A Musical Journey through Europe

It must have been five years ago when I started losing interest in chart music. Everything sounded the same to me. I was craving for more.

So what’s a desperate millenial that I am to do? Doing research on Youtube. What else.
I went beyond borders, travelled through time with my DeLorean and unlike Bono found what I was looking for. Music that appealed to me.

And unlike Helga Vlahović (God bless her) I’ve got the results to share with you. Enjoy!

Belgium

Madou – Niets is voor altijd (1982)

A piece of Flemish kleinkunst (not to be confused with the German word for ”cabaret”). The genre of kleinkunst was originated in Flanders during the 1970s. Characteristic features were the minimalist instrumentation and lyrics that reflected the brutal reality often combined with social criticism. The jolly piano in “Niets is voor altijd” proves fallacious. It  deals with a taboo subject. Vera Coomans sings about a girl who took revenge on her rapist and now wants to forget about everything. 

Croatia

The Bastardz – Tvoja ljubav (1995)

Funky Croatia! This is an uplifting track with a catchy chorus sung by Helena Bastić . ”Tvoja ljubav” was one of the very first releases under the Aquarius Records label which is now home to artists like Nina Badrić or Detour. The song became a huge success despite the prominent display of Bastić’s dental braces – even on the ”Your Love”-EP cover! 

Denmark

Danser med Drenge – Hvoerlænge vil du ydmyge dig? (1993)

Written already in 1991, the song initially was rejected by all Danish record labels. It wasn’t until the summer of 1992 that the band’s luck had turned. After signing a deal the debut album was released in 1993 becoming one of the bestsellers that year. There was a sudden change in fortune when lead vocalist Philippa Bulgin was diagnosed with uterine cancer right before their first tour. She died in March 1994 aged 26. However Bulgin immortalised herself with her voice and charisma. The song ”Hvoerlænge vil du ydmyge dig?” is a touching plea to never allow yourself to be mistreated. To carry on living with ”pride and willpower.”

France

Niagara – Flammes de l’enfer (1988)

I’ve got a soft spot for late 1980’s aesthetics. The first time I saw Niagara’s video for ”Soleil d’hiver” I knew this was something I’d like. Niagara only released four studio albums and I’d say they peaked during their ”Quel enfer!” era (1988/89). The duo reinvented themselves by adapting a more art rock-oriented style. Lead singer Muriel Moreno coloured her hair as red as hellfire. Which brings me to my favourite “Flammes de l’enfer”. A quirky pop song that gets elevated by Moreno’s squeaky vocals, the horn sequence and the circus-inspired video.

Hungary

Omega – Gyöngyhajú lány (1969)

A classic tune. Often copied, but the original will always be the real deal. It was actually a cover version – this time by Berlin based singer Lary – that led me to Omega. My dad heard me listening to Lary’s ”Sand” and immediately recognized the melody: ”Oh! That’s an old hit. You should check out the original. You’ll love it.” Daddy knows me too well… 🙂

Iceland

Todmobile – Sameiginlegt (1989)

Iceland is well-known for its creative music scene. Todmobile, a group formed by Þorvaldur Bjarni Þorvaldsson (co-writer of Selma’s 1999 Eurovision entry), was a highly successful pop band. “Sameiginlegt” is taken from their debut and out of all songs from their back catalogue this fragile ballad was a standout. Another Eurovision star, namely Eyþór Ingi, joined Todmobile in 2010 as lead singer.

Israel

Eifo HaYeled – Nafalta chazak (1993)

I know that Israel’s geographically not part of Europe, but in Eurovision fandom it is. Eat it! During my vacation in the land of milk and honey I was introduced to the local alternative scene. It was especially the sound of the early 1990’s that got my attention: Aviv Geffen, Nikmat HaTraktor and most of all Eifo HaYeled. Their album ”Zman sukar” is a masterpiece. I’ve listened to ”Nafalta chazak” hundreds of times and never got bored of it – praise the Lord. The strings are pure perfection. 

