Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Ukraine's Housewife Superstar

For those among you who enjoy a quick flutter I'd advise a tasty yet unlikely ante-post bet. The race isn't on until the second week in May, but if you get your money on early you may be on for some tasty returns. Oh yes pop fans, bet all you can afford on a Ukrainian win, because Verka Serdushka is having a go at Eurovision again.

You may remember her previous attempt back in Helsinki in 2007. A vision in silver, the song Dancing Lasha Tumbai came in a close second to Serbia's Harry Potter-alike balladeer Marija Šerifović. She may not have won, but the following Monday the watercoolers of Europe were alive nothing but talk of this bonkers tin-foil clad trannie with a big star on her head, like some turbofolk Edna Everage from space. And like her antipodean cousin she's become an enormous star in her home country and  its associated empire.

The story goes back some 20 years when a teenaged performer called Andriy Danylko created the character of a larger-than-life middle aged railway ticket inspector from the sticks for a local comedy talent contest. His creation became an instant hit, and it wasn't long before Danylko had created a host of other characters and took the whole lot out on tour around the former Soviet republics, creating a massive stir.

Along the way he has put together nine albums of high octane East European oompah disco, plus the occasional collection of more laid back ambient tunes under his own name, but somewhere along the line it became clear that Eurovision was the logical international conclusion for his character's insanely bouncing storyline. It was feared that the character may be too much of a Ukrainian in joke, but those who didn't necessarily get the gag still enjoyed three manic minutes that turned the living rooms of Europe into a carnival of insane thrashing about.

But it nearly never happened. Questions were asked in the Ukranian parliament as to whether such a "grotesque and vulgar" artist should represent the country on an international stage. And their old grumpy uncles across the border were convinced the words 'Lasha Tumbai' - reputedly Mongolian for 'Whipped Cream' were actually the thinly veilled political dig 'Russia Goodbye'. Danylko claimed otherwise, but it was still enough to cause such a stir across that half of the continent that the song was already a massive international hit before that performance in the Finnish capital.

And now she's having another pop. She's only one of the 25 approved finalists as this point, but if the good people north of the Black Sea are still in on the joke and the ironics Eurovision fans of the West are out in force come May 15th, we could well be all back in Kiev come the spring of 2012 - and that would hardly be a bad thing, would it!

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