EUROVISION SONG CONTEST 2010 - O s l o , N o r w a y
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Sieneke, Thea, Niamh, Vukašin, Sofia...
Netherlands, Malta, Ireland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia...
Meneer Douwe Reveler interviews some of the Eurovision stars of 2010, as he did in 2009 (you can check out the 2009 interviews here).
With special / grateful thanks to Douwe, plus Bram Bierkens & Arjan at
www.all-entertainment.tv , Roos at NRGY Music, Gamze Tezan and Olivier Vanhoutte who made these interviews possible.
First up, we present Douwe's interview with Sieneke, proudly representing the Netherlands in Oslo - with special thanks to Roos at NRGY Music.
Sieneke, many congratulations on your victory in the Netherlands ! Since winning the Dutch national song contest how has your life changed ?
I did not change at all, but the world around me has changed all of a sudden. Suddenly people recognise me on the street, people ask me if they can get my autograph, and I perform on television shows what we used to watch at home. It's a joy.
There were 5 variations of the same song presented to the Dutch public – apart from your version did you have a favourite ?
Not really, but that doesn't mean I thought I would win. At the moment of the rehearsals with all the other candidates I could see the changes of the other candidates. At that moment I found out I really had a chance to win.
Picture courtesy of www.sieneke.com
When Pierre Kartner had to choose between you & Loekz how did you feel ?
It was all a bit weird. Then all of a sudden he could not choose between us he went for heads or tails. I thought: "No I don't wanna win like this". Luckily he let his heart speak and called my name.
Are Are you a fan of the contest and if so do you have a favourite Dutch entry ?
Yes, I love to watch ESC. Especially since I am singing myself. My favourite Dutch entry is Ding-a-Dong from Teach-in.
A number 1 hit with a song contest entry is something which hasn’t happened for a long time in the Netherlands. Was this something you expected ?
No, not at all. That would be very arrogant to think that would happen. The fact that I'm the first Dutch entry that has a number one position makes me very proud.
What are in your opinion the strengths of ‘Sha-la-lie (Ik Ben Verliefd)' that will make people want to vote for your song ?
It's a very sweet little song with a very happy lyric and melody. I sing about the fact that the song wont get out of your head, and in real life it really doesn't get out of your head once you heard the song.
When were you first approached to perform the song and how did your collaboration with Marianne Weber come about ? What are her most valuable words of advice to you ?
Marianne saw me perform a couple years ago and after that she called me. She believed in me and she said she wanted to be my guide. Her best and most simple advice was to always be yourself. Because the audience will always see and love the real person
Sieneke, you will be one of the youngest performers in Oslo – Could you tell us something about your musical influences and when did you begin singing ?
My taste in music is really big. But deep inside I love typical Dutch songs. I love to sing Dutch songs when I perform
Apart from music what other interests do you have ?
Just the typical things a girl my age would love. Going out, shopping and fashion.
This is the first time since 1998 that the Dutch language will be heard on the Eurovision stage – Is this something you see as an advantage or as a disadvantage ? Are there plans for an English language version of the song ?
I've got no idea actually. That's up to the record company. When they give a sign I'm at the studio the next day to sing the English version.
The barrel organ is something with which we associate the Netherlands – Will this also be on stage with you in Oslo to give the typical Dutch flavour to the song and who’s idea was this ?
That was the idea of Marianne. She wanted something different and something really Dutch, something we would stand out with. And that made her choose the barrel organ to mix in the song.
Are you planning any specific changes to the performance or will you stick to the same successful formula as in the Dutch national song contest ?
It's a really sweet song so I think we should not overreact in Oslo with fireworks and stuff. It's about the song and I'm gonna sing and bring it with all of my heart and voice of course.
Will you be wearing a special creation for the occasion ?
At the moment we are thinking about it. But don't expect some weird and extravagant creations from me. In the first place I have to feel comfortable with it, we still have two months to figure out what it will be.
How do you cope with nerves when you imagine the number of people watching you or is this something that doesn’t affect you ?
It's in my benefit that I always love to sing for people. That takes away a whole bunch of nerves. I can do what I love and what I'm good at. There's always a bit tension, but that's healthy and keeps you focused.
