Thoughts on Jamala’s ‘1944’

It has been nearly five months since the 2016 edition of the annual Eurovision Song Contest, so I do not blame you if the title of this post means nothing to you. The most important thing that you should know though is that it was won by Ukraine. (Ukraine is the country that you used to see on the news quite often and the one where the Malaysian airlines plane crashed, but whose political quagmire the world seems to be conveniently ignoring as of late). Ukraine was represented at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest by the singer Jamala who sang a song entitled 1944.

‘What’s the problem?’, you may ask. Allow me to tell you a few simple facts.

Jamala is a Ukrainian singer with Crimean Tatar heritage, who was born in Kyrgyzstan.

In 1944, the majority of the Tatar population of the Crimean Peninsula was deported to Central Asia, amongst them Jamala’s great-grandmother. Hence the song title.

It is also worth noting that the song was written in 2014, the same year that Russia annexed Crimea.

The rules of the Song Contest permit lyrics with historical context, but not with current political one. This is where the controversy of Jamala’s 1944 arises.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very glad that one of the positive side effects of the conflict in eastern Ukraine has been the increased public discussion of the persecution of various ethnic groups (including the Crimean Tatars) during the Soviet Union and how the discriminatory attitudes that underpinned the said Soviet government policies persist to this day in various forms.

I just think that the Eurovision Song Contest was not the place to have this kind of public discussion.

Because sometimes, you just want to turn on the TV and enjoy the programme and focus on what brings us together (i.e. music) rather than tears us apart (i.e. politics).



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