Poland

O.N.A – Kiedy powiem sobie dość (1996)

O.N.A. were Poland’s answer to Skunk Anansie or Garbage. Their lyrics featured themes such as rape or suicide. In ”Kiedy powiem sobie dość” the narrator’s begging the recipient for permission to leave in silence. A young fan took these words too serious and hanged himself after his girlfriend broke up with him. In her desperation his mother wrote a letter to songwriter Agnieszka Chylińska saying that if the song had never existed her son might be still alive. Since I heard of this story I see the song in a different light. Not that I would blame Chylińska for the tragic death of that man. Music or art in general evokes emotions. Raw and merciless. And this song expresses these feelings in a beautiful and subtle way.

Spain

Mecano – Mujer contra mujer (1988)

I already mentioned Mecano in my previous post. In my opinion you can’t mention them enough. They were Spain’s musical poster children – groundbreaking in visuals, themes and composition. Their 1988 album ”Descanso Dominical” features my favourites. One of them is ”Mujer contra mujer” that tells the story of a lesbian couple arguing whether to show their affection for each other in public or not. 

Sweden

Eva Dahlgren – Vem tänder stjärnorna (1991)

Speaking of lesbians. Hello, Eva! Swedish has never sounded sexier. Eva’s giving a lecture in teleology by asking the listener ”who makes me go where I’ve never gone before.” If I were in a music video with Stellan Skarsgård I’d know places to go – no need for questions. If Melodifestivalen only had songs like these in their line-up. 

 

That’s all for now. Bedankt! Hvala! Tak! Merci! Köszönöm! Takk! Toda! Dziękuję! Gracias! Tack!

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The best Eurovision songs that never were

62 years of Eurovision passed – a decent amount of time with an even bigger amount of songs. Some of them were chosen internally, some had to fight their way against competitors. In retrospective we have lost a bunch of gems during the selection process. Before I get started I admit I have not seen every national final in the long contest history. So when I am going to name the best songs that were denied Eurovision fame I mean the ones I know. For anyone who reads this: feel free to include your personal favourites in the comment section. Thank you!

 

LAING – Wechselt die Beleuchtung (GER 2015)

Since their runner-up debut in Stefan Raab’s Bundesvision Song Contest I’m obsessed with Laing. ”Wechselt die Beleuchtung” could have done magic in Vienna. It is a crime they were not even making it to the final round in 2015’s National Final. Germans can’t be trusted. Trust me, I’m one of them 😉

 

LOSS PARANOIAS – Valedetektor (EST 2012)

No lie. This a fun song to sing along to. There are so many songs from the golden era of Eesti Laul (2010 – 2013) that deserve an honorable mention, but Loss Paranoias always will be top-notch. I love the band’s down-to-earth look, the simple hook and that’s why this song’s special in my book. Too bad they are no longer active. 

 

ELODIE – Tutta colpa mia (ITA 2017)

Back in 2017 I was sure either Ermal Meta or Elodie would win Sanremo. I never fell for the Gabbani hype, neither did I see a potential Eurovision winner in his mediocre song. I was genuinely shocked when Elodie only placed 8th. Right from the ”Amore, amore, amore…”-part (I know, very cliché) I was sold. I guess I just like vocalists with a raspy voice . Meraviglioso!

 

PANDA – Sama proti vsem (SLO 1996)

Slovenia – often overlooked and underappreciated. ”Alone against all” is the fitting title sung by Suzana Werbole and dear Lord, what a voice! Then the saxophone parts, the whistling during the bridge and the strong outro – Slovenia, how could you not have sent this? The only flaw I see is that I feel like I’ve heard the same melody somewhere else. Don’t ask me where.

 

DIASPRO – Riflesso (SUI 1993)

Despite Italian being one of its four national languages our Swiss confederates barely took advantage of la lingua dell’arte. In 1993 Switzerland had the chance to be represented by Tessin based band Diaspro and their mesmerizing ”Riflesso”. Instead we got a Céline Dion reject sung by a Céline Dion wannabe.

