Some months ago, details began to emerge about a new song contest, one that would span two dozen Turkic-speaking countries across Eastern Europe and Asia. Eurovision fans raised eyebrows, especially given the falling-out between the EBU and Turkish broadcaster TRT over Eurovision’s rules. But I think there is plenty of room for two contests, especially at this time of the year.
Attempts had been made, as I wrote about, to launch this contest in earlier years, but this year it seems everyone got their act together, with Western Turkish university town Eskişehir acting as the host of the 2013 Türkvizyon song contest.
24 entries came from many European and Asian countries, as well as autonomous regions of larger countries and members of the Russian Federation. So we saw Northern Cyprus in the mix, the Crimea (a region of Ukraine), and all manner of places even a hardened Geography geek like me had never heard of.
On Thursday, 24 were reduced to 12 in a semi-final, and they fought it out to win last night. So what did I make of the finalists?
12th. Kosovo : Ergin Karahasan – Şu Prizen
Certainly this starts off exactly how I imagined, full-on ethnopop, with some … distinctive vocals. He flounders a bit on the verses but that chorus is decent. The choreo is simple, a lot of hand-waving and a few tradition dancers in the back. Perhaps you could understand why I didn’t dare venture through the non-qualifiers though! Hits its stride near the end, but yes. A good effort.
11th. Uzbekistan: Nilufar Usmonova – Unutgin
Uzbekistan looks lovely from the intro video, let’s hope the song is as good. A ballad! No, a club ballad, amazing! This is more like it. That stage is rather large, I hope she’s not just on her own. I quite like this, she’s got a good voice and that chorus is pretty good. Love that sultry club vibe about this one, very good!
10th. Northern Cyprus : Grup Gommalar – Havalanıyor
That intro is a bit heavy going, but a duet sounds promising. They’ve both got good voices, even if the first minute is a bit of a plod. But things perk up a bit for the second half with some orchestral flourishes. Very dramatic, there’s a big story here, it’s a shame I can’t understand it. I should be bored but they are quite captivating to watch.
9th. Kazakhstan: Rin’go – Birlikpen Alğa
Oh I didn’t expect this, a Kazakh boyband. I suppose they have them everywhere. A crowd-pleaser with some very boyband choreography and a catchy “Opa opa” chorus. The appeal wears a little thin but towards the end, but they have a little dance breakdown at that point, so it’s a pretty good effort. Not bad!
8th. Kyrgyzstan: Çoro – Kaygyrba
Another boyband by the look of it, but a lot more clean-cut and upbeat. Kyrgyzstan might be the hardest country to spell, but it’s the easiest to like so far. A cheesy swing dance, and the song might not be anything special, but they are a likable bunch and it’s the most easy-going song yet. They even have a little axe-solo on a … I don’t know what that is, some traditional instruments, but it slots in nicely. Good show.
7th. Bosnia & Herzegovina: Emir & Frozen Camels ft. Mirza – Ters Bosanka
Frozen Camels? I’m intrigued. What!? This is certainly interesting, a fun and bouncy, even if the singing seems to have been a bit of an afterthought, those harmonies are a bit scary, someone is really wrong there. That singer is very cute (not the one with the sunglasses). Another pleasant and accessible track, even if I don’t like it as much as the Kyrgyz entry. Did they rehearse these harmonies at all?! Hopeless! Who on Earth was that woman who appeared at the back, she’s evidently important but she doesn’t sing, just brandishes a rolling pin(?!).
6th. Turkey: Manevra – Sen, Ben, Biz
Time to see what the hosts have been up to since they ditched Eurovision in Malmö. Likeable guitar-pop, it’s got a nice feel to it, particularly that Turkish clarinet thing. A bit like the ska-lite songs we’ve heard at Eurovision. A bit of old-school rock’n’roll, not my thing but enjoyable for what it is.
5th. Altai Republic: Artur Marlujokov – Altayym Menin
Altai republic (I’m told) is a subject of the Russian Federation, just between Kazakhstan & Mongolia. We are treated to a lavish ballad with some beautiful traditional dancing. Very stirring, like the best Balkan ballads. He’s got a strong voice, even if the song doesn’t do him a lot of favours other than providing a lot of glory notes. good performance, but the song is a little tough.
4th. Tatarstan: Alina Sharipzhanova – Üpkälämim
Another ballad, this time fronted by a lady with another strong voice. A lot of these songs use a lot of vibrato, it’s not really to my tastes but it doesn’t seem so out of place. I just think it disrupts the melody a bit. Fortunately the song has a lot more substance to it than the Altai song, with a good build towards the end. A bit of a ballad-by-numbers but she’s a wonderful singer.
3rd. Ukraine: Fazile Ìbraimova – Elmalım
In the top 3 we have three familiar faces from the Eastern border of Eurovision, who have had a bit more practice than many of the others. It’s no surprise to see Ukraine doing well at any rate. A sense of drama though, as the veiled singer is listed in by two burly men in traditional dress. Not sure what to make of it, she’s a spirited performer but the melody is all over the place. Not sure I like this very much, even with a baffling key-change (I didn’t know the key in the first place!)
2nd. Belarus: Gunesh Abbasova – Son Hatıralar
I guess from this top 5 so far, the viewers are keen on their traditional songs, as Belarus launch into another emotive ballad. She’s got a powerful voice, with a good sense of light & shade for more dramatic impact. There’s some interpretive dance in there too. It’s lost on me really, and but not bad by the standard of ballads so far. That is a great voice at least!
Winner Azerbaijan: Farid Hasanov – Yaşa
I have no idea how the voting happened here, but it was a very close contest, with even the last place country getting over 70% of the winner’s total. But it’s no surprise to see Eurovision titan Azerbaijan come out on top. They offer their well-rehearsed mix of traditional music and modern-day ethnopop. Nothing else really had a chance as soon as that thumping electro beat kicked in amid a sea of ballads.
His voice is a little strained on the verses, but sells the rest of the song with some slick choreography and great hair. He’s basically the Azeri Eric Saade, how could anyone else have competed? The melody is rather untraditional by Western standards, but I think it’s a pretty deserving winner. While many countries approached this contest as a cultural exchange, you can tell Azerbaijan were taking no prisoners to try and win the viewer votes.