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News 09 May 17

Balkan Hopefuls Clear Their Throats for Eurovision

Singers from seven Balkan countries are entering the start of the Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, hoping to join the lucky ten that compete in Saturday’s final.

BIRN Team
BIRN
Tirana, Sofia, Zagreb, Skopje, Podgorica, Bucharest, Belgrade
Eurovision 2017 award. Photo: Thomas Hanses/Eurovision

With first semi-finals of the of 2017 Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv starting on Tuesday, eight Balkan countries are hoping their singers make it all the way to the final on Saturday.

Under the motto of “Celebrate Diversity”, 11,000 spectators in Kyiv’s International Exhibition Centre will hear Albania and Montenegro compete in first semi-finals on Tuesday, while Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania and Croatia will have to wait for the second semi-finals on Thursday.

Of 36 countries competing in both semi-finals, ten will join Ukraine, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain in the final. All countries will be included in the voting system.

With her song “World”, 28-year-old Lindita Halimi, born in Kosovo, will represent Albania. Halimi has lived in the US from 2013.

Able to sing in ten languages, she told Eurovision that her song was “about self-acceptance, and accepting others as they are, and spreading love, no matter the ethnicity, race, religion or sexual orientation of the person”.

 

Bulgaria will be represented by 17-year-old Kristian Kostov, born in Moscow of Bulgarian and Kazakh origin. He was the finalist of the 2014 “Kids Voice Russia” talent show, as well as the runner-up of the Bulgarian “X Factor” in 2016.

Kostov’s song for Eurovision is a love song, “Beautiful Mess”.

 

Croatia will be represented by 36-year-old singer Jacques Houdek, who is known for his exceptional voice and who mentors on the TV music show “The Voice”. For Eurovision, Houdek will sing a song called “My Friend” in both English and Italian.

“As with every song so far, and with this one for the Eurovision, I want to spread a feeling of communion, friendship and appreciation of diversity among people,” Houdek said in February after it was announced that he would be representing Croatia.

 

Hoping to end Macedonia's run of five years without qualifying for the Eurovision final, this year the country is sending a young singer, Jana Burceska, to perform the song “Dance Alone”.

The 23-year-old hit the spotlight in Macedonia in 2011 when she competed in the “Macedonian Idol” talent show, coming fifth in the competition.

Her retro-pop Eurovision song, which she describes as "a song about the chances we miss when we are young", will be performed on stage including big screens and a big city backdrop. As the name of the song suggests, Burceska will be dancing alone on the stage.

 

One of Eurovision’s participants that will raise most eyebrows, including in his own country, is 31-year-old Nikola Kalezic from Montenegro.

In performing his Eurovision song “Space”, Kalezic has been wearing a blue dress, earning praise in some international media for challenging "stereotypes about masculine and feminine beauty" but less applause back home.

In his macho homeland, his gender-bending performance has drawn criticism for apparently trampling on traditional values, with some labelling him a symbol of “Western decadence”.

Kalezic does not seem to mind much, claiming that negative comments only motivate him further.

 

Ilinca, 18, and 25-year-old Alex Florea, singers of Romania’s 2017 Eurovision song, “Yodel It!” are hoping their song reaches the final; it ranks sixth on charts at bookmakers.

Despite their youth, both singers have years of performing behind them: Ilinca started as a young as 14, while Alex started at the age of 16.

The country’s highest ranking at Eurovision was in 2005 and 2010 when it came third in the final. Romania is among six nations that never missed a Eurovision final.

 

Tijana Bogicevic, 35, will represent Serbia with her song “In Too Deep” at this year’s Eurovision. She now lives and works in the US, and has previous experience with Eurovision, as she was a supporting vocal in 2011 contest.

In an interview for the magazine Gloria on April 30, Bogicevic said she felt honoured to represent Serbia, but also said it was hard to make any predictions about likely winners.

“There’s everything [there], politics as well although you don’t have such a feeling because it’s all about fun, the audience and the song,” she said, adding that the Serbian team expects to come out on top.

 

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