If you only know Sweden from this blog, you may be under the impression that politics are important in this country.
Wrong you are.
What really occupies the Swedes is – not politics, not soccer, not even sex, but this:
The Eurovision Song Contest!
The campiest show on this side of the Atlantic will hit the flat-screen tv sets later this week in its 51st edition. The semi-finals (!) are later today and the finals on Saturday.
Sweden – represented by veteran pop artist Carola – has to compete in the semi-finals while Denmark – represented by newcomer Sidsel ben Semmane – somehow managed to gain direct qualification to the finals.
Beyond the music, both artists are interesting for other reasons.
Carola – her last name Häggkvist has been irrelevant to the general public in this part of the world for twenty years – is a fundamentalist Evangelical and her views on religion and especially homosexuality has not always gone down well with segments of the Swedish public. You wouldn’t be surprised to find an artist like Carola in the U.S. but in a Scandinavian setting, she is a little outside of the mainstream.
While Sidsel is a fairly usual Danish name – it’s the Danish form of Cecilia and as such a very apt name for a singer – her last name, ben Semmane, isn’t Scandinavian at all: One of her grandparents was Algerian.
Oh, and by the way: The Swedes play on several horses. Estonia and Switzerland are represented by Swedish artists in this year’s contest. This is nothing new. Last year’s winner Elena Paparizou was born in Sweden by Greek immigrants and has competed in the contest for both Sweden and Greece.
For more on the Song Contest, follow Mike Atkinson’s column in Slate.