TURIN, ITALY (AP) — The hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest, set in a European warfare setting, reaches a spectacular climax Saturday night in the northern Italian city of Turin, performing in front of a live audience and watching by millions. on television all over the world.
Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra is highly anticipated with the bookmaker’s victory giving a group a 60% chance of winning for a group that blends modern hip-hop with traditional Ukrainian rhythms, costumes and dance moves.
Their song ‘Stefania’ was written as a tribute to the frontman’s mother, but has been transformed into an anthem about a war-ravaged country as the lyrics take on new meaning after the Russian invasion on February 24. Kalush Orchestra frontman Oleh Psiuk wrote, “Even if all the roads are destroyed, I will always find a way home.”
The six-piece men’s band was given special permission to leave the country to represent Ukraine and Ukrainian culture in a music contest. One of the original members will remain and fight, and the rest plan to return as soon as the tournament is over.
Winners are chosen equally by a panel of music experts from each competing country, leaving room for confusion due to viewer votes. England’s Sam Ryder and Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs each have a 10% chance to win, while the Italian duo Mahmood & Blanco have a 6% chance to win.
The winner brings home a glass microphone trophy and potential career advancement.
The event is hosted by Italy after Italian rock band Maneskin won in Rotterdam last year. With this victory, the Rome-based band gained international fame, appearing on the Rolling Stones opening and on Saturday Night Live, as well as on numerous magazine covers, as a generally genderless dress code.
Twenty bands have been selected from two semi-finals this week, and will compete alongside the Big Five from Italy, England, France, Germany and Spain, who have secured permanent access to the competition financially supported.
Russia was excluded this year after the invasion of Ukraine. Organizers said it was a measure to exclude politics from competitions that promote diversity and friendship between countries.