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Friday, May 12, 2017

Countdown to Eurovision 2017 - Ukraine's entry as second-time host country

Since Ukraine won first place at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2016, by tradition Ukraine will host the music competition this year.

Eurovision 2017 will take place in Kyiv on May 13, hosted by Ukrainian national broadcaster Timur Miroshnychenko. Ukraine will be represented by Ukrainian rock band O. Torvald with the song Time.

The Eurovison contest has long been the subject of criticism regarding both its musical and political content. And with last year’s winner, Eurovision once again was accused of “political messaging.”

Critics considered Jamala's song a political jab at Russia, despite containing no reference to Russia’s current aggression against Ukraine. Jamala’s song, 1944, is the story of the forcible removal by Stalinist troops of Crimean Tatars, including her grandmother, from Crimea during WWII. But the European Broadcasting Union cleared the song, saying it contained no political message.

Nevertheless, the historical tension between Ukraine and Russia at Eurovision was only exacerbated by Jamala’s win last year, and has continued unabated.

This year Russia pulled out of the competition, in a thinly veiled attempt to poison Ukraine’s relations with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which runs the contest.

The Russian entrant, a wheelchair-bound singer named Yuliya Samoylova, was banned from entering Ukraine for three years after her tour of Crimea in 2015 (deemed illegal by Ukraine), and her obvious support for Putin’s aggression against Ukraine.

The Russian entry was a last-minute surprise, and did not sit well with Eurovision fans. Many saw it as a cynical ploy to avoid a recent trend of being booed by the live audience, and shared their displeasure widely on social media.

Surprisingly, EBU officials have condemned Ukraine for imposing the travel ban against Samoylova., and even threatened to ban Ukraine from future competitions.

It is outrageous that the EBU would hold Ukraine responsible for Russia’s belligerence and find fault with any country upholding its own laws.

Russia was graciously presented with two solutions which would allow it to participate: either select a different contestant (who didn't break Ukrainian law) or have Samoylova (who did break Ukrainian law) broadcast her song via video link and thus remain in the competition.

It is hardly Ukraine’s fault that Russia refused both options, choosing to act in bad faith instead.

But the show must go on, and this year's Eurovision song contest will take place as scheduled in Kyiv on May 13th.

The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast in the U.S. for a second consecutive year on Viacom’s Logo. The three-and-a-half-hour 2017 Grand Final will air live and commercial free on Saturday, May 13 at 12pm Pacific Time.

Here is Ukraine’s 2017 entry, Time, to be performed by the Ukrainian rock band O. Torvald.

To hear more about Ukraine’s participation and musical entries in Eurovision, download or live stream the April 29, 2017 Vancouver edition of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio here.

Countdown to Eurovision 2017 - Ukraine wins first place again in 2016

Last year, after taking a year off from the Eurovision Song Contest, Ukraine placed first for the second time with the song 1944 by Crimean Tatar singer Jamala.

Jamala not only won first place for Ukraine again—her song, 1944, is Eurovision’s highest-ranking song in the contest's 61-year history.

In addition, with Jamala’s win last year, Ukraine became the first Eastern European country to win the contest twice.

Susanna Jamaladinova was born in Osh, Kirghiz SSR, to a Crimean Tatar father and an Armenian mother. Her Crimean Tatar ancestors had been forcefully resettled from Crimea to the central Asian republic under Joseph Stalin, during World War II.

Upon Ukraine's independence in 1991, her family returned to Crimea. Her parents and extended family still live there, but she has not been home since shortly after Russia’s annexation of the peninsula in 2014.

Ironically, with last year’s winner, Eurovision has been accused of breaking the rules with Jamala’s because of its supposed political messaging, which many have said is against Eurovision’s rules.

Notwithstanding the fact that the song was about a historical event in the distant past—that being the Kremlin’s 1944 deportation of the Crimean Tatars—and did not specifically refer to Russia’s recent illegal annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine. It was based on historical events experienced by her great-grandmother during that genocidal time.

