First rehearsals of contestants in Baku Crystall Hall

12 May 2012 11:41 (UTC+04:00)

First rehearsals of contestants from several countries were held at the Baku Crystal Hall yesterday.

Strong vocals and red spotlights for Albania

Rona Nishliu will represent Albania with Suus this year, and yesterday she had her first rehearsal in Baku. She performed alone on stage, surrounded by red spotlights, and she managed to truly impress everyone in the arena with her impressive vocals!

Before their rehearsal, the Albanian delegation made a relaxed impression backstage, and Rona prepared herself for the first soundcheck. On stage, she performed all alone in a romantic setting, surrounded by red spotlights, News.Az reports with reference to the official website for Eurovision 2012 song contest.

During the performance, several more spotlights were added, while the LED screens in the background were kept dark. All in all, a very static setting was used to support the message of the song, and to keep the focus on the vocals and the orchestration.

Her vocal interpretation of her dramatic song, the lyrics of which are completely in Albanian language, was very convincing and professional, and she definitely did not need the support of any backing vocalists!

Kleart Duraj, the Head of the Albanian delegation, started by introducing the singer, Rona Nishliu, and the songwriter, Florent Boshnjaku, to the press. After that, Rona Nishliu thanked the press for their attention and greeted the Azerbaijani hosts. She then commented on her love of jazz music and said she appreciated the way of mixing jazz and mugham music in Azerbaijan.

"I'm very happy to represent my country with a song I love and which means a lot to me", she explained regarding the fact that she is singing a song in Albanian language. Regarding her hairstyle, Rona Nishliu said that the decoration was created by a fashion designer whose collection is based on tomatoes, thus causing the round shapes.

A Polish journalist asked her about the fact that she was originally from Kosovo but she's representing Albania in the Eurovision Song Contest. She explained that the Albanian Festivali i Kenges, which acts as the national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, had always been open to artists from Kosovo as well, and that she was happy to have the opportunity to perform on the Eurovision stage.

"The costume will be a very important element of our performance", Rona Nishliu stated when she was asked about her stage dress. "You will get to know it on May 17th", she concluded the press conference.

Rona Nishliu is not only a famous pop singer, she is also a devoted experimental jazz musician. She won the honour of representing Albania in the Eurovision Song Contest at the second attempt, and she will sing Suus in Baku.

Romania brings the latin beat to Baku

Romania's Mandinga with their latin sounds took to the Baku stage for their first rehearsal with the song Zaleilah.

A hit before coming to Baku, Mandinga have a popular and catchy song that they hope will do very well on the 22nd of May and hopefully again on the 26th. The band are of mixed Romanian and Cuban backgrounds, which has created a very special sound and the first rehearsal in Baku was a chance to demonstrate this.
Calm and Collected Backstage

Backstage, Mandinga from Romania were very calm, busy with their in-ear microphone checks and talking quietly amongst themselves. Once all "rigged up" to the various equipment, we asked them what they thought people would take away from their stage performance of Zaleilah. They answered "we really hope that that people will remember the dance and that even after the competition is over, they will still sing and dance to our song".

Fiery performance with a heart

Love and party are two very dominant themes of Romania's performance. The huge LED screens that make the backdrop to the stage in Baku light up with images of drums moving along to the beat of Zahleilah, with its very pronounced Cuban influenced sounds.

Following on from this, the stage lights up with images of beating hearts in various colours including purples, yellows and oranges, representing the strong fiery nature of the latin beat. Towards the end of the song the purples return to give a slightly softer bridge, working up to a very festive ending with strobe lighting.

The choreography of the song is very interesting and resembles what can be seen in the offical preview video and the national final performance, with a few changes. The central focus of the choreography is of course the signature "heart" dance which has been designed so that fans and viewers at home can all dance along to the song, and as mentioned above hopefully will be able to remember it for a long time after the contest.

Vocally the group were very strong with lead singer Elena Ionescu giving a very convincing performance with her impressive voice and latin inspired charm.

During the final performance by the band, pyro effects were added to the performance as they will be on the night of the 22nd where they will perform in the first Semi-Final. To go with the previously mentioned fiery and hot performance, flames rise up from the stage in quick succession and then at the end of the performance, fireworks went off at the rear in front of the LED screens. Very impressive!

