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Monday, May 14, 2007

Within You Without You

Raphael Vassallo contacted me today about a feature he's writing for Wednesday's Malta Today. He asked me some questions he is circulating to people he wants to quote in his feature. Here are my answers to his questions.

1. As you may or may not be aware, some people are advocating that Malta pull out of the contest in protest after this year's elimination. What are your views?

My answer is yes...and no. Yes because Malta (as in the Ministry of Tourism etc. ) is not getting what it's paying for from the Eurovision Song Contest. No because it would be a shame if there was no opportunity for any Maltese people to experience the great media circus that is the Eurovision Song Contest.

2. Do you feel that the voting has grown more or less conspicuously political/territorial in recent editions?

No. It's just a matter of numbers. In recent years we've seen a relatively large number of new nations join the contest. For obvious reasons, these new nations happen to be mostly former Soviet states or Balkan states. This makes for a natural affiliation and neighbourly voting. In my view, voting was even more "political" before televoting was introduced about 10 years ago. I'm not making this up. Just have a look at voting records over the years and you'll see exactly what I mean.

3. Many have attributed our dismal past two performances precisely to neighbour voting, etc. And yet, this year's winner (Serbia) attracted votes from practically all countries. Is it possible we dealing with a case of sour grapes?

A large part of this year's general reaction is undoubtedly a case of sour grapes; Certainly much more than anyone who keeps blaming neighbourly voting is willing to admit. In spite of a last minute call for a boycott from an anonymous source, Malta's final points went to Belarus (10), Serbia (8), Bulgaria (7), Russia (6), Slovenia (5), Latvia (4), Ukraine (3) and Hungary (1). These are all countries supposedly involved in neighbourly voting. In the semifinal, Malta's points went to Latvia (12), Belarus (7), Slovenia (5), Hungary (4), Bulgaria (3), Serbia (1).

Interestingly, in the semifinal Malta only received points from Albania, Turkey and the UK. The other 38 countries gave Malta zero points.

Incidentally, I find the 12 points Malta awarded to the UK for the final very farcical. I can only make peace with this by thinking that it was some for of protest vote rather than post-colonial oblivion.

4. One question just for you: In recent years, you have consistently suggested we change tack altogether, suggesting that we send Xtruppaw instead of the usual retinue of pop stars. What do you think that Malta's insistence on sending the same kind of musical representative says about us as a nation?

Although some of the MaltaSong board members are quite passionate about promoting Malta and very generous with their quasi-selfless involvement, they are clueless about what the Eurovision is really all about. The result they achieved this year and last year is proof enough of this. To add insult to injury, they are also completely out of sync with what the Maltese music scene actually has to offer. Xtruppaw doesn't exist in isolation. Then again, simply sending someone like Xtruppaw to the Eurovision, without the appropriate financial and promotional backing is like throwing Christians to lions.

Having said this, I must add that especially with more than 40 entries, the Eurovision Song Contest is just another game. Does the best team always win the FIFA World Cup? And when does the most deserving person win the Super 5? It's about time more Maltese see the Eurovision Song Contest for what it is and stop pushing for the same sort of songs to send as Malta's entry.

As a nation we appear obsessed with the Eurovision Song Contest. Naturally, not everyone is a die-hard Eurovision fan. Author Immanuel Mifsud wrote a very articulate entry in his personal blog just before Saturday's Eurovision final, expressing the disgust of many who feel that they don't form part of the "Malta" represented at the Eurovision Song Contest. Some would say he's upset for the right reason. The Eurovision is not really bringing the nation together the way we'd like to think. It just brings together some people who disagree on everything else, be it political party affiliation, village band club support, or whether Malta should legislate on divorce and abortion.

I believe that whenever we forget that it took Finland 40 entries to get it right and stamp our feet when things don't go our way, we make Malta look pathetic. Then again, giving the Eurovision as much media attention as we do, we already make ourselves stand out as unusual Eurovision fanatics, to put it mildly.

Here's a wonderful excerpt from the Schlagerblog by UK-based Eurovision fans the Schlagerboys who appeared waving a huge Maltese flag during the semifinal in Helsinki and live on Xarabank the following day:

If, god forbid, Scooch do not win tonight, will the BBC organise a two hour TV special for the band, including a live outside broadcast from Natalie's home town of Sutton Coldfield and a live link to Helsinki?

