Saturday, January 30, 2016

Festivali i Këngës for beginners

OK, here are the rules:

1.  You need to make yourself available for three nights around Christmas.  (In 2015, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the 27th of December). Although these dates may slightly change, FiK (as it shall be known) usually always takes place around Christmas.  So now you don't have to subject yourself to the 'joys' of Christmas TV.  But if you are a masochist and feel that way inclined, you can always record those shows anyway.  So thanks to Chromecast I can watch FiK on the big telly which explains the following screen shots from my living room!

2.  You need to throw any preconceived notions of start times out of the window.  FiK never starts when it's supposed to, but usually about 15 minutes later.  So in the meantime, sit back and enjoy the ads (more of them later) and some offbeat short films, and trailers with Michael Buble songs, and more ads, and clips of the Christmas lights in Tirana, and Buble, more ads, and trailers, Buble, Christmas lights, and ads, and (*explodes in frustration*) oh WTF when does this thing start???  But on the plus side it's an education because you will learn some new Albanian words and phrases.  And then it starts....

3.  Be prepared to sing along, or at least hum along, with the utter joy of the FiK theme tune.  This is arguably the best theme song of any Eurovision national final.

And if you want to belt it out even if you don't know a word of Albanian, the lyrics (and English translation) are on the FiK Wikipedia page. "The years pass, they flow one by one, a word is born, it becomes a melody, in each heart when you stop, you meet a new friend, we welcome you, our celebration".  Just lovely, isn't it!

4.  Be prepared for three very long nights ahead in this spectacular.  There are lots of songs in each semi-final, and not many of them are eliminated so there are also lots of songs in the final.   But there are equally a huge number of distractions which seriously affects the flow: so don't be surprised if the proceedings are interrupted by random speeches, sketches, more speeches, more sketches and who knows, even some old blokes singing "Gangnam Style".  Yes, people, you did not dream that, for it actually happened in 2015.  

5.  Expect the show to be presented by some old bloke (although we had a younger guy in 2014), accompanied by a reasonably glamorous but bored-looking younger woman.  With some hairdo variations.  It would be fair to say that the good people of Twitter-land weren't too thrilled with Blerta Tafani's styling this year.  Neither was she, if the first screenshot above was anything to go by.  

6.  Do you like orchestras?  Good.  For there is none of that backing-tape rubbish in FiK - it's a hardcore throwback to Eurovision's golden age where every song is backed by a live orchestra and each song has its own conductor.  In the years prior to 2015 the conductor got his own moment in the spotlight and an occasional camera shot.  Which would make this particular blogger very happy, given her fondness for a certain Mr Gridi Kraja.  But in 2015 it all changed - the conductors still get a mention but it's now blink and you'll miss them, no lingering camera shots any more.  They have been sidelined.  And that wasn't the only thing being sidelined in 2015 as the next 'rule' reveals...

7.  Do you like ad breaks?  For Eurovision fans, many of the ad breaks in national finals are often as iconic as the song contest itself; particularly if you have 6 hours to spare to watch the Maltese ads-interrupted-by-song-contest extravaganza.  When it comes to FiK, expect those long ad breaks to be dominated by ads for Eurosig, Vodafone and Ardeno to name three.  (Although in 2015 there was no sign of the cheesy singer at the piano or the Geraldina Sposa wedding dresses ad) The story so far: Ardeno, an Albanian furniture store, had expanded into Kosovo and Montenegro.  This was highlighted in the map at the end of the ad, which soon went into Twitter FiK fandom folklore, not because we have a thing for Albanian furniture stores, but for reasons of pure innuendo and nothing else.  

By 2015 though, they had expanded further and the legendary map had been axed from Ardeno's new ad, revealing this very boring conclusion....

Whether it was due to the company's further expansion into other countries, or them just spoiling our fun, we will never know. 

8.  Be prepared for guitars.  Lots of them.  For FiK loves guitars, and they will chuck in a guitar solo whether a song needs one or not.  Oh, and you can forget that three-minute rule at FiK too. Sometimes a song will last for 4 and a half minutes; sometimes it feels like 6 hours.  

9.  Forget televoting: FiK has been going for 54 years now, and as far as I know it has always selected its winners by a jury.  That remains the case even today.

10.  The Dashuri Drinking Game: it is the recommendation of this blog that you do not participate in this activity, which involves taking a drink every time you hear the word "dashuri" in a FiK song.  It is guaranteed that you would have alcoholic poisoning three songs in.  Please drink responsibly!

11. No, you can't sing along with it: having watched the last 4 FiK contests what strikes me is the rather different structure of Albanian songs, if this contest is anything to go by.

12.  After approximately 4½ hours (yes!!) of what feels like an interminable final on the 3rd night, a winner will finally be chosen by the jury.  Inevitably, the internet fan community will then go through the 5 stages of FiK grief: 1) Oh noooo!  2) Bad choice of winner.  3) Maybe with a revamp.... 4) It wasn't that bad, they could have chosen (insert your least favourite song) instead.  5) Maybe it'll sound better in English....

13.  2015 brought, for me, a surprise winner.  There were many highly-rated singers who made it to the final - Sigi Bastri, Klodian Kacani and Rezarta Smaja, Adrian Lulgjuraj, Luiz Ejlli, Teuta Kurti, fan favourite Besa Krasniqi, Nilsa Hysi, Flaka Krelani, Lindi Islami to name a few - but of the 22 entries selected for the final it was Eneda Tarifa (above) who surprisingly triumphed with "Përrallë" - not a tribute to Swedish singer Charlotte (!) but it actually means "Fairytale" (hmm....getting a little deja-vu feeling with that song title in Eurovision!) and the song has a 'Bond theme' feel but I just wonder if the drama of the Albanian version will translate well into English in Stockholm?  The most concerning aspect of this song for me was that it required a number of listens before I really found a "hook".  And when you only get one chance to impress in the semi-final, this could be a major obstacle for Ms Tarifa.

14. Does FiK always choose the best song every year?  Well, this is a matter of opinion but in this writer's opinion the answer  In FiK 54, RTSH really missed the opportunity of achieving a decent result in Sweden with this energetic rock song performed by the winner of The Voice of Albania, a young man named Aslajdon Zaimaj.  This was my favourite song in FiK 54.

And finally....

15.  What are you doing next Christmas?  For there's the 55th edition of a certain Albanian song contest going on....!  

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