TURIN, Italy –
Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra won the European Song Contest in the early hours of Sunday in a clear show of support for the war-torn country.
The six-man band that combines traditional folk tunes and contemporary hip hop in a purposeful defense of Ukrainian culture is the bookies’ favorite of the 25 bands and performers competing in the competition. final’s night. The public vote from home was decisive in securing their victory.
The band’s front man, Oleg Psiuk, took advantage of the huge global audience to make an impatient plea for the freedom fighters still trapped beneath a steel mill. sprawled out in the southern port city of Mariupol after a performance by a six-man band.
“I ask all of you, help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal, now,” the band’s leader, Oleh Psiuk, told a live crowd of about 7,500 people, many of whom were Warm acclaim and a global TV audience in the millions.
The pleas to free the remaining Ukrainian fighters trapped beneath the Azovstal plant by the Russians serve as a somber reminder that the Eurovision song contest is hugely popular and is sometimes being played out against the backdrop of the civil war. battle on the eastern flank of Europe.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signaled that he was watching from Kyiv, and supported the Ukrainian band.
“Indeed, this is not a war, but nevertheless, for us today, any victory is very important,” Zelenskyy said, according to a .presidential statement. “So let’s cheer for us. Glory to Ukraine!”
The Kalush Orchestra were among 25 bands performing in the finale of the European Song Contest in front of a live audience in the northern industrial city of Turin, while millions more watched on television or via live stream. online around the world.
Fans from Spain, the UK and elsewhere who came to the PalaOlimpico venue from across Europe were cheering for their country to win. However, Ukrainian music fan Iryna Lasiy said she felt global support for her country during the war and “not just for the music.”
Russia was disqualified this year after the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, an organizer said the move was meant to keep politics out of the contest promoting diversity and friendship between the nations.
The Ukrainian song, “Stefania,” was written in memory of the soldier’s mother, but has since turned into an anthem for the besieged nation, as the lyrics take on a new meaning. “I will always find my way home, even if all roads are destroyed,” wrote Oleh Psiuk, head of the Kalush Orchestra.
The all-male six-member band was given special permission to leave the country to represent Ukraine and Ukrainian culture at the music competition. One of the original members stayed to fight, and the others planned to return as soon as the competition was over.
Back in Ukraine, in the devastated northeastern city of Kharkiv, the Kalush Orchestra’s participation in the competition is seen as giving the country another platform to garner international support.
“The whole country is rising, everyone in the world is supporting us. This is very nice,” said Julia Vashenko, a 29-year-old teacher.
Alexandra Konovalova, a 23-year-old makeup artist in Kharkiv, said: “I believe that wherever there is Ukraine now and the opportunity to talk about war, we need to talk. “Any contests are important now, because they have more people learning about what’s happening now.”
Anastasia Khardikova, 24, a Ukrainian living in Sweden, said she intends to vote for Kalush Orchestra, and is convincing her friends abroad to do the same.
Winners were chosen in equal parts by music experts in each competing country and voted on by the public – leaving room for discomfort. England’s Sam Ryder and Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs each have a 10% chance of winning, while Italian duo Mahmood & Blanco have a 6% chance of winning.
The winner takes home a glass microphone trophy and a career advancement potential.
The event is hosted by Italy after local rock band Maneskin won in Rotterdam last year. The victory catapulted the Rome-based band to worldwide fame, opening the Rolling Stones and appearing on Saturday Night Live and numerous magazine covers in their often genderless outfits.
Twenty bands have been selected for this week’s two semi-finals, and will be competing with the Big Five of Italy, Great Britain, France, Germany and Spain, whose long-term footholds are due to their financial backing. competition.
Barry reports from Milan. Vasilisa Stepanenko contributed from Kharkiv, Ukraine.