Stockholm blog

Come back on Monday 2nd May for the first update.


Day 1

This is Hass Yusuf reporting live from Malmo.

Disclaimer – as this is live reporting, please expect typos, missing words, etc. Just go with the flow.

And so it begins. Well here we are in the screening room at the Euroclub watching the first rehearsals from semi-final one.

Austria first, Good first impressions of the stage. It’s a good start with a good confident performance by Natalia Kelly. She’s definitely shining through her performance. That was a pun by the way, as her song is called ‘Shine’. You can expect more witticisms like that throughout the next few weeks. Her set involves icicle like structures. All very nice, but hardly going to set the place on fire. And if it does, the icicles will come in use. Anyway, good luck to the beautiful Natalia.

While we wait for the next performance, just to let you know that these first rehearsals are being held in the Euroclub. All the journalists are sitting in a small cinema with their laptops on their knees. Not sure how long these laptops can’t last just on battery power!

Estonia next. And another good-looking singer in the shape of Birgit Oigemeel singing Et Uus Saaks Alguse which translates as New Beginning – and she begins with an impressive first sound check rehearsal. She’a vision in black and white… but like a butterfly she emerges all in colour. Dressed in white. This is a really nice ballad and she sings it much gusto. Hopefully it won’t get lost on semi-final one night, because it does deserve get through to the final. The butterfly reference was a sort of pun just then – as if no one has noticed, this year’s motif is a butterfly with the phrase, We Are One. Aren’t we just. Throughout Malmo there are adverts with with butterflies made up of flags from competing counties painted onto smiling faces. All very impressive and adds to atmosphere to the place.

Back to rehearsals, Birgit is performing her last try-out. You can make out more of the stage here – nice impressive backdrops. It’s also a decent size. The organisers have placed human-size cut-outs on the floor below the stage where the fans will be standing. Expect fist-cuffs to get into prime position. Also a good opportunity for a pitch invasion! Well you can’t trust these Eurovision fans. Bring out the cattle-prods I say.

And out comes the dry ice. You can’t have a Eurovision without clouds of dry ice. I like dry ice. It’s a good finish to a good performance.

All going well so far. Slovenia next with Hannah singing Straight Into Love. We could all do with a bit of loving. I’m just muttering away waiting for her to come on stage. And here she is with three male backing dancers. All very lively – the strong is an upbeat electro-pop number. All the performers seem to be in full dress rehearsal – all clad in black leather or imitation. Maybe PVC? Hannah’s top seems to made up of  loose chain-mail. A good act, but will it stand out enough to go through to the final? Well the sexy Hannah should stand out. She’s definitely giving it her all. The dancers all perform their robotics poses well. Lots of back flips, press-ups and the like as well. It’s Eurovision – this is all bread and butter to us.

The cat-walk part of the stage is being used effectively. More opportunities for the fans to grab their heroes. Or jump up and give them a hand. Some of them may need it of course.  But don’t worry, I won’t shame the club by trying to jump on stage. Probably too high for my ageing body. I’ll have to bribe of our younger members instead. If anyone from the EBU is reading this – I’m only joking of course…

I’m listening to Hannah for the fourth time now. I think that’s enough – she’s done a good job. Go and have a rest girl.

One of my favourites is on next – Croatia. We saw the group last night in one of the main squares enjoying the sights of this fair city.

The six-man group are called Klapa S Mora singing Mizerja (Hard Times). And hard times it is. Not that we would know it here in our Eurovision bubble where the outside world remains a mystery to us for two weeks. Eurovision rules – and don’t you forget it.

And here they come – OMG – what fab outfits! They look like matadors wearing long gowns and boots. Only at Eurovision. Fashion statements galore! They lads produce great harmonies here – hopefully the outfits won’t distract. This is my second favourite song in the contest – I’m a sucker for traditional Balkan sounds – and this is traditional as it gets. I hope we get some dry-ice mist.

It’s a simple formance from Klapa – as is the style of the song, there’s no great movement across the stage. Just stand there and sing. It works for me. Still waiting for the dry ice mist though. Probably can’t afford too much of it – hard times after all. But this song helps you forget about it. Excellent!

Lunch break here the Euroclub now.

The first of the Meet & Greet will start soon. Basically the performers are coached from the arena to the Euroclub so we can have a brief press conference with them. Why we just can’t use the Press Centre for these first rehearsals is beyond me. It’ll be far more convenient for everyone. Anyway, mustn’t moan. It’s a thrill just to be here.

