GreenJolly – Orange Revolution 2004 Mastermind

Eurovision Song Contest 2005 participant

Archive for the 'GreenJolly' Category

May 24th, 2005

KIEV – Resisting attempts by the Ukrainian government and opposition to hijack it, the Eurovision Song Contest kept the cameras focused on the performers as favorite Greece earned the dubious honor of its first win in Europe’s biggest kitsch-fest.


None of the possible distractions – the 300,000 people on Independence Square, opposition pickets or a tent city organized by pro-Orange Revolution youth group Pora – could distract Europe’s 120 million television viewers from rooting for their favorite act.

The contest – the 50th since Eurovision began in 1956 – attracted 39 entries, the most ever, from as far afield as Iceland and Israel.

Bulgaria gave its maximum vote of 12 points to Greece, as did Albania, Serbia-Montenegro and Cyprus, as traditional allies helped Helena Paparizou’s seductive, Balkan-inspired performance, “My Number One,” claim the top prize early Sunday with 230 points. Malta came a distant second with 192.

A favorite of the crowds in Kiev was Zdob Si Zdub, or West Meets East, from first-time entrant Moldova. The group’s frantic chorus and drumming grandmother helped win the audience over to its weird folk-inspired tune, “Boonika Bate Doba” (Grandmama Beats the Drum-a). It finished sixth on 148 points, despite a perfect 12 from Ukrainian viewers.

Once Paparizou and her winning group had run onstage though a hail of silver ticker tape and hugged friends along the way, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko came out to address the crowd, squeezing Ukraine’s last few moments of glory before passing the torch to Greece with a special trophy for the new winner.

“This is the prize for the song that unites all Europe,” he said.

Whether the contest really did unite the continent, or even Ukraine, was another matter.

Ukraine’s entry, Greenjolly’s “Razom Nas Bahato,” or Together We Are Many, a politically charged anthem from last year’s Orange Revolution, did not go down smoothly with its eastern neighbors. Greenjolly earned a stingy two points from Russia and none from Belarus – a big change from last year, when Russia gave Eurovision winner, Ukraine’s Ruslana, 12 points, and Ukraine gave Russia 10 points.

Organizers ordered changes of the original lyrics, which included “Machinations, No. Falsifications, No. Yushchenko, Yushchenko, Yes!” But the message kept its revolutionary undertones with backing dancers wearing handcuffs before breaking free during the course of the song. The performance was preceded by images from last year’s revolution. Poland and Moldova reacted warmly, however, giving the song 12 and eight points respectively, out of 20th placed Ukraine’s meager haul of 30 points.

Belarussian-born Natalia Podolskaya, representing Russia, received the rowdy support and full 12 points of her native country for her anti-war soft rock anthem, “Nobody Hurt No One.” Ukraine voted her a modest four points as Russia went on to place 15th.

May 24th, 2005

Helena Paparizou of Greece won the 2005 Eurovision song contest in Keiv, Ukraine, with her performance of “My Number One.” Many oddsmakers favoured Paparizou going into Saturday night’s finals. Greeks reacted with joy and exhilaration, with many people taking to the streets in celebration.

Eurovision was first staged in 1956 and introduced the world to such artists as ABBA (1974) and Canadian Celine Dion, who won under the Swiss flag in 1988. Paparizou previously performed at Eurovision in 2001 with the band Antique, garnering a third-place finish.

Ukraine’s Greenjolly stirred up controversy by playing “Razom Nas Bahato (Together We Are Many).” Protestors sang the song during last year’s “Orange Revolution,” which paved the way for new elections and ultimately handed the presidency to the Western-oriented Viktor Yushchenko. Based on the choice of song, critics accused the new Ukrainian government of manipulating the vote that picked the group.

Other notable contenders in the contest included Norway’s Wig Wam, second place finisher Chiara from Malta, and Romania’s Luminita Anghel, who placed third.

May 20th, 2005

Accusations of political skulduggery are flying in advance of tomorrow night’s final of the Eurovision song contest, the annual extravaganza of Euro-pop kitsch.

The event is being hosted by Ukraine, last year’s winners. But suspicions have been roused by the fact that Ukraine’s entry for this year’s competition is none other than the election campaign anthem of the new Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko.

The group Greenjolly’s “Razom Nas Bahato” (Together We Are Many) was sung by demonstrators on the barricades as they protested against former president Leonid Kuchma’s regime in Kiev’s Independence Square.