 

LASSE MÅRTENSON & MARJATTA LEPPÄNEN – Iltaisin (FIN 1965)

Creating a similar mood like Grethe and Jørgen Ingmann’s ”Dansevise” this Finnish duet would have been a serious threat to France Gall’s victory. At some point I had to think of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. The fact it almost made it to the contest and only had been prevented by the juries is utterly saddening.

 

RIMANÇO – No vapor do madrugada (POR 1986) 

Watching the video I had thought I’ve misread: This was 1986? Judging by the band’s look and the sound I would have placed it a decade earlier. Then again we’re talking about Eurovision music…

 

MECANO – Hijo de la luna (ESP 1986)

Rumour has it that Mecano’s former record label CBS paid quite a neat sum of money to TVE in order to prevent them from choosing this pop gem over Cadillac’s ”Valentino”. Regardless of any ”shoulda woulda coulda” scenario I’m a 100% confident that this song had the potential to stamp Sandra Kim and win by a landslide.

 

Thanks for reading! Let me know some of your hidden gems in the comments below.

What’s that airship all about?

Next to my Eurovision obsession I am a huge fan of anime. I have seen loads of movies and series, some were crap, others will forever be in my heart like Isao Takahata’s ”Grave of the Fireflies” or Kazuki Akane’s ”The Vision of Escaflowne”. But there is one film I am deeply drawn to. It may not be the best anime, because it surely has some flaws. But it is the most intelligent I have seen. I’m talking about the 1993 film ”Patlabor 2” by Mamoru Oshii, the mastermind behind the cult classic ”Ghost In The Shell”. The prequel was alright, but it was the follow up that made me a fan of the whole series. Genre-wise I would say it is a political thriller with Sci-Fi elements. The name ”Patlabor” stems from the name used for robots in police duty. Others are simply called ”labor” and are used in military operations and construction work. For anyone interested to watch the movie don’t read any further. Just skip to the penultimate paragraph. Spoilers ahead 😉

Southeast Asia. Year 1999. We meet the anti-hero Yukihito Tsuge, lieutenant colonel of a GSDF unit piloting a military labor. He’s part of a UN peacekeeping operation in the midst of a jungle. Suddenly his comrades and him are attacked by unidentified opponents. Without the permission to return fire and no possibility to evade, Tsuge has to witness how one soldier after another is being killed. Tsuge himself is wounded, but survives the attack.

Japan. Three years later. Shinobu Nagumo, the main character of this movie, is renowned as the most talented female police officer in Tokyo. We discover that Nagumo had a romantic history with Tsuge as she meets old classmates on the way to her academy unit. While being stuck in a traffic jam, a missile hits an abandoned car parked on the opposite Yokohama Bay Bridge. Prior to the attack we can see a yellow airship hovering over the bridge. It’ll make another appearance later… Speculations arise that JASDF (Japanese Air Self-Defense Force) is involved in the attack after a homemade tape is published on TV. It shows a jet fighter used by said force moments before the incident. To end these speculations JASDF sends its intelligence officer Shigeki Arakawa who conveniently carries two tapes with him proving that the alleged jet is not a Japanese but an American plane. Arakawa meets with Nagumo and Kiichi Goto, captain of his division, and goes further into detail: he suspects American conspirators of being responsible for the attack in order to awaken Japan from its ”peace-loving stupor.” Their prime suspect is Yukihito Tsuge who went missing after his failed UN mission. Now Arakawa believes Tsuge sympathizes with the conspirators as an act of revenge. After the speaker finished, he’s alerted that there’s another threat to Japanese airspace. However, it becomes clear that the attackers have managed to hack into the aerial control system only to mess with it. Not only caused this confusion but also massive distrust between civil and military forces as each one of them blames the other for the chaos. The government is scapegoating the police as they are seen as incapable of retaining control. Civil servants are replaced by military forces exacerbating the tension between these two.

