The Eurovision Song Contest ESC is considered the biggest music competition in the world and draws millions in front of their screens every year. Now there is an Arctic counterpart to the ESC, the PanArctic Vision, which was held for the first time last Saturday in Vadsø, northern Norway, and is dedicated to strengthening Arctic diversity in terms of music and society.
A total of nine musical entries, characterized by a wide variety of styles, were presented last Saturday, August 12, at Vadsøhallen. Performers came from an equally wide variety of Arctic regions, from the local northern Norway and nearby northern Finland to Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Yukon, Alaska and Iceland. Even a Russian representative, who lives in exile in Georgia due to the political situation, was present at this pan-Arctic event. And despite some differences with the ESC especially in terms of size and coverage, parallels were apparent, aimed at strengthening an Arctic sense of belonging and showcasing and celebrating the diversity of Arctic cultures and society.
Competitors were selected in advance by regional juries and then officially invited by the organizers. Ten entries had been planned, in the end, however, only nine were submitted. The event was won by the Greenlandic band “Nuija” (“Clouds”), whose stirring song “Takutillara” won over the audience of the live-streamed competition the most. The originally six-piece band, which was only able to travel as a three-piece due to cost reasons, is admittedly hugely happy about the win. “We don’t celebrate the victory itself so much, because the most important thing is that it was a great experience; we met a lot of new people and made new connections and friendships,” Nick Ørbæk, the band’s singer and guitarist, told the newspaper Sermitsiaq.
Unlike at the ESC, however, not only one winning entry was chosen, but three. The organizers of PanArctic Vision also focused on other aspects, which the event was intended to strengthen and celebrate. Thus, the four adolescents of Northern Norwegian punk rock band “Sköll” won the prize for the most innovative song with “Skansen” and the Faroese singer Guðrið Hansdóttir won the category “Song for the strongest sense of togetherness” with her entry “Blátt myrkur” (engl. Blue darkness).
Although often decried as a commercial and shallow affair, the ESC not only champions musical diversity, but also promotes more equality, diversity and understanding among people. And the PanArctic Vision wants to achieve just the same, but explicitly for the Arctic regions. And in the process, a political approach is taken, with the presenter explicitly pointing out that Russia is, despite everything, part of the Arctic and that there is also a Russian contribution in the program, which, however, does not come from official Russia, but from Russian artists who live in exile today, be it because of their political views or their gender identity.
Strengthening the latter and promoting discussion about LGBTQ* rights in Arctic society as well is a big priority at PanArctic Vision, as it is at the ESC. And where the ESC restricts itself to only setting no boundaries with the artists, the PanArctic Vision goes a step further and lets the most important voice of the movement, 28-year-old Davvet Bruun Solbakk co-host the competition.
An additional difference to the ESC included the fact that the winning country would not automatically host the next competition. Instead, the audience in the individual regions could vote and also give their votes to their own region. And anyone thinking that this would mean that each population would only vote for their region was proved wrong. In the end, Greenland won the vote ahead of the Faroe Islands. And the country stands ready, according to its own information, to host the event next year. The head of the Katuaq Cultural Center, Arnakkuluk Jo Kleist is waiting for the decision from the main organizers, Nordting, a northern Norwegian body for Arctic indigenous issues. “We are in the process of evaluating the event. It was wild, it was good and we had a lot of Arctic music, so it’s definitely our impression that the event should continue,” explains Nordting’s director, musician Amund Sjølie Sveen.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
Link to the video of the PanArctic Vision (duration: 2h45min)
If you want to hear all the entries, here is the Spotify playlist of the contest
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