In a mere 55 years and with 1,000 songs now under it’s belt, the Eurovision song contest still manages to draw the eyes of 125 million viewers making it the world’s most watched non-sporting TV event. What is perhaps more impressive than the outrageous frocks and disco Euro-pop, is the power music has to deflate political borders that once divided families and spilt blood across the continent.
Late yesterday, the 2011 winner was announced, permitting Azerbaijan to host the event next year. This offers a unique opportunity for a host nation to show case it’s beauty and significance to Europe and indeed the world. Still hurting from the effects of the GFC, that is exactly what this year’s host, Germany, chose to achieve over the last three days in Düsseldorf.
Preceding each performance, a short film was broadcast that showcased the participating nation’s expatriates living in Germany. Eurovision producers located residents from all 45 participating nations and in a series of montages, illustrated the beauty of their everyday experience in Germany culminating with the proclamation ‘Feel Your Heartbeat’ (the theme of Eurovision 2011) in their national language.
In doing so, Germany has delivered two very powerful messages. The first being that ethnic diversity in Germany is widespread and to be celebrated. Secondly, that whilst there may be many tongues, there is but one message and a common desire.
This clever construction of solidarity is further emphasised in the voting process where each country, not permitted to vote for their own, ranks their votes by a points allocation making it equitable between diverse national populations. This encourages residents to look outside their borders and find the beauty in their neighbours and in some cases, their enemies; often surprising vote allocations result. Even accounting for block voting between neighbours or where music genres are similar tastes, competing countries, even recently at war with each other, will sometimes allocate the maximum points to the other. This suggests the result is indeed quite genuine and based on appreciation for musical talent rather than political affiliation.
That is not to say that factional politics and border anxieties are completed deflated, however if a music competition should contribute to that possibility, is not after all a good thing.
I welcome the day when the cultural ministries of Asian Pacific governments agree to create a similar festival of music that showcases cultural heritage and fosters solidarity and understanding across foreign borders.