These Meet & Greets will naturally happen during rehearsals, so I’ll have to miss something, but I’ll try and be in two places at once as much as possible.

I was expecting fewer journalists this year because of this first rehearsals/Euroclub business, but it’s packed in here. Every year I see more and more of the same faces. It really does feel like a Eurovision family here.

And here we go. Our host is on stage now telling us that Malmo is the coolest city in Sweden. Malmo is apparently the fifth greenest city on the world.

Here’s Hannah — she’s telling us the stage is wonderful and huge. She was pleased with her performance. Good sound quality. She’s singing Shine acappella  – probably not a good idea. Anyway, after that brief intro, she’s going to give two minute ‘speed-dating’ style interviews with four journalists at a time around a mall table. It’s too much like a scrum for my likely. What a naff idea. She’s naturally surrounded by loads of journalists getting in the way and taking photos. Can’t see or hear a thing.It wouldn’t be too bad if they used a microphone! I’ll probably stick the more professional proper press conferences in the Press Centre during the second rehearsals.

Denmark are about to begin their first rehearsal on stage. At least we have a decent cinema screen to watch everything here. Emmelie de Forest is the singer – dressed in white she accompanied by backing singers and marching drummers (who also play the flute). Only Teardrops is a powerful anthem. It’s just got a big roar here in the cinema. This is definitely a possible winner. It seems to tick all the boxes to win. The act seems similar to the one she performed at the Danish national final. Starts off on the floor on her knees, gets up turns around to reveal her microphone equipment coming out of her back.

If Emmelie wins, she’ll become the fifth performer to have won the contest barefoot. Trivia question: can you name the other four? I’ll reveal who they are at the end of today’s blog.

There are some smart accessories on display her. Emmelie is wearing some elaborate ear-rings (that don’t really match her bracelets) while one of the drummers sports a smart watch. You deserve to know these things.

A very polished rehearsal – and here come the pyrotechnics – a nice waterfall effect. This, so far, is the song to beat. It’s a shame that Copenhagen will be so expensive!

Waiting for Russia now. I see lots of balloons being set up. Oh, they’re light globes. Not sure of the significance, but I always question why acts have to bring on props – unless absolutely necessary – especially when you can do  great effects with lighting and graphic display backdrops.

Anyway Dina Garipove, singing What If, is a vision in pink. This is somewhat of a traditional Eurovision ballad. Nothing wrong with that of course. It’s quite a powerful song that should do well for Russia. Quite a contrast to last year’s Grannies. I’ve changed my mind about those globes. I quite like them now. Creates a nice ambience to the performance. Understated, but works perfectly. Ooops, one of the backing singers was meant to give Dina a small white balloon, has just dropped it instead. Tempted to make a joke about dropping balls, but I shall resist.  Hope it’s not an omen…

Dina is currently having a serious chat with the floor manager – obviously wanting a few changes.Didn’t notice any problems myself, but there’s  lot of discussion t the moment.

She’s obviously isn’t going to wear her pink gown on the day – she just had a colour check on her outfit that’ll be wearing for the final – a white/silver number.

A last rehearsal for Dina now. Ah, I see the idea about the small white balloons. Two backing singers get Dina to touch and bless them, who then throw them into the audience. Are they mad? They’ll be a scrum for them. There’ll be chaos in the arena! They’ll have to call in the army!! Think I’m kidding, huh? Expect to see them on eBay on Sunday 19th May.

We’re just waiting for Ukraine. They’ve just made a colour check on her outfit – and headgear. It’s going to be a great show! I have good feeling about this song. One of my favourites. It could do really well.

OMG. She’s being carried on stage by a giant of a man. But she’s knocked off her microphone equipment. Thank god for first rehearsals!

The song is called Gravity and sung by the powerfully lunged Zlata Ognevich. Ukraine always deliver – and this year is no exception. The gentle giant doesn’t do much of anything after his initial appearance – which is a shame – might as well make more use of him. He must be tallest person in Ukraine. But back to Zlata – she could very well deliver the contest back to Ukraine. Again, it’s one of those songs that tick all the boxes of a winner. Zlata spends the whole of the performance on a rock – which is just well considering the outfit she’ll be wearing on the day. The performance is causing a few titters in the screening room. I do think Zlata is brave to spend all her time perched on a rock without too much room for movement though — we might see the title of her song in action!