The surprise choice of Greenjolly – a group largely unknown before the revolution, and added to the list of entries at the last moment – unleashed an torrent of criticism of the new government, which was accused of manipulating the vote.

The criticism was all the more intense because Greenjolly was running against local pop star Ani Lorak – who backed the former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich in the Ukrainian presidential election that eventually brought Mr Yushchenko to power.

The victory of Mr Yanukovich, Kuchma’s choice, in last year’s polls triggered huge protests in Independence Square which ultimately led to the result being overturned by the country’s highest court. Mr Yushchenko then went on to triumph in rerun elections.

One of his first moves after taking office in January was to state his commitment to hosting Eurovision, describing it as a showcase that could help the new Ukraine move closer to its aim of joining the European Union. More than 150 million viewers from across Europe tune in to watch.

Ukraine’s Ruslana won the contest in Istanbul last year and thus it fell to Kiev to host this year’s event.

Yesterday, there were scuffles between police and several hundred opposition protestors who tried to approach Kiev’s Palace of Sports, where on Saturday some 4,000 police officers will guard the contest.

And the protests are coming not just from disappointed Yanukovich supporters. “During the revolution, many no doubt listened with pleasure to this dilettante rap (Greenjolly),” said the online newspaper Ukraiinska Pravda. “But don’t the singers themselves understand that this emotion-charged work should have remained … a part of history and nothing more?”

To deflect criticism the group was obliged to modify the lyrics of the song. One verse in the original version went: “No falsifications! No lies! No machinations! Yes Yushchenko! Yes Yushchenko! This is our president!” The new version removes mentions of the current president’s name.

The dilemma of where to lodge the 40,000 people expected to turn up in a city that lacks mid-range hotels has led the authorities to set up a tent city in a park beside the Dnieper river that runs through the capital. Eurovision fans will be charged 10 dollars a night for the amenity.

This in its turn has enraged ecologists, who complain that the campers will frighten the birds, especially the nightingales, that live in the park, and could cause them to abandon their nests. “Is Kiev paying too dearly its conquest of European hearts?” asked the Den newspaper.

The Eurovision contest, first held in 1956, is often associated with music of questionable merit, bizarre costumes and marked political bias in the voting. Yet all these elements have contributed to its enduring popularity.

First staged in 1956, Eurovision introduced the world to ABBA – 1974 winners with “Waterloo” – and to the Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion, who won under a Swiss flag in 1988. More recent winners have tended to sink without trace, victims of the “curse of Eurovision.”

Britain is a five-time Eurovision champion, but has not won the contest since 1997, when Katrina and the Waves took the title. Our heyday was the 1960s, when big names like Lulu and Cliff Richard flew the Union Jack and, in Lulu’s case, won the contest.

Most Britons profess themselves too sophisticated to embrace the sort of cheesy Euro-pop that Eurovision celebrates, but every year some 8 million viewers tune in to watch the British entry being trounced.

News that this year’s British hopeful Javine Hylton has developed a sore throat the day before the contest seems unlikely to enhance Britain’s chances. The 23-year-old Girls Aloud reject had an early night yesterday but woke up this morning with an inflamed throat. Her spokesman said she was still intent on singing in Kiev tomorrow night, and that she had been prescribed antibiotics.

Ms Hylton says her aim is to restore British pride with the up-tempo number “Touch My Fire,” but bookmaker William Hill rates her a 25-1 outsider. The smart money is on “My Number One” by Greek singer Helena, a sultry, bouzouki-flavored number that bookies make the 2-1 favorite.

Many blame Britain’s recent lack of sucess on politics. The contest’s complex voting system, where each country awards others a sliding scale of points from 1 to 12 based on viewers’ telephone votes, gives rise to allegations of bias and favoritism.

Research released this week by academics at Oxford University suggests disgruntled Britons may have a point.

“Our analysis enables us to confirm that there are unofficial cliques of countries,” noted the authors of the scholarly paper How Does Europe Make its Mind Up? Connections, Cliques and Compatibility Between Countries in the Eurovision Song Contest.

The study identified clusters of countries with similar voting patterns, including the Hellenic axis of Greece and Cyprus and a “quasi-Nordic clique” of Scandinavian and Baltic states. Britain was among the countries that gave and received votes most widely.

“Despite the British tendency to feel distant from Europe, our analysis shows that the U.K. is actually remarkably compatible, or ’in tune’ with other European countries,” said Neil Johnson, one of the authors of the study.

