Category Archives: Moldova

JESC 2013 Preview: Part 2

In our first peek at who’s who in this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest, we got to know the crop of young talent from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Georgia.  As of this moment, the performers have converged on Kiev and rehearsals are just ramping up.  Let’s meet our next set of artists!

Read the rest of this entry

Moldova’s Pick: Aliona Moon

The last National Final of the year was held in Moldova, where “O Melodie Pentru Europa” saw a total of 14 songs vying for the chance to head to Malmö (including one by my personal favorite constant also-ran, Doiniţa Gherman).  Following a close 50/50 jury/televote split, the victory went to Aliona Moon’s ballad “A Million”: Read the rest of this entry

Moldova has decided: it’s Pasha Parfeny!

Just because this past weekend was one of the last before the EBU’s Head of Delegation Meeting in Baku on March 19 doesn’t mean the action is slowing down!  Quite the opposite; alongside the action in Sweden, Serbia, Portugal and Romania, the Moldovans also made their choice this weekend.  During a marathon of a National Final, twenty-one songs left themselves up to the mercy of a jury and televote. Read the rest of this entry

20 Semifinalists Revealed in Moldova

Moldovan broadcaster TRM have officially unveiled the twenty jury-selected finalists for their National Selection.  A twenty-first entry will be selected by a public internet vote, and the National Final will be held on March 10 (the same day as the Finals of Portugal’s Festival Da Canção and Sweden’s Melodifestivalen, if you’ve been keeping track).

The candidate songs are (with links, when available): Read the rest of this entry

Eurovision 2011: The Best of the Rest (Part 5)

(Pardon the brief hiatus…I just started a new job, and I took a quick trip out to New York to see some family and friends. But now I’m back in full force!)

Lithuania: Evelina Sašenko shocked quite a few people when her dramatic ballad “C’est Ma Vie” qualified for the Finals.  (You could have heard a pin drop in the arena when the Lithuanian flag emerged from its little digital envelope the night of its Semifinal!)  Without a doubt, this was one of the true surprises of the 2011 Contest. 

There were a few other songs from Lithuania that I was hoping to see in Düsseldorf, with some being more guilty pleasures than others.  Donny Montell (real name: Donatas Montvydas) has tried many times over the past few years to represent his home nation, and he even had two entries in the National Final this year (including a duet with 2009 representative Sasha Song).  Donny’s solo entry this year, “Let Me”, came in 5th place this year, despite his attempted channeling of Justin Timberlake:

For fans of sweet throwback entries (like Serbia’s “Čaroban”), Liepa Mondeikaitė’s breezy “Laukiu (I’m Looking Forward)” might have done the trick.  This sixth-place finisher was the only song in the finals sung in Lithuanian (and I might be the only one who see this, but I think Kim Cattrall might have a doppelganger in Vilnius…)

(FYR) Macedonia: I had a bit of difficulty following Skopje Fest this year, partially due to a rough connection to the show’s stream, and partially because the show was interminably long and drawn-out.  When Vlatko Ilievski’s “Rusinka” took the crown, I basically shrugged my shoulders and turned to the Slovene selection, which was wrapping up at about the same time.  

That being said, there were two other songs that stayed with me after the Macedonian National Final, but for two completely different reasons.  This year’s runner-up was Martin Srbinovski’s “Ram Tam Tam”, a danceable, folk-tinged rock number that I immediately fell in love with: 

On the other side of the equation, however, was the nul-pointer Rok Agresori’s “Kukuriku”, which defies all explanation:

Now that I’ve completely destroyed your faith in humanity, let’s move on to: 

Malta: Even if you weren’t a fan of Glen Vella’s “One Life“, it was impossible not to get swept up in his absolutely infectious energy.  Whether it was him belting out gospel numbers during his press conference, living it up in the Euroclub every night, or his near-constant smile, even when he failed to qualify for the final by the razor-thin margin of a single point.  It had been Glen’s dream to sing at Eurovision, and his enthusiasm and sheer glee was impossible to resist!