Unsurprisingly, it was Russia that complained the most vociferously, and some western media unwittingly (or perhaps not) jumped on the Kremlin’s bandwagon.

Fortunately, and wisely in my opinion, Eurovision did not heed calls to disqualify Jamala’s winning song 1944, which she composed herself.

With Jamala’s win, Ukraine became the first Eastern European country to win the contest twice.

Here is Jamala with 1944, the first-place winner in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, 

To hear about all of Ukraine's top ten place finishes in Eurovision, check out the podcast of the April 29th, 2017 Vancouver edition of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Countdown to Eurovision 2017 - Ukraine conspicuously absent in 2015

In 2015, Ukraine took a year off from the Eurovision Song Contest.

After an extremely successful and uninterrupted run in Eurovision, Ukrainian national broadcaster, NTU, announced that Ukraine would take a year off from Eurovision, missing out on the 60th edition in Vienna, Austria.

NTU cited the current financial, political, and military strain that the country was (and still is) feeling, since the invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Ukrainian territories by Russia, the crash of flight MH17, and Moscow’s support for Novorossiya.

Supporting NTU in this decision were numerous famous singers of Ukraine, who refused the opportunity to participate in Eurovision in Ukraine’s current state.

“We consulted with many artists,” said Vlad Baginskiy, the producer of creative association of music programs NTU, "and they said they would not take part in the competition, with only those reasons that now is not the time for fun. And the money that would be spent on the national final of Eurovision 2015 will be better spent on more important needs."

But in 2016, in a sweet after-note, Ukraine came back to Eurovision with a vengeance, to win first place.

Countdown to Eurovision 2017 - Ukraine's 2014 entry

In 2014, Ukraine placed 6th in the Eurovision Song Contest with Tick Tock, performed by Mariya Yaremchuk.

Mariya is the daughter of well-known singer and composer Nazari Yaremchuk, who died of stomach cancer in 1995, when Mariya was just 2 years old.

Born in the western Ukraine city of Chernivtsy in 1993, she surprised many in 2012 when she expressed "moral support" for the pro-Russian party of the ousted president Viktor Yanukovych.

Prior to the contest she explained her comments as an effort to reunite the long-divided country, and insisted she is apolitical and would be representing some 46 million Ukrainians in Denmark.

In August of 2014 she joined 3 other Eurovision winners on a tour to the eastern front … the Bring Peace tour. She joined Ruslana, who conspicuously supported the Maidan protest movement from the get-go, as did Zlata Ognevich, who placed 3rd in 2013.

Also joining them was Kyiv-born Anastasiya Prikhodko who won first place for Russia in 2009, amid considerable controversy, as you can imagine.

Prior to the Bring Peace tour, Prikhodko apparently lost her ethnic ambivalence ... and likewise Mariya evidently changed her political allegiance to become a staunch supporter of Ukrainian independence and those risking life and limb to secure it.

Here is Mariya Yarmchuk and the Eurovision 2014 entry for Ukraine, Tick-Tock.

To hear about all of Ukraine's top ten place finishes in Eurovision, check out the podcast of the April 29th, 2017 Vancouver edition of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio here.

Countdown to Eurovision 2017 - Ukraine's entry for 2013

Zlata Ognievych represented Ukraine in the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest with her song Gravity, which placed third.

Zlata Ognevich made her first attempt to enter the Eurovision Song Contest for Ukraine in 2010 with a song called "Tiny Island" which placed fifth in the run-up. That year Alyosha represented Ukraine with a song called Sweet People, and placed 10th.

In 2011 Zlata made her second unsuccessful attempt to represent Ukraine, this time with a song in the Ukrainian language, called "The Kukushka." She placed second in the run-up, losing out to Mika Newton who represented Ukraine with a song called Angel, which took 4th place in Eurovision 2011.

Ognevich was born in 1986 in Murmansk to Ukrainian parents. She grew up in the Crimean city of Sudak, in the south of Ukraine. Five months after the March 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia, Ognevich called the annexation "a very painful tragedy" and stated that her parents, who continue to live in Crimea, would not obtain Russian citizenship.

