The Eurovision Babushki

Posted on May 2nd, 2012 in News, Recent posts by .


Folk-pop grannies from the Volga set to send Eurovision 2012 into a spin
(Photo courtesy of Retrospective Broadcasters)

The question of where Europe begins and ends has always been hard to answer. When it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest, it seems everyone wants to be European. Last year’s victory for Azerbaijan’s Eldar & Nigar means the 2012 competition takes place in Baku, Azerbaijan, and among the usual array of weird and wonderful acts is an entry from an equally far flung corner of Europe – the Buranovskiye Babushki.

Hailing from the Udmurt Republic in the Volga region of Russia, Buranovskiye Babushki (the Grannies from Buranovo) have won the right to represent Russia at the contest at the second attempt. These eight singers from a small village on the Volga entered the Russian heats in 2010 with the song ‘Dlinnaja Dlinnaja Beresta I Kak Sdelat Iz Nee Aishon’, finishing third. It was a suitably rural song about making a turban from the bark of a birch tree. Not to be discouraged, they entered again in 2012 with the perhaps more marketable ‘Party for Everybody’.

Sung in the Finno-Ugric Udmurt language, the lyrics anticipate the excitement of children coming home and the culinary preparations for their arrival. But what begins as an a capella folk song is interrupted by a crashing Eurodance beat announcing the English chorus.

The grannies, who are all in their 70s and 80s, began as a folklore choir singing in Russian and Udmurt, until 43-year-old choir leader Olga Tuktareva arrived from a nearby village to run the Buranovo social club 12 years ago. Not only did she get them singing only in their native Udmurt language, but also doing covers of Western pop songs too. Their traditional Udmurt costumes, complete with lapti (slippers made from the bark of lime trees), are handed down from generations to generations and form a distinctive part of the group’s appeal.

The idea to enter Eurovision was suggested by the late Russian folklore singing legend Lyudmila Zykina, whose birthday concert the grannies sung at after being spotted in 2008 by producer Ksenia Rubtsova singing an Udmurt cover of ‘Yesterday’ in the Udmurt capital Izhevsk. Zykina’s encouragement has already seen them tour around Europe and their financial success is being poured into a village project to rebuild the Russian Orthodox church destroyed during the Soviet era.

When they take to the stage in Baku on May 22 for first semi-final of the event, the BuranovskiyeBabushki will take the crown as the oldest competitors ever to grace Eurovision, pipping this year’s surprise UK entry, 75-year-old Engelbert Humperdinck. The combination of traditional Udmurt folk costumes and Eurovision bling is a truly surreal viewing experience.

Get a taste of what Baku has coming its way on the Songlines YouTube site.

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One Response to “The Eurovision Babushki”

  1. mariam Says:

    Europe is expanding its borders! I’ve often wondered why Israel is included in this contest and why Leebanon doesn’t take part as they have some excellent ‘pop’ music. I’m all for crossing borders, but am a little concerned that more countries will simply produce ‘international pop’ and not focus on what they do best. It’s difficult to recall a single memorable song from the Eurovision. Maybe this year will be different?

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