Family are very important – will they accompany you to Oslo ?
I've got a really big family so I can't bring everyone. But of course my parents and my brother would be there. I'm happy they will be close to me when I'm in Oslo.
Sieneke, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us ! Every success not only in the contest itself but also with the preparations between now and May.
With special thanks to Roos at NRGY Music. Find out more about Sieneke at www.sieneke.com
Thea Garrett (Malta)
Thea Garrett will be representing Malta in the first semi final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo.
We caught up with Thea during her promotional visit to Antwerp, Belgium to talk about her career so far and how the preparations are going in readiness for Norway.
Thea, it is now one month before the contest. What have you been doing since winning the Malta Eurosong Contest and what are you most looking forward to in Oslo ? What are your impressions of Belgium ?
I’ve been very busy promoting ‘My Dream’ on many Maltese television programmes but also in other countries such as Slovakia and of course now here in Belgium. Unfortunately due to the Icelandic volcano I had to cancel my visit to the Netherlands which was a great pity. I was also in Frankfurt where I recorded the new version of ‘My Dream’ with a live orchestra.
The weather here in Belgium isn’t so great (laughs) but it’s really my kind of place – I like the modern feel of the place so that’s cool !
Picture courtesy of www.theagarrett.com
Before talking about the upcoming adventure in more detail let’s look back at your career so far. Could you outline your musical influences and what are the highlights in your career so far ? When did you start singing ? Do you come from a musical family ?
I studied vocal technique and interpretation and have also studied at the Sylvia Young theatre school in London which I loved – I hope to move to London in a few years time ! I’m actually half English ! I auditioned for the programme ‘The voice of tomorrow’ and made it to the final thirty contestants out of more than 20 000 that originally applied to take part … I also recently sang with Gigi D’Alessio on the opening night – 8 people were selected and I actually got the opportunity to sing twice – in Rome and in Milan.
My brother is a drummer and Renato (who represented Malta back in 1975) is my mother’s cousin so there is a Eurovision connection in the family …
It was your first appearance in the Malta Eurosong Contest and you won whilst many fellow artists try and try again without winning the magic ticket to the Eurovision. How does this make you feel and did you ever imagine you would win ?
No – I didn’t – and certainly not this soon so it really was a big surprise ! So many artists try and try again. This was really ‘My Dream’ !
When did you first hear ‘My Dream’ and how did the collaboration with Jason and Sunny come about ?
The song was written especially for me – When I was 14 I did some studio experience in Jason’s recording studio and at that time Jason said to me ‘When you are old enough I will compose a song for you for the Eurovision’.
What is it about ‘My Dream’ in your opinion that made it such a runaway winner during the contest in Malta ? What are the strengths of this composition that will hopefully make people around Europe want to vote for it ?
‘My Dream’ is very inspirational – and I can relate to it entirely as when I was younger some people doubted that I would ever make it … so it’s a story about not giving up – to follow your dreams. It’s a song to feel and to really get into.
‘My Dream’ is from the same successful song writing duo of Jason Cassar and Sunny Aquilina who are also responsible for the magnificent 3rd place obtained by Chiara with ‘The one that I love’ back in 1998. How does it feel to have such an experienced team behind you ?
It’s a real honour to have these people behind me !
The stage performance during the Malta Eurosong Contest contained some very interesting imagery. Can you tell us more about it and its significance to ‘My Dream’ ? Whose idea was it and will you keep to the same performance for Oslo ?
The seagull incorporated into my stage presentation represents the fact that regardless of good or bad weather, it is the only bird that still flies – the idea being that even if we have good or bad days we mustn’t give up and keep following our ambitions and dreams …
Yes – I believe that it’s only fair to keep the act the way it was after all the Maltese people voted for it in that way so it wouldn’t be fair to change it.
These days the visual aspect of the Eurovision is very important, even more so than in the past. You wore a beautiful creation during the Maltese final. Can you tell us who made the dress and are you planning to wear the same on stage in Norway or something very different ?
I actually made the dress myself and will also design the new dress for Oslo.
You will have some backing vocalists with you in Oslo. Can you tell us who they are and how they came to be selected ?