"We aim to be top 5"

When Mandinga came into the press conference they received a warm applause before the head of press introduced the band and the delegation to the waiting press.

Before the questions started, the band came with a surprise; an acapella version of the introduction to Zaleilah.

The band were asked about a flashmob that take place in the streets of Bucharest for the song to which they replied, "our aim is to bring the latin dance to Romania and people in the country know the dance now so it felt right to have a flashmob". They also went on to say, "Mandinga is a band and we are not dancers", making their performance even more impressive.

The team and band are very confident of their chances at the Eurovision Song Contest and the delegation have an "aim to be top five but Madinga have the aim to be the hit of Eurovision", according to the band's manager.

Mandinga promise a spectacular stageshow in Baku where they will represent Romania with Zaleilah, a unique juxtaposition of Cuban and Romanian sounds.

A donkey on stage for Montenegro!

Montenegro was the first country to take the stage on the first day of rehearsals. Before the team started to rehearse, Rambo Amadeus spoke to

Before starting their rehearsal, the Montenegrin delegation was waiting backstage, and Rambo Amadeus was training his voice. Our most important question to him was if the donkey that was the "star" of the preview video will it also be on stage during the First Semi-Final of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. "Yes, we will have it on stage today", Rambo Amadeus confirmed.

Talking about the idea behind the song and the stage performance, the Head of Press of the Montenegrin delegation, Sabrija Vulić, said: "We want to change Eurovision."

On stage, Rambo Amadeus still performed in casual clothes today. He played an electronic guitar and he was accompanied by backing artists playing guitars and a drum kit. And, of course, the donkey he described to us before was part of the stage act too, but it was not a real one, as this would be a breach of the Eurovision Song Contest rules. Instead there was a wooden donkey mock-up with wheels!

On the LED screens in the stage background, colourful and fast changing pictures and numbers were shown. Two backing dancers were also on stage, displaying red banners with parts of the lyrics of the song written on them.

In the press conference, the Head of Press of the Montenegrin delegation, Sabrija Vulić, first introduced the team and said that he was happy that Montenegro was back in the Eurovision Song Contest after two years of absence. Rambo Amadeus was still hiding under the press conference table at first, but then appeared to gave a short statement himself: "Hello. Thank you."

A journalist then asked what was the significance of the Trojan Horse on stage. Rambo Amadeus explained that it was not a Trojan Horse, but a Trojan Donkey, which was not as important in history, but it should be given a chance too.

A Polish journalist asked Rambo Amadeus if there was a political meaning in the lyrics of his song. He explained that it was not his intention to express a political message, but just the story of a simple man, and that "Europe" was also the name of a Greek goddess. "We are a bit neurotic about the big changes that are going on in the world right now. There is a post-industrial informatic revolution going on, and we have to ask ourselves and others a lot of questions right now."

Rambo Amadeus is a true cult figure of the Ex-Yugoslav music scene. The fact that music and humour is never far apart for him is well shown in his 2012 Eurovision entry, Euro Neuro.

Iceland singing in the ice

After Montenegro, second in the running order for the first semifinal, come Iceland's Greta Salome & Jonsi to the stage of the Baku Crystal Hall for their first rehearsal. They perform against a backdrop covered in snow and ice.

The first rehearsal

Iceland just made their first rehearsal for this year's Eurovision Song Contest at the stage in the Baku Crystal Hall.

As far as we witnessed backstage there's chemistry between the two performers, and that also showed off on their rehearsal performances. Their four backing singers, all dressed in black, give a lot of power to Never Forget, matching the dramatic arrangement of the song.


Before their rehearsal we found the Icelandic performers, Greta Salome and Jonsi backstage while getting their voices ready. "So far so good", said Jonsi.

Then we took the pictures you can see in the gallery below; "it's not an easy dress to move around" confessed Jonsi while moving around Greta Salome's big dress.

Press conference

Jonsi, already performed at the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest Final in Istanbul and thinks that Eurovision has grown since 2004: "It is a bigger event but it is as nerve wracking as it was in 2004".

Their collaboration started with an e-mail that Greta sent to Jonsi to offer him singing the duet with her. "It was a beautiful song and I just decided to sing it. She also asked if we would send it to the Icelandic national selection, and I also said yes", Jonsi explains. "So it was me who found him" Greta says.

