Thursday, 26 September 2013

Turkey leaves Eurovision Song Contest, starts new contest instead

Okay, not exactly 'indie' news or 'alternative' or anything but I think this is quite important nevertheless. That's right - Turkey has had enough of Eurovision. TRT, the Turkish national broadcaster, has deemed the Big 5 rule and the new changes in the voting system 'unfair' and thus has decided to leave the ESC completely. Originally withdrawing from the 2013 competition held in Malmö, it has now been announced that TRT will be hosting another song contest, titled Türkvision, as reported by SVT. The contest will be held in December, with two semifinals on 19th and 21st and then the final on 23rd. Sounding suspiciously familiar? How totally innovative and unheard of.

According to the Turkish newspaper Hüyrriet Daily News the contest brings together 20 countries and autonomic regions with Turkic populations. The Turkish Education Minister has denied that the new contest would in any way rival with Eurovision: "Turkvision does not need to be compared to Eurovision." (Well, what a great choice for the name of the contest, then.) "It will have its place in the Turkic world with its own brand value. Whether we participate or not in Eurovision, I hope that Turkvision will move forward in its own path, growing and expanding year-by-year."

I think it's fair to say that this is not just about the entertainment. Turkey has had several problems bubbling underneath the surface in the aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring and has moved significantly to a more conservative direction - something that has upset the liberal segments. The conservative government has enraged the public - well, a certain part of it, at least - which has led to conflicts between them, such as the Taksim Square protests that are still fresh in our memory. Is the country's abandonment of the Eurovision Song Contest and its replacement with a Turkic equivalent also part of this manifestation of Turkey's recent introversion? Do they want to thus reduce Western influences in the country that seeks to turn more towards their conservative traditionalism? I don't know. I'm just a music blogger. However, I don't think it's coincidental that the country, often regarded as a model for secular democracy in the Middle East, is now emphasising its connection with other Turkic areas at the expense of its connections to the West while simultaneously struggling with internal problems regarding Westernisation and liberalisation.

I don't know about you guys but I refuse to think that music - even the mass produced, disposable dance pop that accounts for most Eurovision entries - is 'just music' or 'entertainment'. It's more. That's why I'm writing this blog after all - I believe in music. And I doubt it's really about the voting either: Turkey has been disqualified from the finals only once during their entire Eurovision history while having finished eight times in the top ten during the 2000s, once even winning the whole thing. So yeah, it's hardly just about the music.

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