Yes there will be three – Pamela, Nadine Axisa and Jackie Pace Delicata. Two of them are very well known from their participations in the Malta Song Festivals in recent years. I also wanted to give a chance to new talent and this is why Jackie was chosen.
How important is the Eurovision Song Contest in Malta ?
Very important ! It’s huge - the biggest contest …
Of all of Malta’s songs for the Eurovision over the years, do you have a particular favourite and if so can you tell us why ?
I loved three – ‘Little Child’, ‘Keep me in mind’ and ‘Angel’.
Have you received any words of support / advice from previous Maltese representatives and if so what were they ?
Yes I have – from Chiara who was waiting backstage for me when I won the contest in Malta – she just hugged me and said – Wow – where did you come from ? She has been such a support …
You are still very young. Do you manage to find the time to see friends and do the things an 18 year old enjoys doing ? Your love of music is obvious but what other hobbies do you have ?
Yes I do – I still manage to see my friends and I love shopping !
I’m still at school – but in the past I have worked as a makeup artist – I have also studied to be a kindergarten school teacher.
Do you have any particular ritual or superstitions before going on stage ? Any mascots ?
Yes I do – No purple clothes (even though I really love the colour) I drink Carob syrup which is great for my voice and I say a prayer to my grandmother who sadly died on my birthday.
Have you had the opportunity to listen to any of the other songs competing in this year’s Eurovision and if so are there some that you particularly enjoy ?
Yes I have listened to some of them – I just love the Irish entry – Niamh is so down to earth and lovely ! Each time I have spoken about the Irish song I got goose bumps. Maltese people just love this kind of Eurosong so I’m sure they will vote for Ireland.
You have just returned from Germany where you have recorded ‘My Dream’. Are there some different versions for us to look forward to ?
Yes indeed – a Maltese version of ‘My Dream’ called ‘Holma’ – This version came after I won the contest – I’m a really patriotic person and as a small thank you to the Maltese people decided to record the song in Maltese.
For people who don’t know Malta – now is your chance – Can you tell us some things you feel that we really need to know about your home country ?
Absoultely – I just love my country which is very small – we have no neighbours as such … it’s a really dreamy place with such a lot of history – amongst the oldest temples in the world. As a contrast we have the best nightlife … The Maltese language is also really special – a mixture of Italian, Arabic and English.
Thea, many thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Every success in the contest and see you in Oslo !
Niahm Kavanagh (Ireland/Eire)
It was our pleasure to speak to Niamh Kavanagh, the Eurovision winner from 1993 and bidding to make history this year in Oslo. Should Ireland be the winner, Niamh will be the first woman with two victories to her name.
We spoke about ‘In your eyes’ , how she became involved in this year’s Eurovision adventure with ‘It’s for you’ and the changes the contest has undergone since her last participation.
In 1993 just prior to your performance in the Irish Eurosong contest we were informed that it took Jimmy Walsh 45 minutes to convince you to sing ‘In your eyes’ during a long distance telephone call – Was it a similar story this year ?
It actually took a few months – I was contacted by the song writers who offered me a number of songs. I first heard ‘It’s for you’ in its really raw, stripped down state. I made a few adjustments as the track had to be correct and it had to be the right song for me. Once I believe in a song it becomes my song. I didn’t want to perform 5 or 6 songs and then let the public choose one of them even though this could have been an option. This way it’s about going on a journey with the song I wanted.
Will there be any changes made to the way the song is presented in Oslo ?
Yes there will be one more male backing vocalist than during the Irish final. We can say what we like but the staging of the song is very important – the lighting, the performance – Getting the right song and presenting it in the right way. I think of us as a team (the right balance in the team is paramount) but am enough of a diva to want it to be a bit about Niamh ! (laughs)
I’m not a high maintenance person and so don’t expect others around me to be either.
What are the strengths of ‘It’s for you’ ?
The song has great heart and hope that this will bring us to the final if only for my husband who is only flying out on the day of our semi final. He doesn’t know Oslo so if we don’t make it to the final it will be a really short visit for him ! Of course I would like to win (everyone taking part wants to win) but there is no pressure or need to do so.
