MILAN – The Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra and the folk-hip hop anthem of its members to their war-torn nation is the favorite of the creators of chance to win the Eurovision Song Contest, an event designed to celebrate diversity and promote friendship among nations.
Twenty-five bands will compete on Saturday in the grand final of the annual composition contest. It takes place in the industrial city of Turin, northern Italy. Last year, 183 million people watched the TV competition.
For the Ukrainian community in Italy, the participation of the Kalush Orchestra in such a popular international event puts an important focus on Ukrainian culture while providing a platform to maintain global attention focused on the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine.
About 50 people set off a flash mob when the Kalush Orchestra appeared on an open-air stage in Turin this week, amplifying international requests for help to keep civilians and fighters out of a steelmaking that is the latest Ukrainian resistance in the southern city of Mariupol. .
“We see Eurovision as an international event where the presence of Ukraine and Ukrainian culture is very important,” said Zoia Stankovska, a lawyer in Milan who helped organize the flash mob. “Right now, Eurovision is also a place where our voice is heard.”
The entry into Eurovision of the Kalush Orchestra “Stefania” was written as the leader’s tribute to his mother, but has become a national anthem since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
The song is a mix of traditional Ukrainian folk music and elements of contemporary hip hop, a trend in Ukrainian music, especially since the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, and offers a particularly strong message against Russia’s false claim that Ukrainian culture is not unique, said Stankovska.
The band’s success is serving as a kind of moral boost for Ukrainians living in Italy, Stankovska said. “When you have such terrible things, having good news is something really helpful,” he said.
Italy hosts Eurovision this year because Roman glam rock band Maneskin won last year’s contest. The day after Russia invaded Ukraine, the European Broadcasting Union said Russia would not be allowed to participate in the contest.
For Saturday’s final, 20 winners of the semifinals held on Tuesday and Thursday will join the bands of the so-called big five from Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Britain.
Although Kalush Orchestra is the sentimental favorite, receiving the most enthusiastic response from the open-air audience on Wednesday, the final decision is split between a professional jury and the audience.
Ukraine has won twice before, in 2004 and 2016.
If Ukraine wins this year, Stockholm offers to host next year’s event in case the war continues then.
“This is a way to continue to show support,” Stockholm Mayor Anna König Jerlmyr told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. “We want Ukraine to know that it can organize the competition in Stockholm, if necessary.”
Luca Bruno in Turin, Italy, and Jan Olsen in Copenhagen contributed.
Follow AP coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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Favored Ukrainian band in the final of the Eurovision Song Contest
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