Zlata seems exhausted  and bewildered -her hair is al over the place – but it’s worth the effort! There’s a sort of eerie fairy-tale theme to the act. I like it. Just give her some hair spray on the night.

And the final rehearsal of the day belongs to the Netherlands – with their superstar, Anouk, singing Birds. This is a another favourite of mine. A lovely haunting song sung expertly by someone with a great voice. A very understated performance. It’s a simple set up for the stage for this act. Anouk just stands there and sings. If you look carefully you can see three backing singers. Will this finally be the song to get the Netherlands back into the final again after so long. Not much more to say here really. Thumbs up.

Right-o that was the last of today’s rehearsals. Tomorrow we’ll see the remaining eight songs for semi-final one.

Downstairs t the Euroclub, the meet and greets are continuing. My colleague, David Elder is taking photos of these interview for the next issue of Vision magazine.

The Russian singer, Dina, just came on stage. Answered a quick question about winning the Russian version of The Voice, then off the stage for some speed-dating questions. To big a queue for me to get involved. I’ll see her and others at the proper press conferences in a few days time.

But before I sign off — here’s Anouk from the Netherlands. We heard that she was a bit of a diva and wouldn’t turn up today, but here she is. And good for her. She says she had a good rehearsals and is looking forward to the rest of the contest. I like it when my favourites performers turn out to be nice people with a good attitude.

Okay, that’s all for today. More tomorrow.

Here are the answers to the trivia task I set you earlier – the four barefoot Eurovision winners were: Sandi Shaw (of course), Sertab Erener Dima Bilan and Loreen.

Malmo gets ready

Hass Yusuf here — just testing to see if the blog connection is working. If you’re reading this – it is!

Well it’s the evening of Sunday 5th May. It’s been a day of flying in to Copenhagen, then getting a train to Malmo — very convenient. Exploring the area – lots of nice food on offer. And the Swedes are fab.

Malmo looks like a fab place. The Euroclub is near a good restaurant area and just down the road from Malmo Central train station. The Eurocafe is a bit further out, but apparently is well organised. Lots of Eurovision to get you in the mood. Not that most of you need persuading.

Rehearsals will start on Monday morning. May the madness begin!

Thank You

I would like to thank Hass for providing a daily account of events in Baku during the past few weeks, and I know we will all forgive him for the occasional typo.  Having been in the press centre at past Eurovisions, I know first hand how difficult it can be using unfamiliar computers and keyboards.

I also want to thank Hass and David for remaining calm throughout the ticket saga and ensuring that everyone received tickets for the three live shows.  Yes, some people did not make it to the Monday rehearsal, but these tickets were not part of the paid package and were totally unexpected.

As well as Hass and David, and Simon who was also working hard behind the scenes to ensure tickets were received and distributed, I would like to thank all of our members who travelled to Baku for their patience and understanding throughout what turned out to be a very stressful few days.

Gordon Lewis (Editor-in-Chief)

Vision – the OGAE UK Magazine

Baku Blog Day 14

Vision magazine editor Hassan Yusuf reports from Baku, Azerbaijan, home to Eurovision 2012.

Well only a few hours left for the musical event of the year!

The team thinks it´s either Italy, Spain, Moldova or Ukraine.

We´ll soon find out.

And the winner is…..


Well done to Loreen on a runaway win. So sometimes the favourites do win.

It was very sad however to us in 25th place with 12 points. I think Engelbert did a great job, and deserved much better. However, this is Eurovision where things make little sense! But what a great contest it was.

This has been an exhausting Eurovision.  Parts of it were great – parts of it frustrating.

This is Hassan Yusuf signing off. See you next year somewhere in Sweden!

Baku Blog Day 13

Vision magazine editor Hassan Yusuf reporting from Baku, Azerbaijan – home to Eurovision 2012.

It’s Friday May 25th! Nearly there! I’m nearly Eirovisioned-out!

Yesterday afternoon, before setting off to get ready for the live performance of the Semi-Final Two, David Elder and myself had a five-minute interview with Italy’s singer, Nina Zilli. An article based on the interview and press conference will appear in the post-Eurovision issue of Vision, out in July. I’m hoping she’ll turn out to be winner, if it’s not Engelbert. She came off as very down to earth, has a good idea how the contest should progress – and has an interesting history.

So last night we had the live performance of Semi-Final Two. Those of us who gave predictions all got seven out of ten. For my predictions, I was surprised to see Malta and Lithuania get through. Pleased for Macedonia though. But so sorry to see Netherlands out. But pleased any more the viewing public won’t have to endure this year’s Georgian entry.