Kiichi Goto gets a call from a detective saying that Tsuge’s HQ has been found. In the meantime Tsuge arranged a meeting with his old flame Nagumo. But before they can exchange words Arakawa interferes, albeit he fails to arrest Tsuge. Knowing he’s been exposed, Tsuge initializes his final coup: Three helicopters are send out to destroy labors, bridges and communication antennas while three blimps are released to block radio signals. After realizing that the airships are unmanned a police officer shoots it accidentally down. Crashing down yellow gas leaks out causing panic amongst people. No one gets hurt as the gas is revealed to be harmless. It was meant to be a warning. Meanwhile Goto receives the position of Tsuge’s hideout from Arakawa who in return gets arrested. Because Arakawa was too well informed, Goto had always suspected him to be involved in Tsuge’s actions.

Nagumo is joined by her team members to search for Tsuge. Ultimately she finds him, arresting him while caressing his hands.

You may ask why I’m writing reams about a 25-year-old movie. Well, to me its themes are still up to date: Terrorism, fear of war and political games. There is one scene in particular that stands out to me the most: It is the conversation between intelligence officer Arakawa and police officer Goto talking about peace and war. Its main point is that Japan’s (and basically any Western oriented countries’) state of peace and prosperity benefits from other countries wars. Arakawa states that ”we banish war to a realm beyond the TV screen”, building distance to the price people pay for their economic and private well-being. They have not been touched by war and therefore see no reason to show concern for other people’s suffering. He concludes that punishment for their ignorance soon will follow. In the end of that scene a crane is shown flying over water. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the crane became a symbol of peace and innocent victims. Sacrifices have to be made in order to maintain peace. As for people’s awareness of Tsuge’s terrorist attacks and the later declaration of martial law, Tokyo’s citizens don’t seem to be bothered by the recent events. In fact they live on like nothing happened. Kids are greeting soldiers, an old man takes a picture with one of them and others are just gazing at the tanks. In one scene a soldier stands in front of a window that reads ”Lumière et Ombre” (French for Light and Shadow). In symbolism light is connoted with wisdom whilst darkness is linked with ignorance (f.e. to leave sb. in the dark about sth.). Social criticism at its best. Politicians also are getting what is coming to them: In a later scene Goto has an epiphany and says that ”reality is often nonexistent at the highest decision-making levels.” Agreed and signed!

As complex as the story might be, you don’t need to have seen the prequel or the series as the plot is built on this one-time-character Yukihito Tsuge who rarely appears, but always has a finger in the pie. I highly recommend it to any lover of anime movies and fans of films dealing with political and philosophical themes. Here’s the trailer to judge for yourself:

 

Thanks for reading! 🙂

My favourite game

1998 was the first year I watched the Eurovision Song Contest and until that day I stayed faithful to Europe’s greatest music festival. Well, I missed the 1999 – 2001 editions, but in my humble opinion I haven’t missed that much.

I’m a polyglot and I love music – so Eurovision’s the thing for me. Where else could you listen to screaming Albanian divas or Dutch country music at the same time? The following list includes my personal favourites from the past 62 years. These are songs I know by heart even if I don’t speak the language. But that’s what Eurovision is all about: Uniting Europe regardless of our borders and differences.

PERSONAL TOP 50

01 URBAN SYMPHONY – RÄNDAJAD (ESTONIA 2009)

02 AMINA – C’EST LE DERNIER QUI A PARLÉ QUI A RAISON (FRANCE 1991)

03 FLOR-DE-LIS – TODAS AS RUAS DO AMOR (PORTUGAL 2009)

04 ILANIT – EY SHAM (ISRAEL 1973)

05 AZÚCAR MORENO – BANDIDO (SPAIN 1990)

06 ŞEBNEM PAKER – DINLE (TURKEY 1997)

