashion and in the video for her Junior Eurovision song ‘Mari Dari’, you’ll see this sense come to life!

Had she been old enough, this song would have probably been sent to Eurovision in Düsseldorf, as she released the song after September 1st. Because the song would have been more aimed towards Junior Eurovision, however, I wouldn’t see it qualifying and doing very well in Germany. But she is a fantastic singer and were she to go to Eurovision, she would probably do well, provided she has a great to fit her voice.

If you have some time, also take a look at these artists!
Nina Sublati – “Hunter” (Even though this is a cover, the potential that Nina has is just so great!)

Your views:

What would you think if Lela or Mariam represented Georgia at Eurovision? Or would you pick another artist to represent the country?

Would you like it if Lela or Mariam represented Georgia?
Would you like it if Lela or Mariam represented Georgia?

Petryk Lefter from Romania: I wouldn’t like to see either artist. I’d rather see Sofia Nizharadze sing again for Georgia.

Daniel Cobbett from the United Kingdom: Lela has a nice tone to her voice so I’d love to hear more of her! It would be great to hear some Georgian language at Eurovision too!

Shotiko Khurtsidze from Georgia: I’d prefer Lela to represent us at Eurovision. I don’t really like Mariam, ‘Mari Dari’ is the worst song we ever had!

Lela, according to fans, would seem like the best choice for Georgia, whereas Mariam isn’t favoured as much by the fans. Petryk would like to have Sofia Nizharadze back singing for the country; Sofia was fantastic in Oslo, but I’m not sure she would consider coming back for the minute, but who knows? What WE’D like know is what do you think of the choices? Would you like Lela or Mariam to represent Georgia next year, or would you pick a different artist to represent the country? Feel free to comment below and let us know what you think!

Top 10: Best Balkan ballads in ESC history

As we mentioned when beginning the series, our top 10 articles aim to cover a wide range of aspects of the contest – with today’s countdown, the third in the series, being no exception! Following on from Rory’s run-through of the most memorable joke entries sent to the contest, I am going to unearth the highlights of one of the most definitive genres ever exhibited on the Eurovision stage: the Balkan ballad.

Who will emerge victorious in our Balkan ballad battle?
Who will emerge victorious in our Balkan ballad battle?

Okay, so let’s just establish some parameters before we begin. We all think we have a vague idea of what a Balkan ballad is – it is one of those genres that most people would only ever hear at Eurovision, and for the purposes of this article the criteria I am using are as follows:

  • the song is a Eurovision entry from one of the Balkan nations (Serbia, Bosnia&Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro or Yugoslavia for entries pre-1992)
  • the song is sung in one of the national languages of the country
  • the song features aspects of traditional instrumentation or vocal style

This considered, I have had to exclude amazing songs such as “No One” (Slovenia 2011) and “Lako Je Sve” (Croatia 2011) due to their more Westernised sound, and songs like “Od Nas Zavisi” (FYR Macedonia 2002) and “Zauvijek Moja” (Serbia & Montenegro 2005) as they are not quite technically ballads.

Additional common features of a Balkan ballad are listed in the eurodummies guide here – well worth a read. However, I will be discussing where they come into play in our individual entries during the countdown, so if you’re pressed for time… let’s get straight into it shall we? 😀

10 – Regina – Bistra Voda (Bosnia & Herzegovina 2009)

I was at a loss to choose a tenth place in this countdown. It was between this entry and Hari Mata Hari’s “Lejla“. Both sublime, both atmospheric. Both delivered in an ever so slightly creepy fashion… but in the end I chose “Bistra Voda”, purely for its originality when compared to the Zeljko-by-numbers effort from 2006. The thing I adore about this entry is the way it builds – one of the recurring features of a Balkan ballad which generally adds to the drama. The backing singers are subtle yet effective, and the band’s 20 years of experience is evident in their confident live delivery. Their eventual ninth place in a difficult year was the best showing of all the Balkan nations in Moscow.