Anyway, those that got through:

Lithuania (to sing in position 4)
Bosnia (5)
Serbia (24)
Ukraine (25)
Sweden (17)
Macedonia (22)
Norway (12)
Estonia (11)
Malta (21)
Turkey (18)
Back to today, the Big Five and Azerbaijan are having their second press conferences. Just had time to hear Engelbert again. He states that he was very proud to have been asked to represent his country. If he had been asked in the past, he would said ‘yes’ immediately. He thinks the contest is great – but there’s no let up in rehearsals – everything is being tweaked to make it perfect.  He had a meeting with the Azeri singer, Sabina – and thought she was a great singer. He also met Jedward, who are destined to a bright future. Elvis Presley was a good friend of his – and showed us a lucky charm that the King gave out to his close friends. Someone asked if Elvis learned anything from him – he replied he learned from Elvis, not vice-versa!

I also attended the meeting of Presidents and representatives from the OGAE organisations. A few new countries became official members. The problems with all the fan seats were explained to us – basically one big screw-up from the authorities. Big headaches galore. All names and passport numbers have to be printed on the ticket for the grand final for security reasons. Naturally – loads are incorrect so have to be reprocessed. What fun.

A large number of UK members were seated right behind the stage last night. Interesting view actually seeing things from ‘reverse’. The hall looks great from that angle.

I hear lots of shouting in the press conference – it must be Spain. The Spanish fans are a loud lot – but enthusiastic. If the UK or Italy doesn’t win – then the prize must go to Spain.

The first dress rehearsal for the grand final will begin shortly. I’ll be watching it in the press hall on the big screen. As usual, just a few quick words as the action happens.

And we’re off! Dance act to start things off. Lots of fluorescent jackets. Someone’s flying. Female traditional dancing.  Drummers. Blokes dancing. It’s Ell & Nikki from last year singing their winning song. Oh dear, break down. We have audio – no vision. No audio again.

United Kingdom: Engelbert Humperdinck. The screen went dead. But probably fab.

Hungary: Compact Disco. Still a dead screen. But probably fab.

Albania: Rona Nishliu. Part vision. No audio. She looks great though. Fab.

Lithuania: Donny Montell. And we’re back. Just as he’s finishing.

Bosnia: Maya Sar. Bosnia always get through to the final – but many were surprised to see this go through – as it a very understated performance. Good ballad though. She looks elegant in black.

Russia: Buranoskiye Babushki. It’s those grooving grannies. All in their red outfits. It’s a load of rubbish of course, but you can’t but cheer along.

Iceland: Great Salome & Jonsi. Something sensible now. An Icelandic folk song. Greta knows hows how to handle a fiddle. Fab,

Cyprus: Ivi Adamou. Time for a bletter. Table dancing. Great Amazon dancers. Best Cypriot song in ages. Ivi is the only non-Brit Cypriot that has managed to get Cyprus into the final. Fab.

France: Anggun. It’s those bare-chested gymnasts now. Anggun looks good and sounds fab. She’s wearing a gold bodice. Very nice. Everyone’s leaping over her. Get down girl! Fab.

Italy: Nina Zilli. Pure class. Italian styling at its best. The 1960s are back. It must win. Send me to Italy next year! (Or Manchester of course.) Fab!

Estonia: OttLepland. Time for another great ballad. Great moody and powerful performance – but the audio is off again. So much for new technology and camera links. Still fab.

Norway: Tooji. No sound – but frantic dancing with back-flips galore. Sound is back. Nice Middle East tune.

Interval/Green Room/commercial break.

Azerbaijan: Sabina Babayeva. The ballad isn’t bad, but all eyes might be on that dress. It’s that strange seated bloke again. Great rid of him – she doesn’t need him. Singing in position 13, won’t be unlucky for her.

Romania: Mandinga. A favourite. Great salsa sound. And great dancing. nothing more to add really. Fab.

Denmark: Soluna Samay. She’s done her hair. Simple routine on stage with her band.

Greece: Eleftheria Eleftheriou. Time for something uptempo. Ethnic pop sound. Ele knows how to wriggle it. Aphrodite personified. Fab.

Sweden: Loreen. More manickness. Apparently this is a runaway favourite. Sweden is fab. I’m sure they won’t block book hotels. She does give a great performance though. Not your ‘usual’ Eurovision performance. Fab.