The Maltese national selection was a family affair; runner-up Richard Edwards (here’s his “Finally“) and eighth-place Wayne Micallef (“Everybody Sing“) are brothers, and two-time Eurovision participant Fabrizio Faniello (“No Surrender“) went up against his little sister Claudia (“Movie in My Mind“).  (Fabrizio came in 4th, Claudia in 9th.)  My personal favorite, however, was the big-voiced ballad “If I Could Do It All Again” by Raquela, a song I could easily imagine over the ending credits of some big-budget Hollywood flick:

This 5th-place finisher could have gone toe-to-toe with Austria’s Nadine Beiler or Slovenia’s Maja Keuc…maybe next year!

Moldova: I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again next year: I love Moldova.  They come to the Eurovision Party every year with the intention of having a fabulous time and they generally succeed.  Whether they’re bringing someone’s grandmother, a big comfy sofa, an epic sax, or a unicycle-riding, kushma-wearing fairytale princess (as in the case of this year’s “So Lucky” by Zdob şi Zdub), you can’t forget them, even if you try.

Keeping in line with the manic, madcap, and exuberant style we’re used to seeing from the Moldovans over the past few years, my favorite selection from 2011 was Doiniţa Gherman’s “Viaţa (Life)”, an energetic turbofolk number that is basically in line with her National Final submissions from 2009 (Hei! Exploadează!) and 2010 (“Meloterapia“).

Next up: the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Portugal!

New Videos from Ukraine, Turkey, Moldova and Macedonia

As is customary after the Semifinal Draws, many ESC nations are rolling out their entries’ videos.  Over the past few days, we’ve seen the official debuts of the Ukranian, Turkish, Moldovan, and Macedonian videos…let’s check them out!

The Ukrainians, as per usual, have revamped their entry and officially submitted their song “Angel”.  Who knows if it will continue to evolve by the time it hits the stage in Germany?  I’m half expecting an unfortunate flat tire to hit Mika’s car on the way to the venue, with Zlata Ognevich or Jamala just serendipitously hanging out in the arena…

Regardless, I do prefer this edit a bit to the original, as it has a somewhat stronger beat and isn’t quite as sleep-inducing as the ballad that we originally heard in Kiev.  That being said, it’s still not one of my absolute favorites; Mika’s English is often tough to parse.  I am, however, looking forward to the onstage presentation of “Angel”…with all of the circus themes in the video and the National Final performance, and considering Ukraine’s history of over-the-top staging (Svetlana Loboda, anybody?), things could definitely get interesting. 

Next up, the Turks have presented their video for Yüksek Sadakat’s “Live it Up”:

Not really sure what to say about this one…the song’s fun, with a bit of an 80’s Hair Band throwback feel (despite the lead singer’s baldness) and a touch of an ethnic sound from the string section.  It’s Turkey, so chances are pretty good that it will qualify for the Finals, but there are other pretty good rock songs in this competition that might give Yüksek Sadakat a run for its money if more than one makes it to the show on the 14th.  Turkey has made the Top Ten every year since 2007, and has never failed to qualify for the Finals…it’s a lot for “Live it Up” to live up to!

Speaking of rock, Moldovan ethno-punk rockers Zdob si Zdub have unveiled the video for their second ESC entry, “So Lucky”:

I kind of miss the oversized gnome hats and the unicycle from their National Final performance, but with six members in the band already, they face a quandary: cut a member for the sake of presentation (like they did for “Boonika Bate Doba”), or have the whole band up on stage?  We’ll have to see what happens when they start their official rehearsals.  Anyway, I realize that I’m likely in the minority with this, but I happen to really like this song!  Roman Iagupov reminds me so much of Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and, despite my prep-school exterior, I’m a rocker at heart.  I’ve been known to crank the volume up on this whenever it comes on my iPod, and it’s become one of my go-to songs on the playlist I listen to whenever I go and work out.  I highly doubt we’ll be going to Chisinau in 2012, but at the very least, I’ll be dancing my arse off when they’re playing in the Esprit Arena this May, even if I’m the only one.