9 – Berta Ambroz – Brez Besed (Yugoslavia 1966)

This, Yugoslavia’s sixth ever entry to Eurovision, is what I would describe as the dawn of the Balkan ballad. Previous songs from Vice Vukov and Lola Novakovic had begun to incorporate a couple of the aforementioned tropes of the genre, but “Brez Besed” – the first time Yugoslavia sent a Slovene contestant – is the first time they put all the ingredients together and really capitalised on the formula. It’s dramatic, it’s angsty, the lyrics detail eternal devotion in the face of separation… it’s as close as the sixties came to the genre we all know and love today, and it bagged a respectable seventh place for the nation in Luxembourg, proving that it could be a lucrative genre for future attempts.

8 – Zeljko Joksimovic – Lane Moje (Serbia & Montenegro 2004)

Now for many many people, “Lane Moje” is THE Balkan ballad, and I expect my decision to only rank it eighth will not be a popular one. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with it per se, and I do adore it as a song. This is the first blatant exploitation of the traditional instrumentation that became an integral part of Eurovision in the 2000s following the success of this song. Indeed, it’s final total of 263 points remains the highest score to date by a song which did not win. It is captivating and magical, building up anticipation with the violin, flute and soft vocals before launching into the full-on epic final chorus where Zeljko’s compositional skills are showcased in their full brilliance. The backing vocals and percussion, combined with the end note, serve to ensure that this song leaves a lasting impression on the listener… However. Eighth. Because time has proved just how formulaic this entry really is. In 2004, because it had never been done before in this way, it stood out a mile, and rightfully captured everyone’s attention. But now, in 2013? Yes, it’s still brilliant. But the same thing has been done better before. And since. Sorry Z.

 7 – Boris Novkovic feat. Lado Members – Vukovi Umiro Sami (Croatia 2005)

I get the impression that this particular Croatian entry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, it is one of the best things they have ever sent. And as a Balkan ballad, it’s got it all. I particularly love the incorporation of a key change here, sneaking in without even a hint of schläger-esque cheese. It’s got the drums, the FIERCE backing choir (seriously. Step aside Neiokoso, the ethnic peasant-choir scene has found their new leading ladies!) and above all, the swung rhythm, which makes it all a little bit different and stand-out. It still has all the drama and darkness, but that melody over the top of it is just brilliant. Deserved to sneak into the top 10 in my opinion!

6 – Darja Svajger – Prisluhni Mi (Slovenia 1995)

Slovenia has hit a high of seventh place twice at the contest; with the perennial fan favourite “Energy” in 2001, and back in 1995 with this sublime slice of Balkan balladry. Coming from the era where the genre wasn’t so dependant on flutes and violins, Darja Svajger’s faultless lead vocal is laid over a simplistic orchestral arrangement, which highlights both the beauty of the melody, but also the mysticism and intrigue of the language she sings in. Put simply, it just sounds lovely. And it creates a contrast to the darker, minor key Balkan efforts which have been more common in recent years, showing that there are multiple incarnations of Balkan ballads, and not all of them have to be robotic factory-made Zeljko numbers to succeed. Indeed, in such a weak year, I’d say Darja deserved even higher than seventh!

5 – Danijela Martinovic – Neka Mi Ne Svane (Croatia 1998)

Ah, 1998. The closest voting we have seen in a fair while, it was this song which received the final 12 points of the evening, and thus secured Dana International’s infamous victory. Finishing in a memorable fifth place amongst a number of equally strong entries from the Netherlands, Belgium, Malta and the UK, Danijela’s song makes use of the rhythmic pattern also employed by Boris Novkovic, and strikes a fine balance between contemporary ballad (for the era) and Balkan ballad. The key change and dress change moment is just so slick. And by the final chorus, we’ve all got to the point where – despite linguistic hinderances – we can just about sing along with her. Absolute classic.

