Azerbaijan’s victory in the Eurovision song contest in May 2011 revealed that the country, at the crossroads of East and West, is culturally part of Europe. The Eurovision contest and television program, launched in 1956, fosters a broader European identity by spotlighting performances that trumpet national identity and culture. Last year, audiences and juries in the competition confirmed Azerbaijan’s cultural ties to Europe, awarding Azerbaijan first place in the transnational European contest.
Last year, Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal, calling themselves Ell/Nikki, were declared winners of the 56th Eurovision Song Contest held among 43 countries in Düsseldorf, Germany. Their song, “Running Scared,” was the first mixed-gender duo to win the contest since 1963, and earned Azerbaijan its first win since joining in 2008. Sung in English, the song embodies the internationalist nature of Eurovision, using English as the lingua franca to bring people together. The pair’s victory put Azerbaijan on Europe’s mental map and earned Azerbaijan the honor of hosting the 2012 contest. Interviewed immediately after their win, Ell/Nikki said that they hoped their song would “bring Europe together.”
This year, the official contest theme of “Light your fire!” reflects Azerbaijan’s unique heritage. Azerbaijan has long been called “The Land of Fire” due to the phenomena of “burning hillsides” caused by gas seeping through fissures in the Earth. The fiery flower logo of the competition embodies the following elements: fire; national dance; and Azerbaijani history. Fire, a potent symbol in ancient worship, remains relevant today – bonfires are lit during the celebration of the spring holiday Novruz. The flames in the Eurovision 2012 logo also symbolize the hospitality, care, and warmth of the Azerbaijani people, which will be demonstrated throughout the event.
The 2012 Eurovision Song will showcase Azerbaijan at the newly constructed Baku Crystal Hall. The Azerbaijani public broadcaster Ictimai Televiziya, or ITV, will host the event. This will be an excellent opportunity to showcase Azerbaijani culture to millions around the world. Adil Kerimli, Executive Producer of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ictimai TV, stated that although a large part of the television shows are being produced by the Germany-based company Brainpool, “a strong flavor of Azerbaijan will be added.”
The next official meetings in Baku will be held in March, when all the Heads of Delegations gather in the host city and will officially hand over their entries for this year’s edition of Europe’s favorite TV show. Ell/Nikki, Isa Melikov, Dilara Kazimova, and AySel will be among the jurors selected to represent Azerbaijan on an international jury made up of music professionals. Jury results are then combined with audience televoting results to calculate a country’s final score.
Post written by Devin Conley, Karabakh Foundation Analytical and Editorial Intern