Moving on, we’ve got the new video from (FYR) Macedonia.

The clip from Vlatko Ilievski’s “Rusinka” has a pretty cool concept, but it’s a bit repetitive and even a little headache-inducing.  It sounds a lot better than the live version we all saw at Skopjefest, but Vlatko comes off as a bit of a creeper at times, and he might have been better off not miming the guitar playing at all.  Oh, well…can’t win them all, I suppose…

Zdob şi Zdub is "So Lucky" in Moldova!

Moldova burst onto the Eurovision scene back in 2005, when ethno-punk band Zdob şi Zdub stormed their way to a 6th place finish with “Boonika Bate Toba (Grandmama Beats the Drum-ma)”.  Their performance was not only memorable for their catchy hooks and Anthony Keidis-lookalike frontman, but also for the fact that they brought in the Boonika herself to beat the drum live on stage in Kiev!  In fact, due to the six-person limit on Eurovision performances, one of the official band members relinquished their spot on stage to give Lidia Bejenaru her moment. 

Zdob şi Zdub entered the Moldovan National final this year with their folk-influenced rapcore song “So Lucky”, and ended up winning a nail-biter of a preselection, beating runner-up (and fellow ESC alum) Natalia Barbu by a single point after Jury and Audience scores were totaled up.  So, how did the boys from Chişinău top themselves?  Well, if Boonika’s unavailable, how about bunch of pointy hats and a girl on a unicycle?

I can almost feel how divisive this entry is going to be among Eurovision fans…some people are going to proclaim this the “ESC Party Anthem of 2011”, and others are going to scream “Where’s the singing?  Where’s the music?  This is chaos!”  A third group will remember that this is the country that brought us all “Run Away” and all of its epic awesomeness last year, so they’ll roll their eyes, shrug their shoulders, and embrace Moldova’s unique qualities.  I’ve got one foot in Group One, and one in Group Three.  Zdob şi Zdub have made their careers on blending rap, punk, rock, and ethnic sounds into a big, chaotic pile of entertainment, and considering the success that they’ve had, they’re obviously making people happy out there!  This is going to be a true wildcard on the ESC stage…Romania’s voting in their semifinal, so that’s a big boost for them, but fans are generally going to either love or hate “So Lucky”.  What do you all think?

Oh, and just as a side note: I can’t remember the last time we’ve had so many returning Eurovision participants in a single Contest, but in 2011, we’ve got Lena, Dino Merlin, one of Sigurjón’s Friends, and now Zdob şi Zdub!  Not only that, but Dana International is in the running for Israel, and a number of other previous participants took part in national selections with no success…is this some sort of record?

The Weekend Update, 1/23

Another day, another update…Semifinals have continued this weekend in Finland, Iceland, and Norway, and Croatia’s preselection has kicked off, as well.  There are also further updates from Azerbaijan, Portugal, Moldova, and Malta!  And away we go…

Three more acts have moved on to the Finnish Final after this Friday’s semi.  After a public vote, this week’s winners are:
Paradise Oskar – “Da Da Dam” (Reminds me a bit of Belgium’s Tom Dice from last year, don’t you think?  If Tom were a member of Greenpeace Suomi, this might have been the result.)
Milana Misic – “Sydämeni kaksi maata (Two Countries of my Heart)” (Milana is the daughter of a Croatian father and a Finnish mother who actually represented her nation fifty years ago in Finland’s debut ESC entry.)
Father McKenzie – “Good Enough” (Yes, they’re named for the character in “Eleanor Rigby”!)

Knocked out at this round of the competition were Jimi Constantine’s “Party to Party” and Soma Manuchar’s “Strong“.  An interesting point of trivia, courtesy of reader Stefanos in Finland: Soma’s outfit was designed by Mert Otsamo, a finalist on the first season of “Muodin huipulle”, the Finnish version of “Project Runway”.  According to Stefanos, “I liked his work on Muodin Huipulle more than I did Soma’s outfit.”  I haven’t seen any of Otsamo’s work, but after seeing Soma’s outfit, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine I’d disagree.