4 – Fazla – Sva Bol Svijeta (Bosnia & Herzegovina 1993)

The debut entry from Bosnia & Herzegovina is without a doubt one of my favourite Eurovision songs from the 90s. The music reflects the song’s lyrics and context perfectly, and without even understanding the language, the entry conveys the sadness and indecision expertly. As a piece of music, of course, it has all the Balkan archetypes, my particular favourite being that spinge-tingling flute motif during the introduction. This entry was the first time the Eurovision stage witnessed the Balkan ballad being used as a tool to connect to the true horrors of the ethnic tensions in the region, and although it was criminally underrated on this occasion, it at least elicited a moving show of support from the audience, thus succeeding to a certain extent in highlighting the issues in the country.

3 – Marija Serifovic – Molitva (Serbia 2007)

Without a doubt the most successful (at least in terms of rankings) Balkan ballad ever to grace the Eurovision stage, the 2007 winner from Marija Serifovic is often overshadowed by it’s eventual position. Six years after her victory, the majority of people regard it as “one of the weaker winners”, and seem to forget what a bloody powerful piece of music it actually is. And they seem to not take into account how effortlessly it was delivered on stage, or how dramatic of a final chorus it has, or what a truly epic long note it incorporates… True, it is by no means reflective of the chart music back in 2007, but it was a deserved victory – not only for the song, or even the country. For the genre. An exemplary display of the Balkan ballad’s merits – adding a touch of ethnicity without appearing pretentious or formulaic – it is most certainly a worthy winner, and on top of that, a hands-down timeless and moving song.

2 – Doris Dragovic – Zeljo Moja (Yugoslavia 1986)

For today’s silver medal, I am diving back into the 80s to retrieve one of the many fan favourites that Yugoslavia produced towards the end of their Eurovision career – “Zeljo Moja” performed by two-time contestant Doris Dragovic. For a long time, I only knew of Doris from her splendiferous 1999 effort “Marija Magdalena”, having a vague awareness of this 80s entry that everyone else seemed to love, and I just didn’t “get”. Until last summer, that is. I heard it again, and suddenly everything just clicked. It’s brilliant. Understated. Soft. Powerful. The chorus is instantly recognisable, and the trademark synths juxtaposed with the acoustic guitar in the middle 8 help to establish the aura of this timeless entry. Like “Prisluhni Mi”, it manages without ethnic instruments and angsty drama. It is just a beautiful piece of music, which shows off the multi-faceted nature of the Balkan ballad. Love it.

1 – Jelena Tomasevic feat. Bora Dugic – Oro (Serbia 2008)

Now remember how earlier I mentioned that the Lane Moje formula had been done better since? Well… this is what I meant. The winner of today’s top 10 is Serbia’s sixth-placed hosting entry from 2008 “Oro”. Performed exquisitely by Jelena Tomasevic (and, for some reason “Bora Dugic”, although to this day I still have no idea who or what Bora Dugic is, and what role they play in this fantastic song…) this is the song I would capitalise on when looking for the epitome of the Balkan ballad. The gradual build-up is there, the interesting instruments are too. The lead vocal is sufficiently floaty and mournful, yet at the same time authoritative and smooth. However, what really singles this song out from the rest is that chorus, Wordless, yet magical. It shows how the melody is the key aspect of any true Balkan ballad, and this one here is the kind that leaves a lasting impression long after it has finished being sung. Congratulations Jelena – you were woefully underrated in Belgrade, but five years on, we have selected “Oro” as the best Balkan ballad in Eurovision to date!

But what do you think of this top 10?

Your Views:

What would you say is the best Balkan ballad in ESC history?
What would you say is the best Balkan ballad in ESC history?

Chris Bambaren Haagkvist from the United States: As far as best Balkan Ballad, I say Bosnia 2006 as my first place and second comes in Serbia 2008. I think it’s one of the best entries Serbia had ever sent!

Nick Eurovision Song Contest from Greece: No Balkan ballad can be compared with Lane Moje but this one is awesome,too! 10/10

Peter Henshaw from Ireland: Yugoslavia 1981

Claus Michael Fasting from Finland: Bosnia 2012 is better

Frank Bischof from Germany: Oro was one of the best songs in 2008, in fact. Best Balkan ballad, maybe “Rijeka bez imena” in 2007?