BBC presenter Terry Wogan, always sardonically unsurprised when Norway gives maximum points to neighbor Sweden, disagreed, blaming Britain’s dismal 2003 result, in which duo Jemini received the dreaded “nul points” on a backlash against the unpopular Iraq war.

But Mr O’Connor begs to differ. “It was because it was a really, really bad song,” he said.

Despite the disagreements, it seems that nothing can lessen the appeal of a competition as fraught with diplomacy, feuding and delicate allegiances as the United Nations. Seven countries participated in the first-ever competition – 39 are competing this year, with 24 making it through to Saturday’s final. Lebanon, due to compete this year for the first time, pulled out after its national broadcaster refused to show the Israeli entry.

“The great thing about Eurovision is you can come at it from so many different angles,” said John Kennedy O’Connor, a fan since the 1970s and author of the official history of the competition.

“There are some people who take it deadly seriously, as if it were a major political contest. Others watch to see how bad it will be. You can enjoy it on so many different levels.”

Ukraine is not the largest country in Europe, contrary to the assertion below. At just more than 600,000 sq km, Ukraine comes in second after Russia’s 17m sq km, making Russia the biggest by area, not just in Europe, but in the world.

On the souvenir stalls of the Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Kiev’s Independence Square, the two key events of the city’s recent history sit side by side. Mugs and T-shirts bearing the logo of the imminent Eurovision song contest nestle between mementoes of last winter’s orange revolution, which locals call “the Maidan”. There are scarves printed with revolutionary mottoes and flattering portraits of President Viktor Yushchenko, whose disputed election defeat by the incumbent’s chosen candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, triggered massive demonstrations in the square and the end of a decade of political corruption in Ukraine.

It has been the unenviable task of Svante Stockselius to try to separate the two. In March, Stockselius, the executive supervisor of Eurovision, decreed that the contest be “non-political” after the shock winners of the poll to find Ukraine’s entrant were a trio called GreenJolly, with their orange anthem, Razom Nas Bahato (Together We Are Many). One verse ran: “No falsifications! No lies! No machinations! Yes Yushchenko! Yes Yushchenko! This is our president!”, which certainly makes a change from Boom Bang-a-Bang. “If it is political propaganda, then it might be against the rules,” Stockselius fumed. Holding back the tides of politics six months after a revolution, however, is the kind of challenge only King Canute would propose.

It may seem bizarre that a country’s new cultural era should begin with an event customarily associated with kitsch outfits and appalling lyrics, but that is how the cards have fallen. One of Yushchenko’s first actions after taking office on January 23 was to affirm his government’s commitment to hosting Eurovision (slogan: “Awakening”), acknowledging that this is Ukraine’s chance to show off its best side and move closer to its goal of EU membership.

Ukraine is the largest country in Europe and one of the least well known. In 2002, a continent-wide survey of attitudes to the country yielded the dismaying news that most people associated it with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the endemic corruption of former president Leonid Kuchma’s regime. If, that is, they associated it with anything at all.

“The first ambition is to show people from Europe that Ukraine exists, that it is a normal country with normal people,” says Dr Oleksandr Sushko of the Centre for Peace, Conversion and Foreign Policy of Ukraine, a Kiev-based think tank. “The major problem was not the bad reputation of Kuchma – the country was unknown. I am not a fan of Eurovision as a style of music, but it is very nice that so many young people are coming here.”

Like the process of reforming Ukrainian politics, this year’s contest has been a bumpy ride. The press has pounced on any hint of scandal. Amid rumours of ticket mis-selling, vote-rigging and spiralling costs, it was reported that the European Broadcasting Union was ready to move the whole contest to Malmo in Sweden.

At the Palace of Sports a week before the contest, however, everything seems to be going swimmingly. The Soviet hulk has been renovated and swathed in green, the official colour of this year’s contest (orange makes only a small, if potent, appearance in the logo). On the hi-tech stage, amid a dizzying whirl of revolving screens and tilting mirrors, dress rehearsals are taking place. Suntribe appear to be the Estonian Girls Aloud, and Wig Wam are definitely the Norwegian Darkness.

It’s business as usual in the press pack, too. Most of the 1,500 accredited journalists are Eurovision fans, and at the press conference for Belarus’s entry, former model Angelica Agurbash, there is a conspicuous lack of questions about her autocratic homeland’s crackdown on rock bands who support the opposition. Instead, an interviewer from Cyprus begins his interrogation with the zinger: “First I want to say how beautiful you are.”

