The last time I watched Eurovision must have been before the Berlin Wall came down. Before Toto Cutugno won the competition at any rate.
Since then, the few times I’ve caught a glimpse of the kitschfest confirmed me in my resolve to abstain from this type of entertainment. During this time, in my absence, fresh national identities were established, new countries born and Europe mysteriously expanded to include Australia as well.
This year, however, destiny had a different plan for me.
I stumbled by chance upon a clip of an eighteen year old girl singing at Fort St Elmo and accompanied by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. I was blown away by the purity and power of her voice. It was as soulful as the echoing rumble of an underground stream and mellow like mature honey.
I carried out some research, saw she had been commended in Britain’s Got Talent and discovered she was to represent Malta at the Eurovision. Intrigued by her promise, I began to follow her work and talk about her all the time as my friends teased me and commented humorously about my renewed interest in Eurovision.
So by now you’ve understood that, last Saturday, with a great deal of excited anticipation, and a little trepidation, I sat down to watch the show.
The female presenter, wrapped like a Ferrero Rocher at the start of the show, and eventually transformed into a Bacio by the end, introduced the singers and bands.
The girls who wore mostly silvery shimmering dresses, Destiny included, and the boys in colourful suits like sherbet straws, performed in turn, swinging their hips and singing nothing particularly memorable, a numbing next-to-nothingness, with a twang.
Destiny, I felt, blended well the the overall chirpy glitter of the night.
Then, just when I was giving up and losing interest, the unexpected happened. It was the turn of France.
The lights lowered. A hushed silence fell on the audience, the dark was pierced by a beam of light and an enchanting soft voice rose from the stillness. It was an echo from the past, Piaf singing a lament by Brel.
The singer stood there quietly like a dream, the back lights tracing a sensuous white line down her neck and shoulders. She was wearing a simple bustier by Dior, and, using her hands and arms to give strength to her plea, she sang her melody alone in the limelight, like a bird.
There and then the Maltese song seemed so far away in my mind. The French number lifted my spirits. It was like rising from the squalor of a nightclub in Paceville to the magic of Paris, from a raucous Maltese carnival to the quiet elegance of Coco Chanel.
But nothing prepared me for the great surprise that was in store. Soon after, I discovered Måneskin.
Right from the first riffs I was drawn in to their dark, magical underworld. The giant studded door opening to reveal a forest of light columns, as in a temple, and Damiano, the lead singer’s beckoning to enter, were totally cinematic, a reminder of a scene in Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick.
His ‘Signore e Signori fuori gli attori’ was straight out of Hamlet’s play within the play. The stylish costumes by Etro could have worked in a play by Shakespeare while the Damiano’s charisma, as he walked up to the other members of the group and engaged with them in turn, reminded me of Pasolini’s Teorema.
His face, his expression and anger were a cross between Hamlet and a young McDowell in Clockwork Orange. The energy build-up from the fuzzy base was incredible.
The rap piece in the middle could have been a piece of text by Kerouac.
It was a sublime work, growing out of a classical rock tradition from Guns N’ Roses and Yes to White Stripes via Bowie and Prince, the most mind blowing performance I’ve experienced in a long, long time.
In comparison, everything else in the show paled into insignificance. It was its own world, an interview with the Vampire that sucks you in and leaves you breathless. Wow.
I knew, as soon as I came back to my senses, that this was the winner. It spans whole continents and generations. Both France and Italy had tremendous products. But while France delivered a song that could be enjoyed by the world, it belonged to France alone.
The Italian piece, on the other hand, will not only to be enjoyed by the world but, and here’s its strength, although its sung in Italian it belongs entirely to the world as well.
For the world today sorely needs Rock and Roll.
It needs young people who wake up from their comfortable complacency and who fight for the things that matter most, for independence of spirit, real democracy and equal distribution of wealth.
They need to fight against the invisible totalitarianism that is incipient in our lives, against the dictatorship of behavioral scientists who ‘nudge’ us without us knowing, encouraging us to focus on petty issues while the big ones go unheeded.
And as the rich get richer as the poor poorer, they keep us distracted and entertained, pushing us, mere puppets on a string, to find interest in a young head that nods mysteriously towards a table top.
We waste our time on incidents of little relevance like this and, in so doing, miss the bigger picture.
And as the social media everywhere, Malta included, tried to pull Måneskin down from the pedestal of their success, for hypocrisy and cocaine are abundant in the world in equal measure, the timeless answer was already blowing in the raging refrain of their song. It will continue, I am sure, to echo down the decades:
‘Parla la gente purtroppo
Parla non sa di che cazzo parla’
Which leaves me where I started: Destiny.
Dear Destiny, you have a tremendous talent and an incredibly beautiful voice. Do not exhaust it here. Malta can be a cage, a gilded cage, but a cage nevertheless. The door to your cage is open. Spread your wings.
The world out there is big and it will give you all the appreciation, support and good training you deserve. Follow your dream, but if you really want to achieve it, il faut que tu te casses.
Konrad Buhagiar is an executive director of AP. He has been responsible for numerous restoration and rehabilitation works in historic buildings and urban sites. He has lectured at the University of Malta and, among the others, at the Canterbury University College of Creative Arts, U.K., and at the New York University, U.S.A. He is also the chief editor behind AP’s ‘A Printed Thing’ and ‘Founding Myths of Architecture’ publications.
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