Foreign audiences can be an intimidating challenge for any artist, but Eurovision alumnus Kurt Calleja has shown that sheer determination can really take you places.
Qualifying for the final of the Slavianski Bazaar Festival in Vitebsk, Belarus, Calleja competed against artists from 42 countries and brought enough potential to the stage to see him pass into the final stages of the show.
“Competitions like this bring out so many interesting facets to music. Through all the ups and downs, I’m so happy I got to perform in a country with a lot of love for music,” the Maltese singer said.
Apart from training his voice every single day, Kurt also won over crowds of people in the streets by learning the Belarusian equivalent of a local favourite, Xemx. “Every time I sang it in public, crowds would gather and ask about the song, how I learnt it and where I came from.”
“I always too the opportunity to then sing songs in Maltese to them, such as ‘Fejn Tħobb il-Qalb’.”
While he admits learning to sing in Russian (a required part of the competition) was challenging as it felt like he was “speaking backwards”, he does feel he did a satisfactory job at it overall.
“I got penalised for not having a perfect accent, which was a little frustrating because they didn’t really care about accents when the songs were in English. Still, after that I sang ‘Your Song’ from Moulin Rouge and the feedback was positive.”
Apart from representing Malta up north, Kurt is also excited to look into the potential of the Russian market, and see how to make music for the 15 countries that speak the language.
Aiming to release a new EP some time around mid-August, Kurt hopes the song, which is called Sweet Chilli, will spice things up this summer.
He may not have come out on top of the competition, but singing alongside contestants from The Voice Azerbaijan and X Factor Romania will definitely stand out as highlights of a vocal adventure for Calleja.