Ognevich currently resides in Kyiv, where she has lived since age 18. She moved there to pursue a higher music education, and graduated from the Rheingold M. Glière Music College.

During her third year at Rheingold she began working with live bands and did her own promotional work.

She’s since been quite productive as well as patriotic. Her many musical recordings include her own version of Ukraine's national anthem "Shche ne vmerla Ukraina" released in 2014.

That fall, she took a run at politics. In October 2014 she was elected to the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament of Ukraine), where she focused on cultural issues and intellectual property. A year later, she resigned, thoroughly disillusioned with politics.

In 2013, Zlata Ognevich co-hosted the Junior Eurovision Song Contest with Ukrainian national broadcaster Timur Miroshnychenko. Timur will host the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 in Kyiv on May 13th.

Here is Zlata Ognevich with her 2013 Eurovision entry, Gravity.

To hear about all of Ukraine's top ten place finishes in Eurovision, check out the podcast of the April 29th, 2017 Vancouver edition of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Countdown to Eurovision 2017 - Ukraine's entry for 2011

Mika Newton represented Ukraine at the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest, winning fourth place with her song Angel.

She was born Oksana Stefanivna Grytsay (Оксана Стефанівна Грицай) on March 5, 1986, in Burshtyn,  western part of Ukraine. She grew up in Ukraine, and currently resides in Los Angeles, California, where she is pursuing an acting as well as a singing career.

Her first name, Mika, is a derivative from Mick Jagger's first name. Newton stands for a new tone.

As a young child, she taught herself to sing by imitating famous artists she heard on the radio. A natural-born performer, she would beg her mother to invite friends over so she could have an audience to perform for.

By age nine, she was entering regional voice competitions.

Inspired by a video she saw of Michael Jackson, she decided to enrol in performing arts school. At the age of 16, Mika moved to Kyiv, where she studied vocals at the College of Circus and Variety Arts.

She continued to compete in local and international talent contests, more often than not taking first place and eventually attracting the attention of music industry talent scouts. At 16, she was signed with the record label Falyosa Family Factory.

Before the Eurovision Song Contest, Mika released two albums. She also provided theme songs to a number of popular Ukrainian and Russian films and television shows, earning herself the nickname, the “Queen of Soundtracks.”

Soon JK Music Group invited Mika to Los Angeles for a two-week recording session, where she also had the opportunity to perform in front of Grammy Award-winning producer Randy Jackson.

After winning 4th-place in Eurovision Song Contest 2011, Mika Newton signed a contract with JK Music Group and Randy Jackson's Friendship Collective. In June 2011 she moved to Los Angeles, where she started developing her music career as a pop-rock singer in the USA.

In the Eurovision finals on  May14, 2011 Newton was accompanied in her performance by sand-artist Kseniya Simonova,who was the 2009 winner of Ukraine's Got Talent.

Here is Mika Newton and her 4th place finish for Eurovision 2011, Angel.


To hear about all of Ukraine's top ten place finishes in Eurovision, check out the podcast of the April 29th, 2017 Vancouver edition of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio here.

Countdown to Eurovision 2017 - Ukraine's entry for 2010 delivers environmentally-charged message

Alyosha represented Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2010 with her song "Sweet People", which came in 10th.

Alyosha was born Olena Kucher on 14 May 1986 in Zaporizhia) ... two weeks after the Chornobyl disaster. Her song Sweet People reflects concern both for the effects of this disaster and for the world environment. She said at the time that she hoped her song and the music video would reach out to policy and decision makers, and "prompt them to take action on global environment."

The music video was shot in the abandoned city of Pripyat, Ukraine from April 19 to April 21, 2010.
The director, Victor Skuratovsky, insisted on having no special effects and no artificial set in the video, in order to better reflect the raw reality of the consequences of this disaster.

Parts of the video were shot in an abandoned high school. Aloysha described it as looking as though the kids had left the classrooms in such a hurry that they turned over their desks as they ran out of the room.