Will past Euroivision celebs be sitting on the panel in Malta and song writers and heads of delegation be sitting on the panel in Helsinki? Will Caroline's Gran be interviewed via the satellite link and Russ's cousins and aunts be flown over to Helsinki to sit in the press centre and wave flags and cheer? Will the Schlagerboys be called upon to add their comments to the nation?

Probably not.

I think that says is all.

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Anonymous Jon said...

Hey, Toni, the more I read your blogs and the more i hear you voice your opinion the more I agree with you!! Frankly, I believe that if our entry was a success we would have obtained the votes we deserved like we obtained them with Chiara, Ira & Mary Spiteri. I believe that the Eastern bloc argument is just a whole farce. 90% of the eastern european countries that participated in this years' eurovision had participated in the previous years and frankly no one commented about their political voting which if was truly present this year it must have been present in the recent years of eurovision. Albania, Montenegro, Poland and possibly Austria are all countries which were left out and not by a point or 2! I argue that there is no Eastern Bloc, at most there is truly an Ex-Yugoslav Bloc and its effects on voting are getting so much attention for the fact that this year 1 more country just added up to those already presented. What I truly noticed, which seems to pass by most people was the fact that The so-called Eastern countries brought in a new trend and challenged what's known as the stereotypical-eurovision-song. The western countries provided us with an old school of typical Eurovision songs whilst the East moved away from those stereotypes and I believe it should have opened the Western countries' eyes to reinnovate their style of music and experiment like the East did. I believe it was about time that Eurovision moved some steps forward in terms of musical styles. I firmly think that Malta should think out of the box and grasp this opportunity to encourage a larger and unknown variety of Maltese musicians and singers to take party in the Maltese selections.

phhheewww ;)
That's all folks

Thanks a lot Toni for your sensible and articulate words/comments/reactions/ and keep it up!! 

11:19 PM, May 14, 2007
Blogger Andre said...

The problem is that Malta takes the contest TOO seriously. On my blog I quoted a person who posted a comment on a eurovision forum; a comment which smells of sour grapes and doesn't do anything to Malta's image.

Maybe it's about time people start treating the contest like the light-hearted saturday night show it's supposed to be and try and enjoy it, rather than wallow in self pity just because our entry didn't do that well.

Re the boycott; I decided to ignore such a silly idea and voted anyway. 

4:22 PM, May 15, 2007
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just makes me feel sick with all the importance being given to this Eurovision.... wish we can put all this energy into something more meaningful.. It is just a big fuss.... how about Education??? how about something that can really improve Malta's stance in Europe... 

11:42 AM, May 16, 2007
Blogger Kenneth said...

My answer is yes...and no. Yes because Malta (as in the Ministry of Tourism etc. ) is not getting what it's paying for from the Eurovision Song Contest. No because it would be a shame if there was no opportunity for any Maltese people to experience the great media circus that is the Eurovision Song Contest.

Precisely what I think. Now if those funds wasted to promote Vertigo on MTV were spent to promote some local band instead... 

3:54 AM, May 18, 2007
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jew ahjar hawwilna xi sigra e b'dawk il-liri 

9:17 AM, May 19, 2007
Anonymous Lincoln Spiteri said...


What most people seem to have missed out is the fact that Olivia did not hit the most critical note on the night right before the last chorus, subsequently she missed the next high note. Her performance was actually very poor. Very much like Faniello's flat notes last year.

We have sent 2 singers back to back who were not able to perform under pressure.

I think people respond to this and we got what we deserved.

It amazes me year after year that the Malta Song Board insists on sticking to the smallest sense of its name, it is there to promote 1 song only. That is plainly wrong as there is more that can be done with the funds.

We have pushed the formula of the 3 minute festival-pop format to the limit, most of the songs in the Maltese contest sound dated and cliche, we are watering down our collective sense of artistic exploration.

Apparently Vertigo was rejected last year and went on to win this year. Did the song improve so much over a year, or did the overall quality go down?

I only wish that government start doing more to help promote the local recording artists abroad, it will pay off in the long term. Getting serious about the copyright laws and ensuring we have a proper functioning collection society will go a long way.

Sure it can go ahead with the Eurovision, but it is wrong to assume that that is the only viable platform for local artists. 

3:53 PM, May 22, 2007

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