What is the message behind ‘It’s for you’ ?
It’s a personal message that really concentrates on the positive aspects of love. Love can lift you when you are in a dark space – and you can lift others – never mind what kind of love - you’re not on your own. There is a very broad and uplifting message and people can relate to it. Even though love can really hurt, it can also lift you and passion is such a powerful thing.
What is the most important aspect of performing in your opinion ?
Connecting with and reaching the audience are key points for me. I also believe very strongly in live vocals and no playback unless it’s absolutely impossible to avoid. If you give a great vocal people will come back to you – For example every time I see / hear Bonnie Raitt I get something else out of her performance which keeps me going back for more. Honesty is the best policy.
I miss the orchestra a lot - In 1993 we still had one and although the Eurovision had to change it’s something I feel very strongly about; Actually next week I’m doing a gig with an orchestra in Dublin where I will perform ‘It’s for you’ which I’m really looking forward to.
In 1993 there was an advert in one of the Irish papers saying ‘Niamh, take Monday off’ – Did you ever go back to the bank ?
They put me on leave after winning but I didn’t ever go back. Actually after the victory in Millstreet there was another advert saying ‘Niamh take Tuesday off as well’ ! Actually it was fantastic publicity for the bank.
Oslo 2010 … Will this be your first visit ?
No – I’ve been to Oslo before – The crew there are very professional people which is wonderful. I would really love to put on my walking shoes though and see more of the place – perhaps some kind fan might offer their time to give me a guided tour ? ....
You achieved an overwhelming victory in this years Eurosong ? Did you ever expect this ?
No – I hoped but certainly didn’t expect it ! In 1993 we were I think 2 points adrift of the maximum – this year we scored full marks and got 65% of the public vote which is huge. I felt so heartened and vindicated particularly knowing that people are 100% behind you. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself and as such I don’t feel the need to prove anything this time round.
Ireland in the last few years has gone slightly off the boil with the results in the Eurovision – What would you attribute this to ?
I was genuinely surprised last year – Sinead and the girls gave a great performance I thought and felt quite sure they would reach the final.
I think we need to go back to what we (Irish) do best – that is good ballads. We’re also great story tellers and have a great quality of heart. Nowadays we are no longer the cheeky chappy of Europe. We got ‘pretend’ rich and people forgot the loveliness of the Irish.
Another explanation is that people vote for what they know – I prefer not to think of it as political voting but rather social voting – this is something which has always existed. I live in Northern Ireland and of course I vote for Ireland. In 2006 my sons wanted to vote for Lordi and so we did but I also voted for Ireland …
Niamh do you have a message for the readers ?
Yes – of course – laughs – ‘Vote for Ireland’ !
No seriously I would like people to vote for the strongest song / singer and please don’t assume that other people will vote so you don’t need to … Every vote counts … and if you can only vote once then please cast that vote in the semi final …
Thanks so much for your time and good luck with the preparations for Oslo !
(Bosnia & Herzegovina /
Bosna & Hercegovina)
Vukasin Brajic or ‘Wookee’ to his friends represents Bosnia & Herzegovina in the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest. In this interview he tells us how he became involved with the contest, his participation in Operacija Trijumf and his hopes for Oslo.
Welcome to Belgium ! Can you tell us how you came to be the representative of Bosnia & Herzegovina ?
Sure –It was actually my cousin who suggested that I apply – I googled it – saw that it was a public competition and sent in my biography (a very nice biography !)
When was this ?
In early December 2009 and then on 11th January 2010 I was officially announced as the representative. Reporters were already telling me that it was me but I thought it might be a rumor and not true so I wasn’t sure yet … we then found the song.
Who wrote and composed the entry ?
‘Thunder and Lightning’ was written and composed by Dino Saran who is one of the most respected composers in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. He has written songs for famous music stars such as Vanna, Crvena jabuka, Luka Nižetić, but also for the folk music star Halid Bešlić.
Let’s talk about your participation in the hugely successful Operacija Triumf – You were known as “killer of the favourites”
Yes I was – I was very often nominated by the jury. When the show started I had the lowest number of votes or in any case was close to the bottom so when I was first nominated against a guy who was very popular with the girls I thought – Ok – I’m out of here …
How did these nominations affect you ?