On the week ending June 13, 2010, "Sweet People" debuted at number 73 on the Swiss Singles Chart and stayed there for one week. Earlier, it made number 15 on the Ukrainian–Russian chart on March 28, 2010.

Alyosha started a program called Ecovision, which she hoped would bring the environment to the attention of world leaders and galvanize them into action. Her current website does not indicate that her environmental concerns at the time turned into long-term activism; however, she certainly cannot be faulted for raising public awareness about Chornobyl, nor for bringing in another top-ten win for Ukraine at Eurovision.

Here is Alyosha and her 2010 Eurovision entry, Sweet People.

To hear about all of Ukraine's top ten place finishes in Eurovision, check out the podcast of the April 29th, 2017 Vancouver edition of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio here.

Countdown to Eurovision 2017 - Ukraine's entry for 2008

Ani Lorak represented Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2008 with her song, Shady Lady, coming in 2nd to Russia.

She was born Karolina Myroslavivna Kuiek in 1978 in Kitsman, a city located in Chernivtsi Oblast of western Ukraine.

Karolina had a rough childhood. She was raised by a single mother and then in foster care, and later lost a brother to the war in Afghanistan.

As early as age four she wanted to become a singer, and went on to perform at school concerts and music contests.

In 1995 she participated in a contest in Moscow where oddly enough another contestant had entered with the stage name. So she invented her stage name Ani Lorak, which is her first name, Karolina, spelled backwards.

She went on to record internationally and undertake many successful business ventures. In 2011 she was the fifth richest singer in Ukraine, with her team's revenues amounting to $2.35 million that year. Her typical fee is $25,000-$40,000 per concert.

Ani Lorak disappointed many when she came out in support of pro-Russian views regarding the Crimean conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

In 2014 she came under harsh criticism in Ukraine for having accepted awards in Russia while Ukraine was being invaded by Russia.

In August 2014 her concert in Odessa, Ukraine was cancelled after it was disrupted by pro-Ukraine protesters. Lorak then told reporters that she was a true Ukrainian patriot and loved her country dearly, advising her critics to “go and join [the] Anti-Terror Operation” which is what the war in Donbas is officially referred to.

Before 2014, Ani Lorak was one of the most famous and popular female singers in the country. She was also  a judge in Ukraine’s version of The Voice. But she fell off her pedestal because she continued to tour Russia and accept awards there, even after the occupation of Crimea and the war in Donbas.

She is not officially banned in Ukraine but, according to an article published by Euromaidan Press, she is "not welcome anymore." In 2015 a bill was put forward to strip Ani Lorak and other pro-Russia singers of the honorary title of “People’s Artist of Ukraine.” That didn't happen, however, due perhaps to the public support of her Ukrainian fans, and she continues to enjoy a successful career as a professional musician.

In 2009 Ani Lorak married her longtime Turkish fiancé and manager, with whom she had a daughter in 2011. They live on the outskirts of Kyiv and travel often to Turkey.

Here is Ani Lorak’s 2008 Eurovision Entry, Shady Lady.

To hear about all of Ukraine's top ten place finishes in Eurovision, check out the podcast of the April 29th, 2017 Vancouver edition of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Countdown to Eurovision 2017 - Ukraine's controversial entry in 2007

"Danzing Lasha Tumbai" was Ukraine’s entry for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2007. It placed second, losing out to Serbia's "Molitva."

The song includes lyrics in four languages: German, English, Russian and Ukrainian. It was performed by Verka Serduchka amid much controversy ... before, during, and since Eurovision 2007.

Verka Serduchka is actually Andriy Danylko, a drag performer of considerable repute in Ukraine and Russia. His selection as Ukraine's representative at Eurovision was fiercely criticized by several media and politicians of different parties.

One of Ukraine's nationwide FM radio stations organized a protest action in February 2007 to express their disapproval of the selection. Some prominent Ukrainians and even members of the Ukrainian Parliament also expressed their disapproval, viewing the character of Serduchka as "grotesque and vulgar" and a national embarrassment.