Interval/Green Room/commercial break

Turkey: Can Bonomo. It’s the batman sailors. Clever routine. Can’s got a great personality which helps the song along. Fab.

Spain: Pastora Soler. More class again. Best Spanish song in, well, decades probably. She in light powder blue – looking like an ancient greek goddess. What a voice! The press hall start applauding. Out comes the wind machine. Perfect performance. Could win it. Fab.

Germany: Roman Lob. Another favourite – written by Brits, hence it’s Britpop sound. Would be better without the band on stage – but Roman knows how to deliver. Great facial expressions. Fab.

Malta: Kurt Calleja. This is a pure pop number. Dated pop number. Still, it is good fun – and Kurt knows how to groove it. Eurovision in Malta would be great – but maybe another year.

Macedonia: Kaliopi. She certainly knows how to rock it. The key change makes the song. Fab.

Ireland: Jedward. Shower-porn.

Serbia: Zeljko Joksimovic. This man can do no wrong. Great ethnic Balkan sound. Fab.

Ukraine: Gaitana (Giganta). Another favourite. Just a great football anthem. So much movement and energy. Roll on Euro 2012! Fab.

Moldova: Pasha Parfeny. What a great ending to a great Eurovision. Pasha is a great character. A nice mash of a showtime tune with a bit of ethnic Moldovan sounds mixed in. A happy ending for all. Fab

So, who is going to win? So many songs can do it.

In with a good chance: Sweden, Spain, Italy, Ukraine, Serbia, Russia, Romania.

Could also do it: UK, Turkey, Greece, Moldova, France, Germany, Estonia, Cyprus, Norway, Azerbaijan, Denmark.

Probably won’t do it: Hungary, Albania, Lithuania, Bosnia, , Malta, Macedonia, Ireland.

Maybe back later with the predicted definite winners from the team.

Baku Blog Day 12

Vision editor Hassan Yusuf reports from Baku, Azerbaijan – home to Eurovision 2012.

Not much to report today – we’re all waiting for the live Semi-Final Two show which starts here at midnight.

Security seems to have been increased an extra notch. I swear half the population is employed in the security services. Still, better safe than sorry.

Had a wander in the old city earlier – very nice. Baku was obviously an old port protected by high walls. There’s a rather long tower that will probably offer great views of the city. The sea front here is also very nice.

The show tonight will be quite exciting – there are fours songs that I really want to go through – Netherlands, Ukraine, Turkey and Estonia.

Alexander Rybak, Norway’s winner from 2009, is giving a press conference. I really can’t be bothered. How many times do we have to listen to Fairytale?

May possibly do a quick interview with Italy’s Nina Zilli for Vision magazine this afternoon.

I may be back tonight with the results of the lucky ten that have got through to the final, along with their performance placements.

Baku Blog Day 11

Vision editor Hass Yusuf reporting from Baku, Azerbaijan, home to Eurovision 2012

Technical difficulties solved. Naff PC – but plenty of working ones in the press centre.

So anyway,  nine out of ten correct predictions wasn’t bad. Delighted that Hungary through, even though I would have preferred Switzerland to Denmark. Other than that, no big surprises.

The ten countries that made it through to the final were:

Romania (to sing in position 14)
Moldova (26)
Iceland (7)
Hungary (2 — eeekkk! Bad luck guys)
Denmark (15)
Albania (3)
Cyprus (8)
Greece (16)
Russia (6  – one for each granny)
Ireland (23)

Tonight at 6.00pm Baku time will be the first dress rehearsal for Semi-Final Two. I will be reporting from the press centre watching all the events from the big screen.

But before that we’ve just had the EBU press conference.

Pointers: There was significant difference for two songs from the juries and televoters. But both set of voters more or less agreed on the other eight songs.

Albania could not show the programme live as there was a bad accident in the country that the national broadcaster had to concentrate on.

During the Romanian performance, the lead singer lost her playback so was singing without the aid of the music going through her ears. But as they got through, no harm done. But technical difficulties like these do happen during live shows.

There was a 80% live stream increase from last year.

The programme booklet was able to be downloaded as a eBook for the first time.

An archive project is set to be ready by 2015 to celebrate 60 years of Eurovision.

Dates for next year’s show are May 14, 16 and 18. But these will have to be confirmed by the host broadcaster. (If not the BBC, them RAI please.)

As for the future of Eurovision – there may be a time when it may need to be scaled down – especially if a small country has to host. We have been spoilt in recent years that rich countries have been able to host.