Well I felt the jury really wanted to test me (which is actually very good for me as that is when I perform best) and by the end of the programme the jury had awarded me the highest average mark of all of the students.
It was a difficult experience – you are quite isolated and away from family and friends.
How do you explain the turnaround during the show as far as public perception is concerned ?
I think people sometimes get the wrong impression about me initially - this was a reality show. My personality is quite impulsive and I argue and fight for what I want and believe … but the people liked me when I was on stage.
This year is not your first experience with the Eurovision – Last year you were in the Serbian national selection Beovizija 2009...
I was - with the song “Blagoslov za Kraj” – as part of the OT Bend – which consisted of myself and 3 other Operacija Triunf students. During the semi finals we received 12 points from the jury and 12 points from the public vote so we went to the final. There again we scored 12 points from the public vote (with a really high number of votes for our song) but the jury only gave us 5 points so we finished in 2nd place behind ‘Cipela’ – laughs – the jury did it again for me !
Are you a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest ?
No I wouldn’t say I’m a hardcore fan but the Eurovision is a really big thing in the Ex- Yugoslav countries. My style (rock) is not the most popular in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Whose decision was it to sing the song in English ?
It was the decision of the television of Bosnia & Herzegovina. With the Bosnian version we were working for 5 days – with the English version 20 minutes …
With the English version the song has a wider appeal – This will be the third time that our song will be performed in English following Deen in 2004 with ‘In the disco’ and Feminnem in 2005 with ‘Call me’.
Can you tell us something about the lyrical content of the song ?
The song has a serious message and I think everyone can find themselves in the song. It’s a love song – people need to co-exist – it could be about a couple or in the wider picture about nations … sexes, colour … People argue - powerful emotions – sound / light – Thunder and Lightning – two individuals …
So the song definitely delivers some message.
What do you expect from Oslo ?
I try to be satisfied with my performance and present the song in the best possible way.
I want to get familiar with the stage – and to get relaxed – actually I intend to ask the delegation if during one of the rehearsals I can just sit on the stage and really feel it.
I want to know which camera is where at what time … By preparing myself in this way I can combat stage fright …
I was called a ‘nerd’ in OT because I calculated what I had to do … People kept saying to me ‘be spontaneous’ … TV shows require rehearsals and in this way you lose some spontaneity …
The most important thing in a musicians life is a good audience – for this you need to be a concert master. I really wanted to learn and wanted the OT experience to be more of a school than a show but it wasn’t really the case …
Operacija Triunf enjoyed huge popularity – did this change your life ?
It was really big in Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and of course in Bosnia & Herzegovina. After the show ended I was proclaimed ‘The moral winner of the show’
Actually when I went home for Christmas after the show had finished the door bell rang and it was a friend of my sister at the door. When she saw it was me who opened the door she passed out …
The guy who won the show (Adnan Babajic) is a folk singer whilst I’m a rock singer
I’m the oldest child – we have a saying about the oldest getting gold – but I prefer silver … In karaoke for example I also got second place – always the jury messing things up … (smiles).
This year there will be 50% jury voting and 50% televoting - how do you feel about this change ?
I think it’s a good thing – the jury could be influential for my song – it’s a serious song and I hope that the juries like it.
We have recently completed a new version of the song – originally the producer didn’t take on board the alterations – We had 5 days to change things – Basically we wanted things to remain the same and yet change them … so the intro has been altered and also the solo. There was no more time to alter the vocal.
Do you have a message for the readers of this interview ?
Yes I do – if you like the song then please vote for it and I hope that people will listen to the song at least twice – It’s a song that needs more time to get to know it.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us and look forward to seeing you in Oslo !
Sofia Nizharadze becomes the third woman to represent Georgia in the Eurovision Song Contest. We spoke to her about her career, what it is that makes ‘Shine’ so special, her links with Turkey and of course about her home country Georgia.
Sofia, how are you? How are the preparations going for Oslo?
Hi, nice to be with you and your readers. As the time gets closer I’m getting excited because it will be a big experience for me. A few days left for Oslo and I feel ready for the Eurovision stage.
