Age before beauty?

5 April 2012 | This 'n' that

Buranovskiye Babushki: Udmurt originality. Photo: Wikipedia/Larisa Gorbunowa, 2011

We can’t be the only ones to have a secret fondness for the Eurovision Song Contest– however cheesy the offerings, however rigged or outright political the voting, however bored or drunken the presenters (or maybe that’s only in the UK). Camp, innocent, calculating, so ugly it’s beautiful (or vice versa). In fact, we suspect that’s why we like it so much.

In the 57th Contest, to be held in Azerbaijan in May, Russia is to be represented by the song ‘Party for everybody’ by a group of eight old ladies, the Buranovskiye Babushki, from the republic of Udmurtia, deep in the heartland of the Russian Federation, some 1400 kilometres from Moscow.

So why the interest, here at Books from Finland? The grannies from Buranovo will be singing in their native Udmurt (better – although not much – known in the English-speaking world as Votyak) which, as a Uralic language, is related to Finnish, and has some 325,000 speakers. So Finnish fans, still basking in the glory of the success of the Finnish heavy metal band Lordi, which, most surprisingly, won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006, will have not one team to cheer for, but two.

Will the Buranovo ladies, in their traditional national costumes, win, or will the winner be, say, Rambo Amadeus from Montenegro, with a song mystifyingly entitled ‘Euro Neuro’ – or Pernilla from Finland, singing, for a change, in the other official language of the country, Swedish, ‘När jag blundar’ (‘When I close my eyes’)?

Most of the Buranovo grannies are in their seventies. The United Kingdom is to be represented by the veteran Engelbert Humperdinck (remembered for his Sixties hits ‘Release Me’, ‘The Last Waltz’), who is 76. So will this, at last, be a Eurovision Song Contest where age – and maybe even talent – comes before beauty?

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