And we’re off – with just a short introduction from the hosts.

Serbia: Zeljko Joksimovic.  Starts off in blue – all moody. Zelj is in black. White t-shirt – obviously not dressed for the occasion. Arms spread white showing off his M&S t-shirt. Musicians getting into the act. Excellent. Will walk it to the final and challenge a top spot. Thumbs up.

Macedonia: Kaliopi. More blue. She looks intense. All in black. Great voice. I like her. The song gets more uptempo. Total professional. Thumbs up.

Netherlands: Joan Franka. It’s Indiana Joan. She looks fab with feathered headgear, playing guitar. Jolly song. We all love her. Good backing musicians – always good to see the accordion in use. And a fiddler.  Thumbs up.

Malta: Kurt Calleja. Here’s Mr Smoothy. Guitarist trying to upstage him. In fact the whole band are. Groovy leg movement. Acrobatics. Female drummer. Good female backing singer. Not for me. Heard it a million times before from Malta.

Belarus: Litesound. Blue background again. Saving money on colour. Great band – whoops – music has stopped. Technical difficulties. Starting again. Stopped again. Third time lucky? Still blue background. Dig those microphone stands. The lads are the nicest in the contest I’m told. Down to earth and will talk to the fans. How can they get their bodies at 90 degree angles? Won’t spoil the surprise. Good song. Thumbs up.

Interval/Green Room/commercial time

Portugal: Filipa Sousa. Blue again! She looks sexy – thigh length split sparkly gold dress. She singing her fado song with great passion. The backing singers all look and sound great. If only the rest of Europe appreciated this style of song. Doubtful it’ll go through though *sniff*. Thumbs up.

Ukraine: Gaitana (Giganta).  Blue yet again. Time for footie. Four mini screens behind her adding to the action. She’s in silver. Strange outfit. Tassels galore. Shake it girl, shake it!  But slow down – I can’t keep up! Love it! Thumbs – and more – up.

Bulgaria: Sofi Marinova. White light start this time. She’s wearing white to match – short dress with golden girdle.  And white thigh-length boots. We like. Shame about the song.

Slovenia: Eva Boto. Back to blue. Oh yes, it the House of Hammer Vampire Brides. But they are all lovely. Plenty of tight bodices. And the song isn’t bad – a moody ballad. Wind machine at work. Thumbs up.

Croatia: Nina Badric. Bit of a slow start. Black outfit – short at the front, long at the back. Oh it’s those male dancers with the skirts again. And black boots.  Here comes the bed sheet. Hope no one is falling asleep. Nice – but making up numbers.

Sweden: Loreen. Here she is – a predicted winner. Flashing spotlights galore. Wind machine in full force. She’s still in her Hecate outfit. She can’t sit or stand still! It’s snowing. Here comes a dancer to give her a leg-up. He’s joining in the action. How very fab. Thumbs up.

Georgia: Anri Jokhadze. The mad monk returns. Help us all. This will probably go through because of friendly voting, but the song isn’t my cup of tea. Great performance though. Those space age outfits the females singers are in more than make up for the song – just. He’s playing the piano now. Is it over? Yes. Whew.

Turkey: Can Bonomo. Bit of a delay. Hello sailor. cheeky chappy. Dancers with capes build a ship. Very clever. Someone’s a Batman fan. Great ethnic sound. Lots of energy. Thumbs up.

Estonia: Ott Lepland. It’s gone dark for Ott – for his very moody song. Simple but effective performance. Really hope this goes through. Thumbs up.

Interval/Green Room/commercial break.

Slovakia: Max Jason Mai. Flashing lights! Oh dear. Jealous of hair though. Showing off his chest again. Again jealous. As far as hard rock goes – this is great though. Something for everyone in Eurovision. But not for me – even though I have grown to respect it.

Norway: Tooji. Here comes the hoodie. Lots of dancing. Pure pop. Heard this song so many times in the past – but the occasional Middle East sound makes it a bit unique. Great energy though. The sudden stop near the end will confuse the clappers.

Bosnia: Maya Sar. A spotlight on Maya who’s just sitting at the piano. Decent love song – that builds up to a nice chorus. Might struggle to get through to the final though. Though the Balkan vote will help her. She’s up on her feet now to make the most of the wind machine. Slow finish.

Lithuanian: Donny Montell. Back in blue. Donny’s wearing his bling blindfold. Great voice. He looks like 12. Here comes the key change. Off comes the blindfold. Back-flip. Imaginary guitar playing – either that or he’s being rude. Great backdrop. And by strange coincidence, the blind journalist opposite me is leaving.

