(Euro)visions of Amsterdam


If you’ll recall, I’m a huge fan of the Eurovision Song Contest: an annual music competition among the nations of Europe and their neighbors. I went to the French national selection show in February and had a fantastic time.

So when the opportunity arose to go to Eurovision in Concert this year — and not just to the live show but to go as press — I had to take it.

Eurovision in Concert is an annual preview celebration in Amsterdam, where most of the year’s acts for the Eurovision Song Contest perform their songs live to an audience of adoring fans from all over the world. This year, it was held at the concert venue AFAS Live on April 13.

I used to just watch my European friends from afar, on Twitter and Facebook, having a blast in Amsterdam, meeting the artists and partying to their favorite songs. And now I had the chance to do it, myself! While I enjoyed the concert and the afterparty, full of wild Eurovision fans donning colorful flags and gear, it was the pre-concert press session that I looked forward to the most.

Being a journalist isn’t something I take for granted. The level of access one gets to the people behind these big events is both an honor and a privilege. In the press room, I got to interview some of the artists, learn about their stories and their songs.

Me with Miki from Spain!

I got to talk to Miki from Spain, and how he feels that we should all let go of what society expects us to do and instead listen to ourselves. His song, “La Venda,” is an energetic, bouncy tune that tells us to let the blindfold fall and follow our dreams. Miki’s youthful energy is infectious, and when he tells you that you should visit Spain, you’re immediately convinced.

Me with Serhat from San Marino!

I also had a chat with Serhat, a Turkish TV presenter representing the little republic of San Marino. The man has star power, an attitude that’s both bigger-than-life and down-to-earth at the same time. His song, “Say Na Na Na,” might just seem like a lighthearted disco banger, but it’s also an inspirational ode to finding the hero in oneself. “We are all heroes,” he told me.

Me with Jonida Maliqi from Albania!

One other memorable interview was with the songstress Jonida Maliqi from Albania. When I asked for a selfie with her, she surprised me with a kiss on my cheek. Her song, “Ktheju tokës,” which she sings in Albanian, is a dramatic ballad about a return to the homeland. She says it’s a universal message that reaches anybody far away from home who desires to go back to their origins, even if not physically. “Don’t forget your roots, your identity,” she told me.

I spoke with a few more artists, all with interesting stories about their songs and their countries. You can check out my interviews at Eurovoix, if you so please.

I guess what draws me to Eurovision is exactly that it brings people together from all walks of life, from every corner of the globe. Nowhere else have I been able to experience such an energetic, diverse, genuine energy. I’m glad I get to be a part of this.