Greta Salome performs her own composition not only with her voice but with her violin: "There's a huge violin arrangement and also a solo in the bridge. Me being a violinist of course influences my writing, and this background of mine makes it more symphonic sounding, but with a pop twist, of course".

Jonsi has two sons and they have their own favourite at this year's contest: "They love the Russian song, they watch it all the time on YouTube and they've asked for me to take a picture with them".

Greta Salome told that the designer of her dress is also the director of the act: "we used the traditional Icelandic cotumes in a modern way and I also had to feel comfortable wearing it on a stage. It is similar to the one I had in Iceland, we just took that one a bit further judging from the great reaction that we had after the original dress".

They switched the language of the song since winning the Icelandic final "we have a story to tell and I wanted people to understand what we are saying, that the message of the song comes across. I personally believe that the song is better in English in this setting, plus the Icelandic version still exists, if people want to listen to that song, they can"! expressed Greta Salome.

After some journalists asked them about the change of weather between Iceland and Azerbaijan Greta said that "I used to live in Florida, so this is where I belong"!

Iceland are represented in Baku by Greta Salóme, a multi talented singer/songwriter and Jónsi, who himself returns to the Eurovision Song Contest stage eight years after representing his country in 2004 in Istanbul.

Greece dances like a maniac

Greece will be hoping that number three will prove to be lucky, as that is the position that Eleftheria Eleftheriou will be performing in the running order, with the song Aphrodisiac. Yesterday's afternoon she had her first rehearsal on stage in the Crystal Hall.

Speaking shortly before her rehearsal, Elefteria admitted, "I'm very excited for this, and I can't wait to get on stage for that first rehearsal. I'm quite nervous because it is the first, and I think that everything will be all right and no technical problems. I hope everything will be ok."

Eleftheria is accompanied on stage by two female and two male backing dancers, plus one female backing singer, who is standing by the microphone on the right hand side of the stage. All the group were dressed casually today in jeans and T-shirts, but there was no doubt as to which country was being represented on stage,as Eleftheria wore a beaded top with the word Greece embroidered across it.

The group performed the typical Greek-style line dancing choreography as part of their routine, against a multi coloured background off various patterns, which was ever changing and included appropriately some crystal type structures. There was an effective use made of the camera that drops down from the ceiling at great speed, before it shoots back up just as quickly.

The song came across very strongly vocally within the hall, and the delegation all seemed very happy with the performance.

Influence of Aphrodite

At the press conference afterwards, there were some questions related to the choreography, and that it had been kept quite simple. and had similarities to some previous successful Greek entries.

Their choreographer agreed that they had tried to be similar, but also to be a bit different, and that his inspiration had came from the images of Aphrodite, and the various statues of her. To illustrate his point he brought along three small statuettes of the Greek goddess.

Eleftheria was born in Cyprus, so she was asked how she would feel if she had to compete against Cyprus in the Final? Elefetheria replied that she was happy that they were already in the same Semi-Final, and that it would be good to have their support, and of course she would like both countries to qualify for the Grand Final.

The press conference concluded with a photocall for the assembled press and fans.

On the 12th of March 2012, Eleftheria Eleftheriou became the winner of the Greek Final for the Eurovision Song Contest. Thus, she will represent Greece with the song Aphrodisiac composed and written by Dimitri Stassos, Mikaela Stenström and Dajana Lööf, in Baku, Azerbaijan.

A colourful start for Latvia

It's early afternoon here in Baku, and the fourth country to rehearse yesterday were Latvia. Anmary and her team are a friendly outgoing bunch and spoke to backstage before their first run through of Beautiful Song.

Latvia were the first delegation to arrive in Baku in the early hours of Saturday morning, and received a warm welcome at the airport. They even managed an impromptu performance of a traditional folk song from Azerbaijan, Sari Gelin that Anmary and her team had prepared in advance.
Backstage with Anmary

Anmary was lucky enough to have a free day yesterday and told us "We managed to do some sightseeing in the city, I met with Safura who performed for Azerbaijan in Eurovision, and we visited the markets in the heart of Baku."

Beautiful Song is a story of a girl who achieves her ambition of worldwide fame, and has the cynical lyric where Anmary promises cheekily to one day call Sir Mick Jagger back, when she has time!. We asked her if he had managed to do this yet. She adds "No, I haven't managed that yet, but someday i'll call him back, we were just given our SIM cards !."