Back to the three presenters.

Oh no – the interval act – Dima Bilan is back. Time for a cup of tea. But hold on – we seem to be treated to a mini-concert of previous winners. Here’s Marija Serifovic from Serbia now. Alexander Rybak from Norway. Lena from Germany. Now they’re all singing Waterloo by ABBA along with Ell & Nikki, last year’s winners from Azerbaijan. I would’ve preferred something more ethnic as semi-final one – but this is a nice effort.

Back later with predictions.

And due to the wonders of time-lapse typography, here we are!

These are the ten songs from tonight dinner table team of songs that we think will go through – not our favourites.

Hass Yusuf

David Elder

Liam Whelan

David Ransted

Robin Scott

We all agreed on eight songs, with conflicting views over Macedonia, Malta, Belarus, Slovenia,Bosnia and Lithuania. No votes for Portugal,Bulgaria, Croatia, or Slovakia.

Personally I would love to be wrong – would much rather Macedonia goes through rather Georgia.

Let’s see what’s happens Thursday evening!

Day 10 Message

Due to unexpected technical difficulties, Hass Yusuf has not been able to post a blog today.  He may be return after the semi-final and should be back tomorrow whatever happens.  Please keep checking for the latest news straight from OGAE UK’s man in Baku.

Baku Blog Day 9

Hi all – having technical problems creating a new Day 10 blog: Tuesday May 22, so I’m just attaching this before the Day 9 stuff.

Not much happening today – the Semi-Final One live show starts here in Baku at midnight. Will try to report back later with prediction results – and any shocks. If those grannies don’t get through…


Vision magazine editor Hass Yusuf reporting from Baku, Azerbaijan, home to Eurovision 2012

Disclaimer: As most of this blog is being written as the action happens, spelling mistakes, bad grammar, missing words may creep through, so just go with the flow.

Day 9 already! Today will be a bit more relaxing as there are no rehearsals – except for the two dress rehearsals for semi-final one – and they start at 6.00pm and midnight local time.

Anyway, back to last night. After the UK press conference when Engelbert Humperdinck amused us all, I went along to the Italian press conference. If Engelbert doesn’t win it for us, I quite fancy going to Spain or Italy next year – and I’m pretty sure the wonderful Nina Zilli singing L’Amore E Femmina (Out Of Love) will do for the Italians.

She was sent to the States as a young girl to learn English by her parents – and her biggest musical influences were stars like Nina Simone (who she was named after), The Temptations and Chuck Berry to name a few. When she was 18 she wanted to practice her singing at bars and such, but wasn’t allowed to until she was 21.

Despite the title of her song, she doesn’t really see it as a feminist song. So why did she change her song for Eurovision? Many think her original entry Per Sempre was superior (it was slightly), but she felt that L’Amore E Femmina (Out Of Love) had more appeal – especially sung in English. Personally I think both songs are class acts.

She thinks the stage is cool – as I think she is! Just think if she wins – we’ll be going to an EU country – no visas, no hotels being block booked. Lovely.

There are rumours that the Italian broadcaster, RAI, don’t really want to win and host the contest next year. That’s all nonsense says the Head of Delegation. When you enter Eurovision, you must have a plan to host it the following year, and the Italians will honour that agreement.

After that press conference we had to make a quick exit to attend the special Ralph Siegel 40th anniversary meal. This was special four-course meal to celebrate Siegel’s 20th Eurovision entry and his 40 years of composing songs for the contest.

It was lovely evening which featured a group of Azeri children singing, a traditional band, Valentina Monetta – and a video montage of all his hits. I had forgotten how many great tunes he has written. Some great classics. Ralph also gave out various awards to all his helpers over the years. He also revealed the winners of an internet contest where fans were encouraged to produce their own video for The Social Network Song.

He came across as very humble and amicable. May his long career continue – and I would love San Marino to qualify – Valentina is lovely, but I fear it may lose out – but you never know with Eurovision! Fingers crossed.

And that might be the blog for today. The rest of it will be spent trying to sort out the tickets for OGAE UK members! Might get to see a bit Baku one day. Though the taxi journey to Ralph Siegel’s hotel last night showed how many of the poor live – narrow streets, slum-like buildings. Not everything is new or ‘amazing’ – just real life.

