Flamenco in the Eurovision
Apart from the UK’s clean ‘nil point’ result and sympathetic applause for it, what did you enjoy most in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest? My husband and I wanted Iceland to win for their enchantingly ‘classic’ performance and their announcer/actor trying to give 12 points to the song ‘Jaja Ding Dong’ from the 2020 comedy film ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga’, which was based in Iceland.
While neither the UK nor Spain did very well, I’ve dug out some history of Spain’s participation in this international song competition in relation to flamenco. What I discovered is the fact that flamenco hasn’t been very popular.
Making a debut
The Eurovision Song Contest started in Lugano, Switzerland in 1956, and it’s been held annually since then, except the pandemic-cursed 2020 (instead of a real show, therefore, we enjoyed the aforementioned film on Netflix).
Spain’s debut in Eurovision was in 1961 (Cannes, France) with ‘Estado Contigo’ by Concha Bautista, a song originally sung by a child star Marisol in the 1961 film ‘Ha Llegado Un Ángel’. Her costume was more flamenco-like than the music itself. Spain placed 9th among 16 countries, not too bad for a debut.
The same singer, Bautista, represented Spain again in 1965 (Naples, Italy) with a more flamenco-inspired song ‘¡Qué Bueno, Qué Bueno!’, but it sadly came last, receiving nil point. If you watch this video, you’d genuinely wonder why her tremendous performance didn’t get any points...
Flamenco-infused songs in the Eurovision
A flamenco star Remedios Amaya appeared in 1983 (Munich, Germany), singing a flamenco-rock tune ‘¿Quién Maneja Mi Barca?’ written by José Miguel Évoras and Isidro Muñoz. Évoras also conducted the live orchestra. Despite the effort and authenticity, however, the song marked another last place (19th) for Spain, nil point.
‘Bandido’, a flamenco-pop song by Azúcar Moreno, enjoyed a better result (5th) in 1990 (Zagreb, Croatia), even though the pre-recorded music didn’t start to play properly and the girls had to leave the stage once, starting again from the beginning.
In 1996 (Oslo, Norway), Antonio Carbonell participated with ‘¡Ay, Qué Deseo!’, a Nuevo-Flamenco style piece written by Antonio Carmona, Josemi Carmona and Juan Carmona, i.e. Ketama. Although it was a beautifully performed stylish song, Spain finished 20th out of 23 nations.
Catalan Rumbas in the Eurovision
Let’s also see some entries with Catalan Rumbas, a familiar music genre for flamenco lovers. Peret, known as ‘the king of the Catalan rumba’, sang ‘Canta y Sé Feliz’ in 1974 (Brighton, UK - yes, the UK has won in the past to host the event, several times), placed 9th. In this video, we can see not only his captivating performance but also how he was enjoying his stay in Brighton.
The more recent attempt with this genre, ‘La Venda’ by Miki Núñez in 2019 (Tel Aviv, Israel), featured a more urban, upbeat style. Although the energetic staging made the audience dance like crazy, it somehow didn’t impress the juries and ended 22nd out of 26 contestants.
What song wins your heart?
Spain won in 1968 and 1969 with non-flamenco songs. Flamenco would actually be an acquired taste for many people, and maybe not very appealing to general Eurovision viewers. If you only care for winning… but winning the competition isn’t necessarily the key factor of the charm of this mega event. We actually enjoy the festivity itself, including some occasional ‘classical’ tackiness.
I’d like to share the last video briefly showing all the Eurovision songs by Spain until 2019, demonstrating the various music types they have tried. Some might please you, some might not. Actually, winning or losing isn’t really important. We simply love whatever music genres and songs of our personal preference, regardless of competitiveness.
1961 - 2019 España en Eurovisión
Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest