September 29, 2004

Azia Dauysy: The Central Asian Eurovision

For our multicultural TV channel, SBS, the Eurovision Song Contest is a serious ratings cow (500,000+ viewers, which is a big deal for a non-commercial station in this market.). As a result, its not only broadcast live; its preceded by a week off lead-up specials. (And its kiddie version, Junior Eurovision, is also televised.) So, with such a captive market, it would be nice if next year they could cast the net a bit wider, and expose us to some of the other multi-national pop “talent” quests that are out there… Like this one – Azia Dauysy (Voice of Asia), an international festival of song that’s held annually in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

If the website’s anything to go by, it immediately satisfies all the globo-trash-hound prerequisites. It’s got glitzy sets with blacklights and overactive smoke machines; gaudy costumes; and slick schlock pop… And, it also has a much broader catchment area than its more vaunted Eurocentric cousin – bringing in contestants from as far afield as the Czech Republic in the west, and the Phillipines in the east. As a result, you get a much wider variety of takes on the whole saccharine pop music ideal than you do in Eurovision… Like Georgia’s party-band answer to the Corrs, The Rondo Band; the Bollywood-meets-Urban-R&B stylings of Sri Lankan Nadine; the hilariously bad “sexy” balladry of the Czech Republic’s Tom Malar; and the Malaysian entrant, Waheeda, whose sinuous Middle-East-inflected singing is accompanied by sub-vocalised rapping.

Of course, all of the above is fairly disposable, and so far, the competition hasn’t produced anything as world-conquering as Abba, but it has thrown up one singer who has gone on to have a seriously credible career on the ethereal world music diva circuit – the Uzbek songstress, Yulduz Usmanova.
(To give you an idea of what she sounds like... Here’s a superficially silly track about illegal immigration (with darker undertones) called Kiss Me from her most recent album, Bilmadim, which can be purchased from 30 Hz Records... There are other streamed Yulduz tracks on this site.)

Posted by Warren at September 29, 2004 01:38 AM | World