That’s Eurovision for you. During its 50 years, politics have traditionally been confined to the blatantly partial voting, in which countries reliably confirm old loyalties and enmities. Only rarely has a song carried a political message: Portugal’s 1974 entry, After Goodbye, was the coded signal to launch a coup against the country’s rightwing dictatorship, and Bosnia-Herzegovina funnelled the trauma of war into The Whole World’s Pain in 1993.

There was nothing contentious about last year’s Ukrainian offering. Ruslana Lizhichko was only the country’s second-ever Eurovision entrant when her Wild Dances stormed to victory in Istanbul, instantly making her a national hero.

Like most pop icons, Ruslana is tiny. Dressed in jeans and T-shirt rather than her customary medieval leather, she shows off a shelf laden with accolades. Jostling with the usual industry trophies are more singular honours: a certificate naming her a Unicef goodwill ambassador (she campaigns on behalf of the children of Chernobyl), a flag from the activist organisation Pora and an orange medal awarded by Yushchenko’s government in recognition of her support.

Last November, despite Yanukovych’s attempts to co-opt her popularity, Ruslana appeared in Independence Square to announce a hunger strike in protest at the election result. She plays me a DVD that shows her standing on stage in an orange jumper, singing through a megaphone and greeting Yushchenko in front of cheering crowds.

Did she consider herself political before then? She shakes her head. “I was never involved in politics. I see myself only as a singer.”

But we’re watching her on screen in the heart of a revolution. “Psychologically speaking, the orange revolution was unique,” she explains. “The Ukrainian nation is very peaceful and calm. We don’t like ups and downs. A lot of Ukrainians still don’t believe that they all went out into the street.”

Ruslana was one of the reasons they did. The Maidan was a very modern revolution, broadcast on giant screens. As the protesters shivered, popular bands such as 5’nizza and Tartak performed in aid of Yushchenko. Ruslana remembers receiving panicky calls from musicians who had initially backed Yanukovich and now wanted to come to the Maidan but feared the crowd’s reaction.

“A lot of people think that this revolution was so widely successful only because there was music in Maidan and people could get away from the stress of the situation,” says GreenJolly’s frontman, Roman Kalyn, sitting in a cafe near the Palace of Sports. “Everybody involved in those free concerts was putting themselves in jeopardy because nobody knew how the revolution would end.”

GreenJolly owe their success to the Maidan. They have been together since 1997, specialising in Ukrainian comedy reggae – a genre of somewhat limited appeal. During the early days of the revolution, however, Kalyn, Roman Kostyuk (guitar) and Andriy Pisetskyi (keyboards and saxophone) wrote Razom Nas Bahato in just four hours, channelling key war cries into an infectiously strident hip-hop track. When a local radio station posted it on its website, the track became an anthem overnight. The next day GreenJolly performed it in Independence Square to 50,000 protesters; a few days later the crowd had swollen to half a million.

Razom Nas Bahato missed the Eurovision heats but was entered for the final vote, allegedly at the behest of deputy prime minister Mykola Tomenko. It beat the glamorous favourite, Ani Lorak, who publicly backed Yanukovich during the Maidan and complained that she lost phone and text votes due to suspicious technical problems.

It’s a touchy subject with GreenJolly. “Ani Lorak lost because she selected a song that was not her best,” says Kalyn. “We believe our song won, not the political position.”

GreenJolly’s victory didn’t upset just Lorak – who burst into tears – but also Svante Stockselius, who demanded that they write new lyrics. The band duly took out Yushchenko’s name, but their insistence that “the song doesn’t contain any politics any more” is less than persuasive, given that the first line is: “We won’t stand this – no! The revolution is on!”

The selection process controversy has been just one of several headaches for Pavlo Grytsak, the contest’s 25-year-old executive producer. Early preparations were mishandled by the state television company, NTU, and understandably sidelined during the Maidan. Since being appointed NTU’s vice-president in January, Grytsak has conjured up Ukraine’s biggest ever entertainment event from next to nothing. It is certainly the biggest challenge Kiev’s tourism industry has faced. Every hotel room in the city has been snapped up and 5,000 extra fans will be housed in a specially constructed tent city called EuroCamp. The total television audience is expected to top 120 million.