07 CLÁUDIA PASCOAL – O JARDIM (PORTUGAL 2018)

08 MARIA HAUKAAS STORENG – HOLD ON BE STRONG (NORWAY 2008)

09 LOUISA BAÏLECHE – MONTS ET MERVEILLES (FRANCE 2003)

10 LOREEN – EUPHORIA (SWEDEN 2012)

11 LÚCIA MONIZ – O MEU CORAÇÃO NÃO TEM COR (PORTUGAL 1996)

12 BYEALEX – KEDVESEM (HUNGARY 2013)

13 RITA – SHARA BARCHOVOT (ISRAEL 1990)

14 STIG RÄSTA & ELINA BORN – GOODBYE TO YESTERDAY (ESTONIA 2015)

15 MOCEDADES – ERES TÙ (SPAIN 1973)

16 OFRA HAZA – CHAI (ISRAEL 1983)

17 ANABEL CONDE – VUELVE CONMIGO (SPAIN 1995)

18 RUTH JACOTT – VREDE (THE NETHERLANDS 1993)

19 MADAME MONSIEUR – MERCY (FRANCE 2018)

20 CLEOPATRA – OLOU TOU KOSMOU I ELPIDA (GREECE 1992)

21 JALISSE – FIUMI DI PAROLE (ITALY 1997)

22 KALIOPI – CRNO I BELO (F.Y.R. MACEDONIA 2012)

23 FRIDERIKA – KINEK MONDJAM EL VÉTKEIMET (HUNGARY 1994)

24 NINA MORATO – JE SUIS UN VRAI GARÇON (FRANCE 1994)

25 ANNA MARIA JOPEK – ALE JESTEM (POLAND 1997)

26 AUD WILKEN – FRA MOLS TIL SKAGEN (DENMARK 1995)

27 AMINATA – LOVE INJECTED (LATVIA 2015)

28 MAGDI RÚSZA – UNSUBSTANTIAL BLUES (HUNGARY 2007)

29 SOFIA VOSSOU – I ANIXI (GREECE 1991)

30 ONE MORE TIME – DEN VILDA (SWEDEN 1996)

31 DANA INTERNATIONAL – DIVA (ISRAEL 1998)

32 MORAN MAZOR – RAK BISHVILO (ISRAEL 2013)

33 GRETHE & JØRGEN INGMANN – DANSEVISE (DENMARK 1963)

34 TAJČI – HAJDE DA LUDUJEMO (YUGOSLAVIA 1990)

35 SÉVERINE – UN BANC, UN ARBRE, UNE RUE (MONACO 1971)

36 JOËLLE URSULL – WHITE AND BLACK BLUES (FRANCE 1990)

37 LENNY KUHR – DE TROUBADOUR (THE NETHERLANDS 1969)

38 YIANNA TERZI – ONIRO MOU (GREECE 2018)

39 KATJA EBSTEIN – THEATER (GERMANY 1980)

40 URBAN TRAD – SANOMI (BELGIUM 2003)

41 FRANCE GALL – POUPÉE DE CIRE, POUPÉE DE SON (LUXEMBOURG 1965)

42 THE COMMON LINNETS – CALM AFTER THE STORM (THE NETHERLANDS 2014)

43 LENA VALAITIS – JOHNNY BLUE (GERMANY 1981)

44 VICKY – L’AMOUR EST BLEU (LUXEMBOURG 1967)

45 NINA – ČAROBAN (SERBIA 2011)

46 NINA ZILLI – L’AMORE È FEMMINA (ITALY 2012)

47 NOX – FOROGJ, VILÁG! (HUNGARY 2005)

48 ÅSE KLEVELAND – INTET ER NYTT UNDER SOLEN (NORWAY 1966)

49 LEA SIRK – HVALA, NE! (SLOVENIA 2018)

50 LISA ANDREAS – STRONGER EVERY MINUTE (CYPRUS 2004)

Hello, hello…turn your radio on

Hello World Wide Web,

my name is Dominik. I’m a total rookie to this tool, but time will tell where this is heading. I intend to write about my thoughts on music (mostly Eurovision) and I promise I won’t upload anything about food, fashion or fitness – because obviously there are a bazillion of other people who know better about these things than me.

And because we’re off-season (Post Eurovision Depression, you know what I’m talking ’bout), I won’t write that much for now. But as Madonna said “You’ll see. Somehow. Someday…”

For anyone who’s still reading – thank you for taking your time. In my next post I’ll share my personal Top 50 Eurovision songs with you and maybe you’ll find one or the other favorite of yours in there too.

Have a good night, day, or whatever time it may be in your part of the world.