Next, we move on to Iceland:
It’s been a week of highs and lows for Iceland this week.  On Tuesday, we heard the sad and sudden news of the passing of Sigurjón Brink at the age of only 36.  He was supposed to sing in the third semifinal next week, and it has been decided by both the network and his family that his entry, “Aftur Heim (Back Home)” would be performed as a tribute by a group of his friends and fellow musicians, and will therefore remain in the competition.  Next week’s semifinal heat is sure to be an emotional one.

In the second semifinal, which aired last night, we had five songs competing for two slots in the final.  The victorious tunes were:
Yohanna – “Nótt (Night)” (As I mentioned last week, Yohanna came in second place back in the 2009 competition with “Is It True?”  I try to stay as neutral and impartial as I can, especially during the preselection phase of the Eurovision year, but I honestly think that Yohanna might, in fact, be the personification of a Disney princess.)
Matthías Matthíasson & Erla Björg Káradóttir – “Eldgos (Eruption) (I speak no Icelandic, but I’m pretty sure I recognized the word “Eyjafjallajökull” at the start of the song…is this a tribute to the epic volcano that covered half of Europe in ash last year?  Any Icelandic readers wish to comment?)

We’ve got more news after the break!

From Florø, the westernmost town in Scandinavia, we had this week’s semifinal for the Melodi Grand Prix.  Qualifying directly to the final are:
Babel Fish – “You Can Depend on Me” and
Hanne Sørvaag – “You’re Like a Melody” (Hanne is no stranger to Eurovision.  She’s composed three songs for the competition: “Disappear” for Germany in 2008, “My Heart is Yours” for Norway 2010, and “Shine” for Georgia, also in 2010)

Moving on to the Second Chance round will be:
Endre – “Oh, Oh (Puppy Love)” and
Mimi Blix – “Allergic”

The first round of this year’s Dora Festival happened this weekend, and unlike what we’ve seen in the Nordic countries I’ve just mentioned, singers in Dora do not sing their proposed Eurovision songs until the final round of competition.  Instead, they choose a song freely, and hope that televoters will look favorably on them.  (This is actually a similar format to what Germany did last year.  It worked for Lena Meyer-Landrut!)  Out of twelve singers in this heat, five have already been chosen to continue on.  The sixth will be announced next week.
Confirmed for the next round are: Miro Tomic, Jelena Vanjek, Dora Benc, Sabrina Hebiri, and Jacques Houdek (who was the evening’s ultimate winner).  We’ll see another round of twelve next week.

After seven weeks of preliminary heats and one semifinal, the top 5 singers in Azerbaijan’s preselection have been picked.  Like in Croatia, they have been singing covers, and we won’t hear their proposed entries until the final round (or, knowing Azerbaijan, possibly even after the winning singer has been selected).  They’ll go up against each other on February 2th.  And they are:
İlhamə Qasımova
Eldar Qasımov
Aynişan Quliyeva 
Nigar Jamal
İlqarə İbrahimova

(For the record, I had been rooting for Çingiz Mustafayev, a participant on Yeni Ulduz, the Azeri version of the “Idol” franchise.  Not only was he a strong singer and a confident performer, but he is also a trained classical Flamenco guitarist fluent in Azeri, Turkish, English, and Spanish.  Sadly, he was knocked out of competition in the semifinal round.  If he had been sent to Düsseldorf, and had his talents put to good use, Azerbaijan could have possibly gotten some valuable votes from Spain, who will be voting in their semifinal.  Çingiz, if you’re reading this, please keep trying!)

Finally, lists of competing songs have been released in Moldova (although out of the 92, songs listed on the official Moldovan broadcaster’s website, only these songs are continuing on to the next round) Portugal, and Malta.  Portugal will select their song on March 5th, Malta on February 12th, and Moldova on February 26th.

