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?
I think that says is all.