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A Eurovision party with CEE

The 2024 edition of the largest European musical event of its kind placed a spotlight on popular music in Central and Eastern Europe.

May 16, 2024 - Arkadiusz Zając - Books and Reviews

LADANIVA representing Armenia at the Eurovision Song Contest 2024. Press release from eurovision.tv

The protests against Israeli participation in the Eurovision Song Contest because of the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip dominated this year’s event in the Swedish city of Malmö. Both performers and journalists alike acknowledged that the atmosphere at the event was very tense and exhausting throughout.

Undoubtedly, you have already heard who won!? As the party glitter settled on the stage, Switzerland’s artist Nemo stood crowned as the champion. The winning entry titled The Code is a story about searching for our own path, decoding our own authenticity. The personal story of Nemo proves it can be worth the effort. Nemo found their place outside of the binary system.

Winning the iconic glass microphone trophy is not the only goal of the contest. Nemo proved that very well by breaking it on stage by accident. The true winners are those who have managed to capture the hearts and ears of Europe. Verka Serduchka’s song from 2007 or Käärijä’s performance last year are very good examples. Eurovision’s canon is not limited exclusively to first-place winners. Therefore, let me invite you to the Eurovision vechornytsi (Ukrainian traditional gatherings with music, songs, jokes and rituals). Let’s listen to some of the songs that will stay with us. As the name of this portal suggests, this playlist will focus on some of the Central and Eastern European entries. If you use Spotify, here is my playlist with all the songs that I am about to discuss below. There will also be a YouTube link to each entry below every paragraph so you can tune in.


“Don’t cry, just dance”. Especially if your friend or relative is leaving their home-town or village. We begin our vechornytsi in Croatia with the runner-up of this year’s contest. If you enjoy the Croatian entry you are very much in tune with the votes of the European public, as it was first in the popular vote. The vocalist has been performing as Baby Lasagna only since 2023. In his song Rim Tim Tagi Dim he is highlighting a very common topic in our part of Europe, namely emigration: “Hey, I’m a big boy now, I’m ready to leave, ciao, mama, ciao….”.


We are going to spend our time together in a dancing mood. It is always fun to do so while listening to Eurovision entries in the native language of the artist. Let me introduce you to LADANIVA, an Armenian-French duo created by Jaklin Baghdasaryan and Louis Thomas. While Louis is French, Jaklin is an Armenian, raised in Belarus and living in France. Their group name refers to the Soviet off-road vehicle – Lada Niva. Participating in the Eurovision was not their first collaboration, as they met while performing jazz in 2019. Together they would use inspirations from traditional music from different parts of the world in their tracks. The song’s title – Jako – refers to the diminutive form of Jacklin’s name that she used as a child. She sings about reality constraining Jako. Luckily, Jako responds to it by emphasizing her freedom and inviting us to a dance that may allow us to forget. La la lay la la la lay


Our dance from the Caucasus transitions into the darkness of a Lithuanian night. We don’t feel like dancing anymore, but the music of Luktelk does not allow us to stop. Silvester Belt, the group’s main singer, told Pedro Santos in an interview that we should not try to find a meaning in the song if we don’t speak Lithuanian. Sadly, I don’t, but if you have any ideas about what it all means feel free to share it with us.


As usual, Ukraine sent something interesting to the Eurovision and came in third place. Our electric night with the Luktelk comes to an end with a bright morning. Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil take on the religious motifs of Saint Mary and Mother Teresa but also refer in their impressive scenography to the lights of rockets that target Ukrainian cities. Both artists have a longer record of cooperation. Two years ago, they made Dai Boh together with Monika LIU. Those who follow Eurovision music may know that Monika LIU represented Lithuania in 2022 with her hypnotizing song Sentimentai.


As we don’t have that many songs left in our playlist, let’s gather all the remaining energy and dance as the decent people do on the Vormsi island of Estonia. While dancing, let’s focus on the sound of talharpa, an instrument that was brought to the Vormsi island around the 10th century by the Swedish settlers. Estonia’s song (Nendest) narkootikumidest ei tea me (küll) midagi is the one with the longest title in the history of Eurovision. When it comes to the translation, Johanna Rivers wrote a very comprehensive article about it. To put it shortly, the whole song is pretty much explaining that we are not drug addicts. The authors, however, present different interpretations of the song and gave us freedom to understand it as we like it.


Russia has not participated in the Eurovision Song Contest since 2022, when the Russian full-scale invasion against Ukraine began. Nonetheless, it still remains present through the connections of some of the artists. Israeli representative, Eden Golan, started her music career in Russia because of her family ties with the country. Sadly, as a 12-year-old, she participated in a competition that was organised in temporarily occupied Crimea. The other connection might be more shocking, especially if we take into consideration the age of Eden Golan, when she performed in the territory occupied by Russia. Two weeks after the invasion of 2022, Joost Klein, the Dutch representative, published a song recorded together with a Russian artist. The more cringeful part of this story is concerning the lyrics. While Russians troops were busy targeting Ukrainian civilians, Joost Klein published a song in which he declared his love for Russia.

“Hello! My name is Joost Klein

I love Russia, man

I really wanna marry a Russian woman

I want a Russian lady

I want some Russian babies

But I don’t drive Mercedes

I drive the ladies crazy”

Lyrics from Joost Klein’s song Jackass.

The artist ended up as one of the biggest controversies of this year’s competition. He was not to be seen on stage in Malmö during the final as he was disqualified by the organizers for allegedly threatening a staff member.


This year at the Eurovision Song Contest there was an artist born in Russia but raised in Czechia. Aiko represented her country with her English-language song Pedestal. My conviction that the Eurovision scoreboard shouldn’t determine what we listen to, allowed me to end our vechornytsia with this Czech piece. Aiko didn’t qualify for the final, but I believe you still might enjoy her music. The song is about unlucky relationships and the decision to love herself.

“All the Divas were born as human beings”

ДЯКУЮ (Dyakuyu)! Thank you very much for joining me on a virtual trip to Malmö from the eastern parts of Europe. Feel free to share your thoughts in NEE’s social media channels or message me on Instagram.

Arkadiusz Zając is a student of Ukrainian philology and Eurasian Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków.

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