Phew!  After all of that, I don’t know about you, but I need a nap.  I’ll keep you all posted on more news as it comes in!

The Best of the 2010 Preselection (Part One)

I don’t know about all of you, but all of this talk recently about the 2011 ESC season has really kicked my Eurovision appetite into high gear.  It’s sort of like how a person might say that they’re not hungry when dinnertime is coming up, but once they walk past a kitchen and detect the tiniest wafting scents of meals cooking, they realize that they’re absolutely famished.

Yep, that’s me.  Now that we know where Eurovision 2011 will be held, and we’re getting a better picture of which nations will be participating and how their entries will be chosen, I’m getting really excited to see how Düsseldorf will compare to Oslo (and Moscow, Belgrade, Helsinki, etcetera, before it).  But since it will be another few months before we get to hear the lion’s share of candidate songs, I thought I’d give you all a blast from the not-so-distant past, and serve up a list of a few of my favorite Preselection songs from last year.  These are the ones who didn’t quite make it to Oslo, but they made a bit of an impression on me, at the very least.  (By the way, I’m specifically skipping mention of the fantastic Albanian and Estonian preselections, as I had made pretty heavy mention of them in their nation’s individual postings…but feel free to backtrack and check them out!  Estonia, in particular, put on a fabulous National Selection this year, and there are about a half-dozen songs from Eestilaul 2010 on my iTunes right now.)

Anyway, in no particular order:

From Greece: “Enjoy the Day” by Katherine Avgoustakis.
Katherine, who is actually a Belgian citizen born to a Greek father, was strongly favored to go to Oslo with this danceable summer song, but a clause in the national preselection banned any of the candidate songs from being released to the public before a specified date, or else risk disqualification.  A remix of “Enjoy the Day” was leaked to YouTube early, and Katherine was left out in the cold.  There are rumors that she’s going to try to represent Greece again, and if she can duplicate the popularity of her 2010 song, I wouldn’t count her out of the running to go to Düsseldorf.

Fom Denmark: “Breathing” by Bryan Rice.

Coming in second place in this year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix was this modern ballad, which always seems to remind me a bit of Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love”.  I personally preferred this entry over Denmark’s eventual winner, Chanée and N’evergreen’s “In a Moment Like This“, but since I can’t vote, I can’t complain!  In a way, it’s almost a good thing that Bryan missed out in 2010, as Denmark’s 2008 and 2009 entry, Simon Mathew’s “All Night Long” and Brinck’s “Believe Again“, respectively were both male-driven, mid-tempo numbers, and maybe it was time to switch things up a bit.

From Malta: “Save a Life” by Wayne Micallef.

Although I know that Malta is more or less obsessed with Eurovision, I am generally not a massive fan of many of the songs that the island nation submits (Sorry!  Nothing personal, I promise!).  However, I really liked Micallef’s entry this year.  It has the hopeful, positive message that many Maltese ESC songs tend to have, without sounding like a track ripped from a 1995 Disney film.  His voice is strong, and “Save a Life” kind of reminds me of something that Snow Patrol or The Fray would come out with, and it might have stacked up pretty well against Tom Dice or Jon Lilygreen this year.  He also gets points from me for performing his own song, as only three self-penned tunes made it to the Maltese final this year, out of 20 songs.  Wayne came in 6th place in the 2010 preselection, and 7th the year before that.  If he keeps writing songs like this one, we might see him on the big stage sometime soon.

From Moldova: “Amintirele Dor (The Memories Hurt)” by Leylla
When I first introduce Eurovision to my friends who aren’t quite familiar with the contest, many imagine imagine a contest full of ethno-techno-disco pop like this.  The Moldovan preselection this past year was packed, with over 80 songs vying for a shot at Oslo.  Those 80-some-odd songs were all released to the public, but only 30 made it to the semifinal level (25 picked by a jury, and 5 by local SMS voting).  When the dust settled, Eurofans from all over were stunned to see that Leylla had missed out, especially considering that crap like this went through.
But, on the bright side, if Leylla had gone to Oslo, the would never would have gotten to know the glory of the saxroll.  Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?