As expected, “Lane Moje” and “Lejla” seem to be popular choices amongst the fans, however a couple of other entries previously unmentioned have also been put forward, which goes to show just how many examples of the Balkan ballad can be found if you look hard enough! However, as far as I’m concerned, “Oro” is today’s winner, albeit a very close one!

 

Tijana Dapčević will represent F.Y.R. Macedonia in Denmark!

Hi guys! Well this is quite a shock! We’re not even past September 1st, the date where the national broadcasters, and indeed the EBU, can now accept new music to be considered for Eurovision, and we’ve already two confirmed artists that will represent their respective countries at Eurovision; Valentina Monetta for San Marino and now, we have received news that Tijana Dapčević will represent F.Y.R. Macedonia in Denmark next year. According to Popularno.mk, MRT officially decided that Dapčević would be the singer for Macedonia and now it’s officially confirmed. Well done Tijana!

It's official: Tijana will fly the Macedonian flag in Denmark next year!
It’s official: Tijana will fly the Macedonian flag in Denmark next year!

Apart from announcing the singer today, it seems that FYR Macedonia has officially confirmed participation for next year by announcing that Tijana Todevska-Dapčević would represent the country. Dapčević, who’s 37, is very popular in the ex-Yugoslav countries such and is now the second official artist to be selected for Eurovision. Tijana is no stranger to Eurovision, as she performed in the national final for Serbia and Montenegro in 2006, even though the winner of the national final never went to Eurovision, as the country had dissolved into the land of Molitva (Serbia) and the land of Igranka (Montenegro). Dapčević performed her song “Greh” (“Sin”) in the national final and finished in a very respectable 8th place.

The fact that she was allowed to perform in the national final is that she is half-Serbian, and she now lives in Belgrade. This song actually isn’t that bad, as it shares a few different influences in the song; Indian and Balkan to name a couple. But she’s also half-Macedonian, which is why she’s allowed to perform for both countries and why she will represent FYR Macedonia in Denmark in May of 2014. Also, do you remember I said that Tijana wasn’t a stranger to Eurovision? Well, her family isn’t a stranger to the Eurovision stage either! Her sister, Tamara Todevska, was one of the three singers that performed on behalf of FYR Macedonia in the 2008 Contest in Belgrade with Vrčak and Adrian with “Let Me Love You” (which was a song that was horribly robbed of a place in the final, if I must say so myself!).  Anyway, Tijana has had a string of hits across her career, some of which have become quite popular among the Balkan countries. Her most significant song, “Sve je isto, samo njega nema” (“All Is the Same, Only He is Not Here”), is quite controversial as the man who’s mentioned, the ‘he’, is former Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito. As well as that, in the song, she sings in all the national languages from the Yugoslav countries; Slovene, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian and Macedonian! She’ll give Todomondo a run for their money!

This song is quite ‘Balkan -rock’ and is quite… alternative in a way! I don’t know whether this song would do very well at Eurovision, or whether it would even go to the Contest. Either way, her style of music is quite fitting to her location. When it comes to Eurovision 2014, if she’s drawn into the semi-final with a few of the fellow Balkan countries, she will easily get points from them. But whether she’ll qualify or not… well, we’ll just have to wait and see!

Your views:

So does Tijana seem like a good choice for FYR Macedonia?

Do you think Tijana will do a good job for FYR Macedonia?
Do you think Tijana will do a good job for FYR Macedonia?

Robbert Landegent from the Netherlands: They are quite early! I hope they bring up something good like Kaliopi!

Nikola Stojanović from Serbia: She is such a great artist and can sing in every music genre. I don’t know what will the song will sound like, but I can’t wait to hear it.

Thanssis Nakos from Greece: Well I like her vocal style, I’m sure that she’ll rock! Good luck FYROM!

So expectations are high for Tijana to kick it up a gear for FYR Macedonia in Denmark, but as we don’t know when she’ll reveal the song she’ll sing at Eurovision, we’ll have to wait and see if she steps up to the mark. What do you think of the choice? Does she seem like the best choice for the country? Or are there better singers that could have sung on behalf of the nation? Let us know what you think about the choice below!