Another subject of controversy was song's title and lyrics. In early publicity appearances, Serduchka explained that "lasha tumbai" was a Mongolian expression for "whipped cream." His statement was denied by several Mongols, and The Mongolian Embassy in Moscow said that "lasha tumbai" was total gibberish.

There were also allegations that the words were chosen due to their phonetic resemblance in English to "Russia Goodbye,"supposedly a reference to the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution in Ukraine.

Despite the controversy, Serduchka had the full support of the National Television Company of Ukraine. As well as finishing second in a field of 24, Danzing Lasha Tumbai went on to become a major chart hit not only in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, but throughout Europe.

The song performed well on download charts in Ireland and the UK.

On the Irish iTunes Download chart, it had outsold any other entry by more than double – including the winning entry.

On the French charts the "Dancing Lasha Tumbai" single reached #6 and went on to be #28 on The Official UK Singles Chart on 20 May 2007. This was the first time a non-UK non-winning Eurovision entry had made UK charts since 1974.

The song also made it to the movies. It was used in the movie Spy (2015), twice.

And between Eurovision’s two official Youtube videos Danzing…Lasha Tumbai has over 12 million views. Here is one of them.

To hear about all of Ukraine's top ten place finishes in Eurovision, check out the podcast of the April 29th, 2017 Vancouver edition of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio here.

Countdown to Eurovision 2017: Ukraine's entry for 2006

In 2006 Tina Karol represented Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest with her song Show Me Your Love.

Tina Karol was born Tetyana Hryhorivna Liberman on 25 January 1985 to a Ukrainian mother and Jewish father in Orotukan, in the Russian Far East.

At the age of 6, her family moved to Ivano-Frankivsk, in western Ukraine. Her father, Grigoriy Liberman was from Vashkivtsi, Ukraine.

Tina Karol graduated from a music school, and later from the Gliere Music College in Kiev, where she studied pop vocal in the Faculty of Singing.

She has participated in numerous youth, regional, international and Jewish singing contests as well as musicals and theatrical shows. As well Tina Karol became the soloist of the Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Ukrainian Armed Forces as well as a television personality.

As a teenager Tina performed with a Jewish dancing ensemble under her real name Tetyana Liberman. Her repertoire included songs in Hebrew and Yiddish. In 2000 she traveled with this ensemble on a fundraising tour to the United States on behalf of Jewish Agency for Israel programs in Ukraine.

In 2005 she was advised to take a stage name that was less Jewish. Shortly afterwards she said publicly that it was a decision she did not regret, as her name no longer hindered her career advancement.

In 2006 Tina Karol was selected to represent Ukraine at Eurovision with the song "Show Me Your Love". The song placed 7th.

2006 was a busy year for Tina Karol. In addition to entering Eurovision, that year she released two albums: her debut album of the same name as the Eurovision song title … Show Me Your Love, and another album entitled Nochenka, with some of songs of the first album in Russian and Ukrainian.

She also participated in the United Nations's Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign to raise awareness and fight HIV/AIDS in Ukraine. In addition, she began studying with the National Aviation University in Kiev … by correspondence.

In 2007, she released another album and wrote a fairy tale, Pautinka, portraying show business as Tina experienced it. Among others, her fellow Eurovision contestant Verka Serduchka are featured in the story.

2009 was another momentous year for Tina Karol. President Viktor Yushchenko awarded her the title of Honored Artist of Ukraine. She was named to a list of the top 100 of "most influential women in Ukraine." As well she was recognized for her beauty with two awards: "The Most Beautiful Singer of Ukraine” by organizers of the beauty contest Miss Ukraine Universe-2009, and was named for the second time "The Most Beautiful Woman of Ukraine" by readers of the glossy magazine "VIVA!"

Tina Karol is a familiar face to Ukrainians at home and in the diaspora. For several years now she has played a prominent role in Голос країни (Holos Krainy, meaning Voice of the Country), a Ukrainian reality talent show that premiered on Ukrainian TV in  May 2011.

