Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site

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Eurovision and San Remo Song Festivals









Good news:  Italy has returned to the Eurovision Song Festival.

Winning 2nd place in 2011 with this jazz number, a popular favorite that lost out to a very boring, indecipherable, derivative number from scantily clad Azerbaijan.




The Swedish singing group Abba won the 'Eurovision Song Festival' in 1974 with 'Waterloo' which launched them in Europe and throughout the world.  Click on the image to read about their win and how it is being commemorated thirty years on.  


Al Bano and Romina Power, Tyrone Power's daughter by his Italian wife.  They were a hit husband and wife singing duo for many decades, and technically they both wrote the songs, but most concede that Al Bano was the real songwriter.  

He now has a very strong solo career.  They competed in the 'Eurovision Song Festival' many times, also in the 'San Remo Song Festival'.

They recorded in many languages and are probably most famous for the "duck" song, or 'Il ballo di qua qua', that parents all over the world had to dance with their children by flapping their elbows with their hands in their armpits.  Oh, the things parents do for their children... 

Al Bano's website

Lyrics for many of their songs

My list of Al Bano CDs at 


Toto Cutugno singing as Toto Cutugno sings best:  in the middle of the audience.  Click on the image to visit his official website.


Click here to read the BBC's irreverent report on the outcome of the 2004 Eurovision contest.


To get a taste of the tone in which the contest is taken, at least in the U.K., check out this discussion boardWogan, who is mentioned often with great reverence, is the Anglo-Irish presenter who's commentary adds greatly to the camp-fest that is the Eurovision Song Festival.  

The irreverent Mr. Terry Wogan

I remember one year, after sitting through truckloads of scantily clad dancers (not even talented enough to be considered back-up singers) in spandex and chains, Wogan let loose a shout when a group of performers all in shiny black outfits came on stage, and then said:  "Oh, God, let it be leather!"


BBC presenter and DJ Terry Wogan.  Mr. Wogan presents Eurovision on the BBC but many other nationals watch him too, mainly, it seems, so they can complain about his irreverence.  

Click here to get a sampling of 'Woganisms'.  


And click here for the BBC's review of the 2005 Eurovision contest.



Norway's middle-aged Glam-Rockers, Wig Wam, stole the 'camp prize' this year, in silver spandex style!


Vanilla Ninja, Estonians performing for Switzerland, led the hoard of 'Christina Aguilera-looking' women.  

Here are a few of the hoard from various countries...


Another Greek-gened pin-up this year (2005), Konstandinos Christoforou for Cyprus.  Last year it was Sakis Rouvas from Greece.


There's a lot of copy-cating with Eurovision, so after last year's winning leather / drum / and stomping performance by scantily clad women, this year we were treated to lots of leather, drums, stomping, and scantily clad women.  This image is of Turkey's entry, and their traditional drums.


And the winner is...

Helena Paparizou, massacring her dancers in just the same way as her Greek colleague from last year.  See...

Must be the same choreographer.


Now for some of the 'winning' outfits for your viewing pleasure...



Until next year...



Eurovision 2003-2004

Eurovision 2005

San Remo

Eurovision 2006  - The BBC Report

Eurovision Song Festival

Italians are passionate about their many singer-songwriters, cantautori.  It's for just this reason that Italy no longer participates every year in the Europe-wide song festival called the Eurovision Song Festival.  

Eurovision is an association of European (and Mediterranean) broadcasters that has recently expanded to include broadcasters from the new European Union members, plus more countries to the East.

The group includes Turkey, Israel and Russia for example.  Every year they hold a song festival featuring entries from most of the member countries.

Italy won the contest in 1990 when Toto Cutugno sang a song that was technically entitled Insieme: 1992, a key year for European integration.  The main refrain in the song, actually this was practically all the lyrics of the song repeated over and over and over again, was "Unite tonight, Europe".  

Toto Cutugno stunned the pan-European viewers and commentators by jumping off the stage and singing as he walked through the audience. 

The Italian viewers were not stunned, however, as this is classic "Cutugno", who did the same thing every Sunday when he hosted the Domenica In television show.   But it did make him a household name throughout Europe for a few years.  

This image is from Mr. Cutugno's latest release.  Click here to go to his website.

A few years back, when Italy came in a terrible position with a song and performance by one of their most treasured singer-songwriters, Enrico Ruggieri, they took their ball and well home, refusing to play with Eurovision any more.  They accused their fellow broadcasters of catering to the masses' lack of musical sophistication and of politicized voting.  

While Italy was ridiculed at the time for being a poor loser, many countries have come to agree with the Italian view. 

What a certain high-level U.S. civil servant has called "Old Europe", is now convinced that "New Europe" is flooding the contest with an even lower standard of musicology and an even more pronounced tendency for politicized voting.  (Echoing paranoiac wide-spread fears for lower standards all around for the expanded European Union in general, I should add.)


Eurovision 2003

After the beginning of the second war in Iraq, the Eurovision 2003 voters placed Britain at the bottom with zero votes and Turkey won the contest for the first time in history. 

