During the seemingly endless drought between the end of the Eurovision Final in May and the first of the National Finals near the end of the calendar year, many fans and fanatics enter what we lovingly refer to as “Post-Eurovision Depression”, or PED. We pine for the annual influx of new music from around the world (both the brilliant and the bizarre), the feeling of friendly competition between nations, and the energy of an flag-waving crowd. We obsess over the tiny morsels of news and potential songs popping up online (thank you, Switzerland). We miss the fanboy obsessions over key and costume changes, the socio-political discussions about cultural blocs and diaspora votes, and the sheer joy of sharing an entertainment experience with literally millions of people from all over the planet. How do we ever survive without it?
Fear not, my dear friends! While the Eurovision Song Contest might be the world’s largest and most renowned international musical competition, it is most certainly not the only one. Here are a few options out there to keep us from obsessively re-watching the on-demand streams at eurovision.tv (however, if you do decide to re-watch the events from Baku, might I suggest downloading Ewan and Luke’s commentary to go along with it?).
After years of rumors and suggestive names (Asiavision? Our Sound?), it finally appears that the EBU’s counterpart to the east, the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, has officially revealed the details of the inaugural ABU Song Festival (www.aburadiosongfestival.asia).
To be held in Seoul, South Korea, this duo of events will bring together artists from Australia to Iran to Bhutan to Fiji, with 15 new artists competing on October 11 and a handful of established entertainers (such as K-Pop powerhouses Girls’ Generation) taking the stage in a non-competitive showcase three nights later. This nascent event will likely be more modest than its European equivalent at first, but if the format proves to be a success, the potential for the competition’s future could be astounding. Just for a bit of perspective, the often-quoted figure of 110 million annual Eurovision viewers equals less than one tenth of the population of India or China.
During the summer months, Eastern Europe hosts a number of summer musical festivals that attract both established stars and rookies from all over the region. In Belarus, the Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk (festival.vitebsk.by) as its name suggests, has been highlighting acts from all over the Slavic sphere since it was established in 1992. Participating acts that have then crossed over into Eurovision stardom (or, at the very least, National Final infamy) include Natalia Gordienko, Gunesh, Diana Gurtskaya, Donny Montell, and Tose Proeski (so young, he still went by “Todor”).
Established in 2002, the New Wave Festival (www.newwavestars.com) in Jurmala, Latvia brings in young talent and pits them head-to-head in a multi-day competition where the perform both covers and original entries. Recent winners familiar to Eurovision fans include Cosmos and Intars Busulis from Latvia and Ukraine’s Jamala.
And then, after a few years of dormancy, the Sopot Music Festival (www.topofthetop.pl) is back on the scene in Poland. Originally conceived in 1961 by Władysław Szpilman (known to many as the real-life protagonist of the Oscar-winning 2002 film The Pianist), the festival has gone through a number of transformations, including a brief rebranding as the Intervision Song Contest, considered by some to be the Iron Curtain’s answer to Eurovision. At the time, only Finland took the plunge and participated in both competitions; Marion Rung (of “Tom Tom Tom” and “Tipi-Tii” fame) ended up winning Intervision in 1980 with this number.
Switching to the “Sopot” name and format after the rise of the Solidarity movement, the event still continues to attract talent from all over the world to its namesake seaside town. Eurovision 2011′s bronze medalist Eric Saade took Sopot 2012’s highest honor with his performance of “Hotter than Fire”, beating fellow Dusseldorf alums Musiqq (Latvia), as well as 2011 national final runners-up Outloudz (Estonia) and Alban Skenderaj (Albania). Over the years, Sopot has become one of the most enduring international festivals in Europe, weathering the turbulent transitions that Central and Eastern Europe experienced during the latter decades of the last century while maintaining its cultural relevance and popularity.
The fun isn’t just limited to Eurasia, though! The juggernaut of the Latin American musical scene for the past half-century has been the Viña del Mar International Song Festival in Chile (here it is on Wikipedia). This picturesque beach resort an hour’s drive west of Santiago has hosted the event every summer (from the Southern Hemisphere’s point of view, anyway…February!) since 1960. The week-long event is split into three general areas. First, there are a number of showcases and concerts for established artists ranging from Luis Miguel to Morrissey to local Chilean acts. More relevant to this article, however, are the two international competitions set up for folk and pop music.
Over the years, Viña has hosted many performers who also made an impact on the Eurovision stage. The winning song of the 1975 Festival, Greece’s “Pos Pes Mou Pos“, was performed by none other than Elpida (Greece ’79 and Cyprus ’86). Lucía Pérez (Spain ‘11) and Gisela (Andorra ‘08) both met with success while representing Spain (and both while singing songs written by Chema Purón, composer of Anabel Conde’s “Vuelve Conmigo”). Paolo Meneguzzi (Switzerland ‘08) won the competition on behalf of Italy in 1996, and Estonia’s Vanilla Ninja (who sang for Switzerland in Eurovision 2005) won the “Best Interpretation” award during the 2008 Festival. (And going beyond the scope of Eurovision, the third place finisher in the 1993 Festival was an unknown little 16-year-old from Barranquilla, Colombia…named Shakira.)
Viña is also notable for its notoriously rabid audience, affectionately called “El Monstruo”, or “The Monster”. Additional prizes are often awarded to participants (including those not in the competitive events) according to the enthusiasm of the 20,000-member crowd, but it is also common for artists to be booed off the stage if they can’t tame the beast. It’s almost enough to make a fleet of schlager fanatics seem tame…
So, if you’re feeling down in the dumps, bereft without a National Final or rehearsal coverage from a Eurovision Press Centre, just remember that it’s a wide world out there, full of international musical competition. Even if they’re not quite on the same massive scale as our beloved ESC, festivals like Sopot, Viña del Mar, and the ABU Festivals should be more than enough to sate your appetite before the main course arrives in May.