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At Eurovision 2022, the Ukrainian orchestra Kalush could win the grand final in Turin, Italy
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At the end of their performance in Europe’s most popular song contest, the members of the Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra, hand on heart, launched an impassioned plea.

“I ask all of you,” said leader Oleh Psiuk, “please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal now.

Kalush Orchestra, which traveled to this year’s Eurovision grand final on Saturday with a flamboyant performance watched by almost 200 million people, is favored by bookmakers to win for its performance of the folk-rap mash-up “Stephenia”.

The Ukrainian candidate is one of 25 acts that participate in the last round Eurovision, the world’s longest-running TV music competition, which attracts votes from viewers and has already helped launch Abba. The group was one of the most viewed on YouTube among the top 40 domestic entries that year.

For Psiuk, the song became a tribute to Ukraine and the stage a platform to remind people of Russia’s war against his country. He first sang it as an ode to his mother, but on stage during the Eurovision semi-finals this week, the lyrics resonated differently. “I’ll always come to you, over bumpy roads,” he rapped in his pink bucket hat.

During the performance in Turin, Italy, on Saturday, a screen above the stage showed a woman’s watery eyes. A waterfall in front of the stage shone with yellow and blue lights, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

“If we win, it will be another opportunity to show Ukraine to the world, to remind people of Ukraine and to lift the spirits throughout the country,” the 27-year-old said this week.

Ukrainian authorities have allowed the singer and his band to travel to compete in Italy, although they have banned most men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country in anticipation of being called up to fight.

Ukrainian fans tuning in to Saturday’s final heard commentary from presenter Timur Miroshnychenko broadcast from an underground bunker. Public broadcaster Suspilne posted photos of him sitting at a desk with computers and a camera in a makeshift studio.

“We don’t have a lot of happy times at the moment in our country,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live this week. “Nothing will interrupt the broadcast of Eurovision.”

If Kalush Orchestra – which mixes hip-hop and Ukrainian folk dance – wins the Eurovision final, Ukraine would have the right to host the 2023 competition. The annual competition was first held in 1956 and, although although its organizers within the European Broadcasting Union presented it as a “non-political” event, it often reflected the political dynamics of its time.

In fact, the band replaced original Ukraine act Alina Pash this year due to an investigation into a 2015 visit she allegedly made to Crimea, the peninsula Moscow annexed to Ukraine. in 2014. And after the Kremlin launched its war against Ukraine in February, Russia was banned from this year’s contest.

In 2016, Crimean Tatar singer Jamala’s Ukrainian entry marked Ukraine’s second Eurovision win. When the competition was held the following year in the Ukrainian capital, kyiv, Russia was not allowed to participate.

Armenia and Georgia were among contenders for withdrawal in recent years due to tensions with other countries, and the victory of bearded Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst in 2014 sparked a debate over LGBTQ rights.

Annabelle Chapman contributed to this report.


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