When were you first approached to take part in the contest for Georgia?
At New Year’s Eve in Batumi we had a big classic concert. I performed a song from “West Side Story” musical with Jose Carreras. After the concert there was an after party and an executive from public broadcoaster came to me and said ‘You must represent Georgia in Eurovision Song Contest’. First I thought that it was a joke (as we were at a party). I said ‘Of course’. But actually he was not kidding, I realised that when I got the official phone call from them.
Picture courtesy of www.worldofsofia.com
Did you have a favourite amongst these songs and if so, was it ‘Shine’?
Actually, I like all of the other songs but my favorite was "Shine".
What are the strengths of ‘Shine’ in your opinion that will hopefully make it the song that people will want to vote for?
"Shine" is a very positive and impressive song. I think that everybody can find something from themselves. I hope they will like it and vote for the song.
What does the song mean to you?
The main theme is “love” to your country, family, darling… Whenever you feel yourself alone love is the only feeling which will help you to survive. I really like performing “Shine” as it’s reflecting my style.
Sofia, you have family ties with Turkey – Can you tell us more about this? You recently became acquainted with them – how was this meeting?
My great grandmother is Turkish. My family lost connection with my Turkish relatives 20 years ago. My grandmother always used to say “Sofia you should find your relatives” and I wanted to, so much! I was shocked when I saw them at the TV show because Beyaz (the most well known anchorman of Turkey) made a surprise for me and even my team knew about it and didn’t say a thing. It was amazing, I haven’t been that happy for a long time.
12 points from Turkey perhaps?
That would make me so happy.
Can you outline your musical studies and the most important moments in your career so far ?
I graduated from the musical academy under the Tbilisi State Conservatory where I studied piano and vocals. After that I continued my studies at the theatre of Arts (GITIS) and graduated with honors from the academy of music (GNESINY). After a long educational period I started to take part at musicals. In “The Wedding Of The Jays” and ”Romeo and Juliet” I took the leading parts. In 2008, when the war between Russia and Georgia started I returned to my motherland, Georgia. And at 2010 I got the honor of performing a duet with Jose Careras. The song was “Tonight” from the “West Side Story” musical.
Are you the only person involved in the music world in your family or are there others?
My great grandmother was playing piano.
How have you been preparing for the adventure that is Oslo? Some promotional visits? If so have you enjoyed these and hopefully you found some time to see something of the countries you have visited?
Nearly 5 months passed. We visited Azerbaijan, the Netherlands, Turkey and Greece within our promotional tour. Also I had the chance to visit Italy and France for my costume and choreography rehearsals. I love them all, they are all amazing. But Istanbul and Paris mesmerised me and I walked around as much as I can in all cities.
You look stunning in your video clip and also during the presentation of the 6 songs. Who designed these dresses and will you wear something similar on stage in Oslo?
All the dresses at the national final were made by a well known Georgian desinger Teona Elizbarashvili. She is amazing and made a great job. At the Eurovision stage I’ll be wearing a different dress by Steffano Galli from Dolce & Gabbana.
Speaking of Oslo – will it be your first visit? What are you most looking forward to?
Yes, it will be the first time, I hope I will have free time to see around the city.
Aside from singing and acting – what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Unfortunately my schedule is usually too tight, but I love spending time with my family.
Georgia is a relative newcomer to the contest – What do the people at home feel about the competition?
Everybody is interested in music in Georgia because of that Eurovision Song Contest is really important for Georgian people.
Have you had the opportunity to all of the other songs competing in this years contest and if yes, if you were to sing one of them (apart from ‘Shine’ of course) which song would it be and why?
Honestly, I haven’t thought about this before. Hımmm, I couldn’t answer this question…
Sopho and Diana have already been to the Eurovision Song Contests in Helsinki and Belgrade. Do you know them personally and perhaps they have offered you some words of support?
Yes, I know them personally. They mentioned that their heart is with me and they trust that I will do my best for my country.
Sofia – enjoy the experience, thank you so much for talking to us and of course good luck in Oslo !
Thanks very much, it’s a big pleasure for me!
P I C T U R E S