Holos Krainy is part of the international syndication The Voice based on the reality singing competition launched in the Netherlands as The Voice of Holland. Ukraine’s was the second international adaptation of the program, after the American version.

Tina Karol has continued to win awards for her singing, most recently "People's Artist of Ukraine awarded in January this year by President Petro Poroshenko. She is also carrying on her charitable works, including, notably personally funding her own private foundation to help children with cancer.

Here is Tina Karol performing Ukraine’s 2006 Eurovision entry, 2006, Show Me Your Love.

To hear about all of Ukraine's top ten place finishes in Eurovision, check out the podcast of the April 29th, 2017 Vancouver edition of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio here.

Countdown to Eurovision 2017 - Ukraine's first time hosting Eurovision 2005

Ukraine’s entry for 2005, the year they first hosted Eurovision, was Razom nas Bahato by GreenJolly.

Razom nas bahato, nas ne podolaty (Разонм нас багато, нас не подолати) was the unofficial anthem of the Orange Revolution, which in late 2004 swept out (temporarily as it turned out) the corrupt election-rigging regime of Victor Yanukhovych, and swept into power the infamously poisoned Victor Yushchenko along with his soon-to-be nemesis, the glamorous and aggressive Yulia Tymoshenko.

Tensions ran high on May 21st, 2005, when Kyiv hosted the event on the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ukrainian TV had decided that the motto for the 2005 contest would be Awakening, reflecting on the country's dramatic political shifts the year before.

Eurovision organizers insisted that the performer, the Ukrainian hip-hop band Greenjolly, remove political elements from the lyrics, in particular Yushchenko’s name.

Greenjolly complied, garnering Ukraine its lowest ranking to date, but still a reasonably respectable #19. It was Ukraine’s lowest score for any Eurovision entry.

Here is Greenjolly with Razom Nas Bahato ... the Eurovision version, and the original version.

To hear about all of Ukraine's top ten place finishes in Eurovision, check out the podcast of the April 29th, 2017 Vancouver edition of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio here.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Countdown to Eurovision 2017 - Ukraine's first win in 2004

May is the month in which the famous Eurovision Song Contest takes place. 

Since its debut broadcast in 1956, Eurovision has become one of the longest running televised spectacles in the world. Every year an estimated 100-600 million viewers watch the music competition featuring artists performing their original compositions from countries throughout Europe.

Many famous international musical acts took part in, and owe their fame to, the Eurovision Song Contest—ABBA, Celine Dion, Cliff Richard, Julio Iglesias, the Irish dance act Riverdance, and many others.

It’s a brilliant—and highly entertaining—formula. Participating countries each submit an original song to be performed on live television and radio, which is broadcast simultaneously to all countries. After the last performance, viewers cast votes for the other countries' songs (they are not allowed to vote for their own country’s song). The winning country then hosts the event the following year. 

Ukraine has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 13 times, and has finished in the top ten a total of nine times. 

Ukraine’s debut was in 2003 with a 14th-place finish for Oleksandr Ponomariov and his entry Hasta La Vista. The very next year, their second time at Eurovision, Ruslana won first place for Ukraine with the Wild Dances

This year, it’s déjà vu all over again. After taking 2015 off from Eurovision, Ukraine came back last year to win the competition. 

Crimean singer Jamala won the top prize for Ukraine with her story of Stalin’s deportation of the Crimean Tatars during WWII. 

And once again, Ukraine is hosting Eurovision in Kyiv, on May 13, 2017. 

At the end of April, the Vancouver and international editions of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio featured 11 of Ukraine's Eurovision songs … the nine that placed in the top ten, and the two entries in the hosting years. 

So this week, we’re going to count down the days here on the Nash Holos blog. We'll review those tunes and the show notes again. 

If you’re impatient and want to hear the whole thing in one sitting, check out the podcast for the April 29th Vancouver edition of the show here

The show opened with Ukraine’s first winning entry, in 2004, Ruslana’s song, Wild Dances, with lyrics in English and Ukrainian. Here is the video. 

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