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Ukrainian singer wins the Eurovision Song Contest
Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest held in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 15. Ukrainian fans were delighted. The Ukrainian singer Ruslana, a cult figure in Ukraine, accompanied by a group of dancers in warrior costumes gave the audience an eye-catching mix of frenetic dancing, skimpy leather costumes and passionate vocals in a song called “Dyki tantsi” (Wild Dances).
Ruslana, one of Ukraine’s top stars, grabbed the crown, mustering 280 points from the televoting in the 36 participant countries. It was Ukraine’s only second appearance in the 49-year-old pop and rock song festival.
Ruslana, the charismatic brunette, and her troupe, dressed in leather and wielding whips, offered a dazzling spectacle inspired by ethnic traditions in the Carpathian mountains of Western Ukraine.
“All of us are contributing to a positive image of Ukraine. I want my country to open up before you with friendship and hospitality,” an ecstatic Ruslana told a news conference after the show. “I would like you to forget about Chornobyl,” she said, referring to the 1986 nuclear accident which has long marred Ukraine’s image.
The Eurovision Song Contest, hosted for the first time by Turkey, winner of last year’s event, attracted a worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Security was tight for the event.
With its victory Ukraine earns the right to stage the 50th Eurovision Contest in 2005.
Asked what would be the first thing she did after returning to Kyiv, Ruslana said: “I will imitate Russell Crowe in [the Hollywood blockbuster] Gladiator — I will go back to my homeland, kneel, take a piece of Ukrainian earth and kiss it…”
“Wild Dances” was taken from her best-selling album of the same name, which was the first ever to go platinum in Ukraine. The song, sung partly in Ukrainian and partly in English, is described as a modern take on traditional Ukrainian ethnic music based on ancient rhythms and dances, mixing rock with ethnic dance music.
This year’s Eurovision produced its usual mixed bag of talent, corny lyrics, flamboyant performances and partisan voting which are part of the competition’s enduring popularity.
Many countries set aside politics when awarding their votes. Ukraine’s neighbours, Russia and Poland gave Ruslana their maximum twelve points. Turkey gave high points to its historic rival Greece, and Croatia awarded its top marks to Serbia and Montenegro, its ex-partners in the old Yugoslavia.
It was the biggest-ever competition with 36 countries (just seven competed in the inaugural year of 1956) taking part in a two-stage event. Ten nations battled through from a qualifying round to join 14 countries already in the final.
Her victory came as a reward for a well-organized and quite costly publicity campaign, which saw her touring 14 countries ahead of the contest to promote her tune, equal parts upbeat pop and ethnic music.
“Ruslana has won! We’ve won!” proudly exclaimed millions of Ukrainians who along with millions of others were riveted this weekend to television sets, watching singer Ruslana become the first Ukrainian to win the Eurovision music contest.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma sent a personal message congratulating the singer Ruslana on her victory, which he welcomed as a boost to Ukraine’s image abroad and bestowed the honorary title of People’s Artist of Ukraine upon her.
Encouraged by her weekend victory, Ruslana already has plans to return to Europe and likely the United States.
She is currently working on the English version of her album “Wild Dances”, designed for the European and American markets, which is already the biggest selling Ukrainian record in history, with 100,000 copies sold.
A graduate of the musical conservatory in Lviv, Ruslana has been a well-known figure on the Ukrainian scene since 1996.
She is co-author of most of her songs, strongly inspired by Ukrainian folklore, and works alongside her husband and producer Oleksandr Ksenofontov.
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