As the finals approach, the speed at which Grytsak dispatches cigarettes and cups of coffee betrays the strain he is under. However, he cheerfully counters all the rumours with: “There are no big projects without big problems.” So, yes, there were problems with online ticket sales but that was only because high demand made the servers crash. Yes, costs rose, but the contest has come in under its final budget of 104m Ukrainian hrivnias (£11m). No, he was never officially informed about moving the contest to Sweden. And no, GreenJolly’s victory wasn’t fixed. “Actually, I’m not a big fan of GreenJolly, but people voted for them,” he says. “Hundreds of thousands of people were standing in the square in the snow and rain and GreenJolly were singing for them. This is about social and emotional links, not only about the music.”

So is Stockselius doomed in his quest to make Eurovision politics-free? “I appreciate Svante’s position,” Grytsak says evenly. “We agreed that it shouldn’t be a political project, but after such a turbulent time it cannot only be an entertainment project. It is a social project. [The Maidan] was not only about political issues, it was about social and cultural changes as well.”

Walking through Kiev as the sun reflects off the glass domes of Independence Square, you can sense the buoyant new mood. Six months after the Maidan, there is a stage in the square once more, but this time its purpose is simply to showcase Ukrainian bands rather than to orchestrate a revolution. “The people who promote democracy and freedom of speech have won,” says Kostyuk. “Absolutely everything has changed.”

Standing in front of Hotel Ukraine at Independence Square, Kyiv, it looks like a square like any other square in big European cities. It was the place where, last year, Ukrainians gathered to protest against the election results. Although the revolution itself is over, the real changes take much more time. We spoke with GreenJolly, the Ukrainian Eurovision Song Contest representatives, about the Orange Revolution, their song, their future plans and the upcoming contest!

Roman Kalyn, Roman Kostyuk and Andriy Pisetskyi are the three members of GreenJolly. We met in front of the Monument of Independence at Maidan Nezalezhnosti, better known as Independence Square. Within minutes, people approached them for autographes, which made clear that the group is very popular among the locals.

Razom nas bahato is a song about revolution. What’s the meaning of the song for you guys?
Initially, the song was about revolution. We tried to move away from the political issues to a more freedom supporting song. See it like a European song of freedom! We just returned from our European promotion tour and we found out that no matter their age, people sing along the song. At the end, we feel proud that Ukraine chose this song and we are confident that they made the right decision. Not only for Ukraine, but also for the rest of Europe.

Tell us something about GreenJolly’s recent developments!
The band was founded eight years ago and since we got selected to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. Everything went really fast. There is a marketing strategy behind the band, we are working on an album which contains songs we wrote over the past eight years.

The organisation of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest has not been easy for your country. What is your conclusion on the organisation of this event?
We are confident that everything is okay. The governement and the broadcaster were very short in time, but due to co-operation from the highest level, everything seems to be just fine now. We heard many positive reactions on the stage and the events organised around the contest.

That brings us to the difficult period your country faced over the past months. What do you expect the future to bring to Ukraine?
We do expect big changes, both in terms of economy as well as the mentality, that has to change to make everyone feel free. We hope these changes come quickly!

Your song can be compared with hip-hop and rap songs, which are not considered as typical Eurovision Song Contest styles. Don’t you think that this might have negative effects on your result?
No, we don’t think so. We saw people between 3 and 75 years old singing Razom nas bahato.

Have you heard the songs of your competitors?
We heard them all (laughing). We like the girls about Bosnia & Herzegovina and Spain (we asked about the songs, but never mind). We also like the songs of Cyprus and Moldova. Every song can win theoretically, so you never know!

We learned that Ruslana supports you guys! How is she helping you to make this a success?
RUslsna didn’t help us directly with the entry itself, but she brought us in touch with CFC to take care of our public relations, which was important to us. She also told us about the mistakes she made before and after her victory. Ruslana is a great personality when it comes to the promotion of Ukraine and GreenJolly.

Speaking about Ruslana, could you ever imagine to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest?
Not at all! But we are very happy to be here and we feel very, very proud to represent our country. It’s great to get this opportunity. We hope that after the contest, we can do some tracks with Eminem, Sting, Madonna or Britney (guys are laughing)! Honestly, we are going on promotion tour for our album after the contest.

If you had 30 seconds to address the European audience, what would you say?
Hello Europe! Greets from GreenJolly from Ukraine! With our energetic song we would like to invite you to Ukraine. Our country is free and hospitable, so we are with you! Our hearts are in Europe, our soul is in Ukraine!

Thanks for this interview guys, good luck!