Kaleidoscope of colour on stage

For Latvia's first stage rehearsal, Anmary was joined by four female backing singers who all move freely around the stage with Anmary taking the lead in the choreography. The actual costumes for the First Semi-Final were not revealed today, so we will have a little while longer to wait.

The LED screens are very retro and colourful, giving off a kaleidoscope effect as they interchange and rotate throughout the performance.

Anmary delivers a confident run through of the rehearsal, and her team also seemed pleased with the way things had progressed today.

Another beautiful song

Anmary arrived at her press conference holding a large Latvian flag. She introduced her team and revealed that one of the members on the team, Līga Robežniece was a veteran from the successful Marie N campaign of 2002, when Latvia won Europe's Favourite TV Show. Anmary said "She is our lucky charm!."

When asked why she changed her name to Anmary from Linda for her stage performance. She added "It's a tradition in the church in Latvia to give a name of a saint so I was born Linda Anmary."

A journalist from Azerbaijan asked Anmary and her team to perform for the press, the same traditional song that she did at the airport, Sari Gelin. They did this with guitar accompaniment, and it went down a storm in the press centre, especially with the local media. The press conference moderator described it as "another beautiful song!".
Press are treated to another rendition

Anmary used to be a vocal coach, and was asked if she was still doing this and answered "Right now i'm just singing, I have a three year old child, so I don't give any lessons any more. I do have rules that I set for myself from my teaching days, but I will keep them as a secret for now."

The press conference was rounded off by Anmary and her team singing a jolly Latvian folk song, which had the assembled press clapping along and tapping their feet.

Anmary was born in a distant 1980, in the year that Johnny Logan won.... We are of course talking about Anmary, quoting the first line of the 2012 Latvian entry Beautiful Song.

Switzerland rock the Crystal Hall

The seventh country to take to the impressive Baku Crystal Hall stage today were Sinplus of Switzerland. After a long promo tour over the past five months, it was finally time for them to rehearse their entry Unbreakable on the grand Eurovision stage.

Backstage, Sinplus were in a relaxed mood as they laughed and joked whilst running through their preparations. Both of the brothers Ivan and Gabriel Broggini admitted "It is good to finally be here after many months of preparation."

The group were seemingly keen to take to the stage, as even during their first sound rehearsal, they threw everything in to the performance.

Flashing light and pyro's on stage

For the staging, the two brothers are lead vocalists, both dressed in leather jackets, one black and one green. They are joined by a male drummer and female electric guitarist. To add to the visual effect, there are a set of speakers on stage.

The three guys are all wearing the Unbreakable t-shirts that viewers have been accustomed to seeing them in during their performances of late.

The LED backdrop gives the effect of travelling through a tunnel, as there are flashing blue, red, green and white lines shooting all over the stage, with flashing white spotlights intermittently. For the last rehearsal the group also used pyrotechnic flame effects prior to the last chorus.

It was evident to see that the routine was well practiced, and that the long promo tour has helped the group perfect the energetic stage act for Europe's Favourite TV Show.

Following their rehearsal, Sinplus held their first press conference. They opened by saying "Everything is great, just finished our rehearsal, very pleased with the light and sound, it's great."

Crazy hair!

When asked about their image for the stage the brothers replied "Our style is part of our band. Image is something you have to take care of. We want to make something energetic, that's why we've got crazy hair, it's rock and roll style!."

It was pointed out that it was December 2011 when Sinplus actually won the Swiss final. The guys were asked how they felt about that and whether it was stressful to wait so long before the Eurovision Song Contest.

They said "It wasn't stressful at all, it's great thing, we had so much time to prepare the whole thing, the new album, the video. Our album will come out after Eurovision. We worked almost every day on this contest so it was good to have all of this time."

Lys Assia wishes Sinplus well

The song lyric of Unbreakable talks about following your wildest dreams, Sinplus were asked by a press member what would be their wildest dream, and replied "Well, it's Important to bring a strong message, our wildest dream is to play music and bring the energy and music to the people. It's simple but it's not so easy to reach. Now we're here we hope that the audience will think we have three minutes of joy, and that would be the wildest dream."

The brothers talked about meeting and competing against Lys Assia in the Swiss national final, they held her in high regard, remarking "Lys is a legend, she is still singing, still playing music, We want to do it at that age too!. It means music can really give something more. She was really nice with us. She called us before we left and told us to enjoy the experience."

