The Ukrainian singer who pulled off a surprising victory at the Eurovision Song Contest said: “If you sing about truth, it can really touch people” after she defeated musical and political rival Russia.
Jamala, who is a Tatar, insists her song about Stalin, Crimea, and accusations claims of ethnic cleansing did not break Eurovision’s ban on political songs because it was a tribute to her great-grandmother.
Her triumph pushed Russia, who had been the favourite ahead of the final, into third place behind Australia.
The song ‘1944’ opens with the lyrics: “When strangers are coming, they come to your house, they kill you all and say ‘we’re not guilty’.”
It could be regarded as an attack on Russia, but Jamala has insisted there is no political context, saying: “For me personally, music is about feelings. Politics doesn’t have feelings.”
The track was allowed because officials said the lyrics alluded to history rather than politics.
After her win, she said: “I was sure that if you sing, if you talk about truth, it can really touch people and I was right.
“I would prefer all these terrible things never happened to my grandmother. I would prefer the song did not exist at all.”
Ireland’s Nicky Byrne did not qualify for the final, while British hopefuls Joe and Jake came 24th out of 26 in the contest with their pop song ‘You’re Not Alone’, although their performance still won praise from fans.
Australia had previously led the competition but was knocked into second place after the public vote was taken into account.
The country had been invited to participate again after joining the show as a one-off in 2015 to celebrate the event’s 60th-anniversary Building Bridges theme.
The country had the same rights as any other competing country, with votes from a professional jury and the voting public contributing to the final scoreboard.
The competition kicked off amid promises it would allow countries to “set aside any differences we have” as Europe faces “darker times”.
Hosts Petra Mede and Mans Zelmerlow welcomed fans to the Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, with a reminder the show was founded in 1954 after Europe had been ravaged by war.
Zelmerlow said: “Once again, Europe is facing darker times.”
Mede added: “Now we set aside any differences we have.”
Graham Norton, who guided viewers through the grand final on BBC One, led a toast to his predecessor, Terry Wogan during song number nine, — which this year was host country Sweden’s entry, ‘If I Were Sorry’, performed by Frans.
Norton took over the job in 2009 and was narrating his first Eurovision since Wogan died in January.
The late broadcaster was the BBC’s Eurovision commentator for almost 35 years.
As Sweden’s hopeful took to the stage for the ninth song, Norton said the contest was “bittersweet” for him.
He added: “Eight years ago, when I was lucky enough to get this job of commentating, Terry very kindly and graciously phoned me, and the only bit of advice he had for me was: ‘Don’t have a drink before song nine.’
“Well this is song nine.
“So while the crowd here in the Globe Arena cheer on their home boy, I would urge you back in the UK at home to raise a cup, a mug, a glass, whatever you have in front of you, and give thanks for the man who was, and always will be, the voice of Eurovision, Sir Terry Wogan. Sir Terry, this is song nine.”
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