Probably back tomorrow or later – with predictions as to the lucky ten acts that will go through to the final from semi-final one.

Well it’s being hours since I wrote the above. Been waiting with OGAE UK ticket co-ordinator David Ransted for hours, wasting the whole day at the press centre waiting for our tickets to arrive. The whole ticket process this year has been shambolic to say the least – and Ticketmaster have been rubbish. Still, no one is really surprised. Baku and Azerbaijan seems to be an interesting place – but the organisation has on the whole been dreadful. Probably the worst Eurovision regarding tickets in my experience. But on the plus side, the shows will be great, so I guess that makes up for all the background mess. And Baku has been a great place to visit. The good thing about Eurovision is that you do get to see places that wouldn’t usually be on the radar.

The press centre is slowly filling up as everyone gets ready for the first full dress rehearsal for semi-final one. May have to watch it on the big screen in the press hall rather than the arena, so we can sort out the tickets when they arrive. What a burden, huh? We may moan, but it is a privilege to be here in the Eurovision bubble to experience the whole extravaganza!

Hurrah! The tickets are here!

Rather than go into the arena to watch the show, I’m going to blog away and give a hand sorting out the tickets.

It’s late. It’s Azerbaijan.

And were off – here are our hosts. It’s him, Eldar,  who won for them last year accompanied by two female presenters, Leilar and one whose name I never caught.

For a dress rehearsal, they seem to be dressed very casual. Tesco rejects.

Here’s Montenegro. That mad monk Rambo Amadeus. Acrobatics. Signs, Trojan donkeys. Bad bankers. Confusion. Help.

Iceland: Greta and Jonsi. Normal order of the universe restored. Mountains. Good chemistry. Violins, Moody looks. Thumbs up.

Greece: The lovely Eleftheria. Unusual outfit. Legs. Lots of dancing – some traditional Greek. Wind machine. Thumbs up.

Latvia: Anmary: Boring outfits – going to wedding to someone they don’t like. Good interaction with backing singers. Amusing and decent song. More wind machines. OK.

Albania: Rona Nishliu. Alone on stage. Now – that’s an outfit! A gust of wind and she’ll be off! Lots of angst.  Tears. Great performance. What a voice. Thumbs up.

Interval/commercial break. Will show scenes from Opening Party.

Romania: Mandinga. Great energy. She’s sex on legs.  And more legs. Bag pipes. Legs.  Accordion. Legs. Trumpets. Legs. Drums. Legs. Fab tune. Thumbs up.

Switzerland: Sinplus. It’s gone all blue. Now red. Green. Female guitarist. Britrock at its best. Thumbs up.

Belgium: Iris. Sweet girl. Sweet song. But too forgettable.  ‘Nuff said.

Finland: Pernilla. Moody. Cello. Red hair. Matching Lipstick. Green outfit. Haunting song. Ethnic. Wind machine. Fab. Thumbs up.

Israel: Izabo. We’re back in the groovy sixties. Cheesy dancing. Lots of fun. Best Israeli song ever. Thumbs up.

San Marino. Valentina Monetta. Facebook friend. We like her. We like Ralph Siegel.What would we do without the internet. Go, girl, go! Very jazzy. Pure cheese. What’s that airplane pilot doing there?Thumbs up.

Cyprus: Ivi Adamou. All in silver. Dancing on table. Amazon female dancers. Bouncy. “Feel the energy”. I am. More sex on legs. Thumbs up.

Denmark: Soluna Samay. Nice girl. Boring song though. But a contender apparently.

Russia. Grannies. Dancing. Baking. Slippers. Thumbs up.

Interval/Green Room

Hungary: Compact Disco. Great band. Memories of the 1980s. Not Thatcher. Class act. Thumbs up.

Austria: Trackshittaz: Pole dancing. Bright bums. Speechless.

Moldova: Pasha Parfeny. Great energy. Great showtime-style sound. Busy and bright. Fab. Great outfits for female dancers and singers. Thumbs up.

Ireland: Jedward. John jumped over chairs for me. Boys in Cybermen outfits. Fountains. Hair different(!). Dancing. Shower. Thumbs up.

Three presenters back. Vote, vote, vote.

Predictions later!

And here they are. From our small team here. These are the countries that we think will get through – not our favourites. We’re voting with our minds, not hearts.

Hass Yusuf:

David Ransted

Robin Scott

David Elder

Very similar views here! We only disagree on Austria, Switzerland and Denmark. We would all like Hungary to go through, but don’t think it will happen.