Sinplus consists of the two brothers Ivan and Gabriel Broggini. In December 2011, they were chosen by the Swiss TV public to represent their country in Baku.

Belgium loves the cameras

Belgium are hoping that once again a young female singer can carry off the title in Europe's Favourite TV Show, when Iris attempts to emulate the achievement of Sandra Kim who won the title in 1986. In fact after Sandra Kim, Iris is the next youngest singer to represent her country.

Backstage Belgian singer Iris confessed to feeling fine, as well as excited about her first rehearsal. "It is a big stage for me and I really want to be on stage right now. It is a dream come true. I watched Eurovision as a child and now it is going to be's so crazy!"

Iris is accompanied by three female backing singers on stage, and the performance is kept fairly straightforward, with little choreography. Iris moves around the stage a little, using a hand held microphone.

Elsewhere the backdrop on the LED screens comprises lots of pink baubles floating around, and in many ways is reminiscent of the 'share the moment' graphics used as the logo in the 2010 contest.
All types of cameras

While the choregraphy has been kept simple, the song makes full use of all the different types of cameras available to the Director. From the cameras on the tracking rail, a camera that tracks out of the floor, the boom operated camera, (of which there is only one this year), the spider cam, the traditional cameraman on the floor, plus the camera that comes down from the ceiling; and as the song approaches the climax the steadycam operators appear on stage to encircle Iris. It is a far cry from the technology that was available back in 1986 when Belgium last won the contest.

All different ages

As one of the last contestants to rehearse for the day, and with everything running a bit behind schedule, it wasn’t surprising that there weren’t many fans and journalists present for the press conference. However,Iris was happy with her first rehearsal, and that "everything had been fine, and
that this first time was special."

As one of the youngest contestants this year, Iris was asked how she felt about competing against the older contestants this year. "It is a big chance for me. I like that there are different ages. It's what makes Eurovision special!"

A young lady with youthful enthusiasm, a fresh look and a beautiful voice. 17 year old Iris will represent Belgium in Baku with her song Would You?

Pernilla sings for her mum on Mother's Day

Pernilla from Finland was last to rehearse today in the Baku Crystal Hall. The young artist was accompanied by a cello player. She impressed everyone in the hall with her strong and emotional voice.

Before the rehearsal, we asked Pernilla about her feelings before going on stage. The artist said that she is very excited but she feels good. Pernilla dedicated her song När Jag Blundar to her mother, where she expresses gratitude for motherly love and understanding. The artist told that her mother likes the performance very much and she will come to Baku to support her daughter in the First Semi-Final to be held on the 22nd of May.

Since the introduction of the free language rule from the 1999 contest, Sweden has never performed in Swedish in the Eurovision Song Contest. It's therefore the first time since then that a song in the Swedish language is taking part. Pernilla told us that it was a very natural choice to sing in that language as her mother and her are native speakers. The artist said that it's good for them that there was no performance in Swedish for such a long time.

Pernilla wore a beautiful green dress and a black jacket on stage. She was accompanied by a cello player. The singer was surrounded by colourful spotlights. The starry sky and the fireworks appeared on the LED screens in the background and created a romantic atmosphere on stage.

Pernilla performed secure on stage and impressed the press and fans in the arena with her soft voice.

In the press conference, Pernilla said that she was very happy to be here in Baku. She congratulated all mothers with Mother's Day.

A journalist from the Netherlands asked Pernilla if she is ready for an international career as she is new in the show business. The singer answered that she is ready for everything and also for the international career.

The artist was asked how it feels to work together with her brother Jonas Karlsson who has written the song När Jag Blundar and if they fight. Pernilla said that she and her brother are a very good team and to work together is big fun. Her brother also confirmed it.

A Polish journalist asked Pernilla with which place she will be satisfied in the Eurovision Song Contest this year. The singer said she wanted to reach the final.

Pernilla was asked how she found time to combine making music and playing handball. The artist answered that at the moment she has no time for sport.

One question was addressed to Jonas Karlsson: What is most important for him: sound engineering or composing? He said that composing plays a more important role for him.

Pernilla (21) is a sparklingly cheerful young lady, who won the Finnish Contest for New Music (UMK) in February 2012. The victory means that she will represent Finland at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest with the song När Jag Blundar (When I Close My Eyes).