The next day, all the pundits explained that by voting for the only Moslem country in Eurovision, and punishing the U.S.'s strongest alley in the war, the voters probably hoped to ward off terrorist bombs in Europe.  A futile hope, as it turned out.  


Eurovision 2004

And with Eurovision 2004, the pundits in "Old Europe" are at it again.  Britain and the other "Old Europe" countries were voted to the bottom of the ranking, neutral Sweden ended high on the list, and Ukraine won

As for the quality of entries ... well, I'll give you a sampling, but if you think I'm exaggerating, the BBC has a site with video and lyrics, so you can see for yourself.  

Ukraine's entry was a number called "Wild Dance" that sounded like gibberish chanted more than sung by performers done up like extras from the TV show "Zena, Warrior Princess".   Not exactly a song to hum on the way to work.



Ukraine's winning Eurovision contestants performing 'Wild Dances' in 'Zena:  Warrior Princess' outfits.  They actually broke the stage during rehearsals from their stomping.  And won the competition in 2004.

Greece did well with a number that looked like a Greek version of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" that could have been called "He Bangs" because that's what the Greek version of Ricky Martin (plus gold chains around his neck) mimicked with his dancers throughout his performance.  


Eurovision's Greek contestant for 2004, Sakis Rouvas, performing 'Shake It', which he did until the dancers could take no more and collapsed.

Malta produced a "Bollywood" number complete with electronically created butterflies flitting around the boy (more gold chains) and girl as they belted out their boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl number.  

Malta's Eurovision contestants performing their  'Bollywood' number, doing very well in the final placements.


Eurovision 2005

The 2005 event was held in Ukraine, still heady after their 'Orange Revolution' that removed the corrupt post-Soviet regime and replaced it with the opposition leader, who was poisoned by the head of state security before the contested elections.

To honor the Ukrainian people's courage, many performers and foreign correspondents wore orange outfits, and there were plenty of compliments all around. 

Ukraine built a new performance center to stage the Eurovision event, and it was indeed beautifully done.  And the performers did not disappoint:  it was as campy as always!  

I provide some images in the left column if you're interested.  And you can visit the BBC site for videos and more

There have been some interesting aftermaths of Greece's win, with runners-up Malta and Romania, and the placing at the bottom of the scoreboard Spain, the U.K., France and Germany.  There have been more 'old Europe' complaints of lower musical standards and politicized voting.

In my humble opinion, I think the issue is another one.  Many years back, 'old Europe' shifted away from national dress, instruments, performance styles, and even away from singing in their own language.  A generic 'international' style was adopted, including singing in English.

Many of the new Eurovision members, however, are countries only now experiencing strong nationalistic feelings due to economic growth and political reawakening.  They want to express their cultures.  So in with native costume, instruments, languages, sounds, styles.  

'Old Europe' is too generic to please the people of the 'new Europe'.  And perhaps that's a good thing!  Maybe it's time to go back to the roots...

Oh, Italy wasn't there.  She chose not to participate again this year, and is concentrating on her own song festival coming up, Cansonissima.  


San Remo Song Festival

Ironically, in the meantime, Italy's famous San Remo Song Festival switched from a jury system to a popular vote, too.   And as happens with popular votes, the popular singer wins, rather than the best song.   

Back in the stone-age of the San Remo Festival (it's taken place for 55 years) they used to have two different singers perform the same song just to make sure people focused on the song rather than on the performer.   But no more.  

And every year, people complain about the lowered standard of songs, performers and performances at San Remo, echoing many of the criticisms of the other popularly-voted winners of TV talent contests that are currently big business around the globe.  La vita e' cosi'pace, or that's just how life is, so live with it, you could say.

Democracy has never promised that the best candidate will win, only that the most popular candidate will win. 

Popularity relies greatly on presentation and perception, less on performance, at least for the first election.  Fortunately, incumbents have to live up to a higher standard on the performance scale when they release their second CD.  

So it may not be long before Italy returns to the Eurovision Song Festival and competes once again every year. 

Al Bano, one of Italy's well-known singer-songwriters actually competed for Switzerland one year, saying that he was sick of the low standards of Italian songs and performances.  So the writing is on the wall.  

San Remo 2004

Marco Masini, the winner of the 54th 'Festival di San Remo', held in 2004.

San Remo 2005

Maybe the organizers have read this page, because in 2005 they used a combined jury/public voting system to weed out the worst entries before the public got to vote for the final winners!  The best of both worlds.

Francesco Renga winner of the 55th 'Festival di San Remo', held in 2005.

The 'Festival di San Remo' site.  

A listing of all the past winners of the Festival di San Remo.

A site listing Italy's entries and placing over the years.  

A list of Italy's entries with links to lyrics and/or websites for the performers.

That's Neapolitan singer and actor Massimo Ranieri, whom I correctly picked as the winner of  the 'San Remo Song Festival' one year, to the surprise of my friends, except the Neapolitan ones, who said that "even a foreigner can hear the superiority of Neapolitan singers".  How sweet.