From the Ukraine: “Emotional Lady” by Dazzle Dreams.

Ok, this one is a total guilty pleasure.  I love it when songs in other languages randomly slip in a line or two in English, and combining that with Depeche Mode-inspired synthpop makes me a happy Samantha.  Granted, though…”Dazzle Dreams”?  The band name sounds a bit like something that a five-year-old girl would come up with while trying to name her pink My Little Pony.  Great song, though…

From Russia: “Dlinnaya-dlinnaya beresta i kak sdelat’ iz nee aishon (Long-Long Birch Bark and How to Make a Headdress From It)” by Buranovskiye Babushki  (whew!)

This song is an obvious departure from any other tune in this year’s contest (or almost any year’s contest, for that matter).  It’s sung in Udmurt, which is a minority language more closely related to Finnish and Estonian than Russian, and was performed by the Buranovskiye Babushki (literally, “The Grannies from Buranovo).  Believe it or not, this was a serious contender to go to Oslo, coming in third place in the Russian national final!
And I don’t care what anybody says.  This song makes me happy.  Just try to listen to it and not smile!  I dare you!
…Yeah, that’s what I thought.

(More coming up in the next entry!)

ESC 2010 Reviews: Moldova

Moldova is another one of those nations that I frankly knew little about until I started paying attention to Eurovision.  A former Soviet republic scrunched up between Romania and the Ukraine, it’s considered to be the poorest nation in Europe.  Despite this, however, Moldova is the land of great wine, mămăligă, and unexpectedly great Eurovision entries.

Moldova’s first foray into the ESC was back in 2005, when ska-funk band Zdob şi Zdub made a splash with “Boonika Bate Doba (Grandmama Beats the Drum)“, featuring a drum solo by Lidia Bejenaru, the Boonika herself.  Supposedly, the band decided to cut a member from their Eurovision line-up in order to make sure that Lidia had a place on stage, as there can only be six people on stage at once.  Making it all the way to a 6th place finish (and coming in 2nd during the semifinal), “Boonika Bate Doba” still stands as Moldova’s highest placement in Eurovision, and possibly their most memorable entry.  A friend and colleague of mine was living in a small town in Moldova at that time, and she tells me about how excited her host community was to see their hometown boys doing so well on the stage in Kiev.  For them to not only hear their language and see their traditional costumes on stage, but also to make such a huge impression on the scoreboard…it was a big deal!

Two years later, right on the heels of Finland’s victory with “Hard Rock Hallelujah”, Moldova sent a rock song of their own, Natalia Barbu’s “Fight“, making it back into the top 10.  However, when they went the smooth-jazz route the next year with Geta Burlacu’s “A Century of Love“, they failed to make the finals for the first time.

Last year, they decided to step the energy back up with the wonderfully manic pop-folk number “Hora Din Moldova (Dance of Moldova)” by local star Nelly Ciobanu.  Although they only made it to 14th place, they received a full set of 12 points from Romania and Portugal.

This year, Moldova’s keeping the energy high with “Run Away” by The SunStroke Project featuring Olia Tira.

This one’s a bit weird for me.  Between the violins in the beginning, the disco-pop beat and vocals, and the random saxophone throughout, “Run Away” sounds like it’s coming to us from three decades at once.  It’s undoubtedly fun and upbeat, and it will be the first song performed in the first semifinal, but that’s often a disadvantage as voters might not remember the first song out of the gate.  This one may be a tough sell, and if it makes it through to the finals, I doubt it will reach Zdob şi Zdub or Natalia Barbu territory.

Oh, and just as a side note, Moldova is also the nation that brought us this:

(No, not Gary Brolsma…he’s from New Jersey.  But the band that sang “Dragostea Din Tea”, O-Zone, hails from Moldova.  And now you won’t be able to get it out of your head.  Sorry!)