Russia has decided: it’s the Buranovskiye Babushki!
Today, in Russia, RTR held their National Final in the hopes of sending an act to Baku that would do their country proud. Maybe it would be Dima Bilan or Yulia Volkova, a pair of globally-famous performers with a Eurovision gold, silver, and bronze between them. Maybe it would be the rap-opera hybrid act of Timati and Aida. Maybe it would mark the return of Polina Smolova…
In the end, however, it was the geriatric folk ensemble Buranovskiye Babushki (aka the Grannies from Buranovo) that took the night with “Party for Everyone”:
Coming from the small village of Buranovo in the region of Udmurtia, about 600 miles east of Moscow, these ladies sing not only for Russia, or for their hometown, but for themselves. The women, most of whom are in their 70s or 80s, are mostly widows who turned to music (and to each other) for comfort and strength. They generally sing in Udmurt, which is more closely related to Finnish or Estonian than it is to Russian, and often cover tracks by the Beatles alongside their more traditional numbers. (This will be the first time that Udmurt is heard on a Eurovision stage, although “Party for Everybody” is partially in English, as well.) They first tried to enter Eurovision back in 2010, when they ended up in third place.
Although most had expected the UK’s Engelbert Humperdinck to take the title of “Oldest Lead Performer at Eurovision”, it seems that (according to an NPR report published last year) Elizaveta Zarbatova will take that honor, as she will be 84 or 85 in Baku.
On a personal level, I think that their 2010 entry was a stronger song. But you can’t deny that these women love what they do, and that this will be an entry like no other in Eurovision history. It’s often so rare that countries highlight their true traditional styles at Eurovision…no matter how these ladies do on the scoreboard, they should be proud of what they’re doing.