ITALY: Ukrainian band ‘Kalush Orchestra’ won the Eurovision Song Contest on Sunday, riding a surge of public support for the troubled country across Europe and bolstered by an addictive hip-hop composition.
With “Stefania,” a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian traditional with current beats from an enthusiastic, breakdancing band, Kalush Orchestra beat out 24 rivals in the final of the world’s greatest live music event.
“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.
Britain came in second with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” with its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with Chanel’s sultry reggaeton “SloMo.”
At the kitschy, wacky annual musical event, Ukraine beat out a slew of over-the-top performers, like Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sung about bananas while wearing yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while methodically cleansing her hands onstage.
Eurovision is a technique of demonstrating that various countries can coexist peacefully.
Although the nearly three-month war in Ukraine hovered heavily over the celebrations, the joy of Eurovision is in the camp and clowning.
The event’s organisers, the European Broadcasting Union, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania,” a song by Kalush Orchestra written before the conflict, combines traditional Ukrainian folk music with an energising hip-hop beat and wistful lyrics about the motherland.
With the sound of odd flute-like folk instruments and the sight of embroidered ethnic costumes onstage added to breakdancing and rapping, the band pulled off a crowd-pleasing cultural mashup.
President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated the team on winning the competition
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.
“Representing Ukraine at Eurovision while loved ones suffer back home has been tough, with one band member currently fighting to defend Kyiv,” Psiuk said in a statement.
“We are very worried about him, and we hope to see him safe once we are back.”
Other sombre selections included Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord’s “Die Together” from Greece and Mahmood and Blanco’s “Brividi” (Shivers) from Italy.
After last year’s success with “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) by high-octane glam rockers Maneskin, Italy was hoping for another win with the gay-themed love ballad.
Britain had anticipated to have a winner in “Space Man,” with its high notes sung by the charming, long-haired Ryder, after a quarter-century of being locked out of the top place.
Monika Liu of Lithuania earned as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as she did for her sensual and beautiful “Sentimentai” on the fashion front.
Sheldon Riley of Australia, one of Eurovision’s few non-European competitors, performed his self-affirmation ballad “Not the Same” while wearing a shimmering face veil encrusted with crystals.
Spain’s Chanel came to the rescue with her intense dancing and unforgettable “booty hypnotic” chant, since no Eurovision is complete without a smattering of gyrating and undulating bodies onstage.
The winner of Eurovision is chosen by a panel of music industry professionals and members of the public from each country, with no votes allowed for one’s own country.