In November 2019 I was invited to a Bollywood program at the Concert Gebouw organized by Prem Radhakisun. To mentally prepare myself for an evening of music & mingling I decided to drink tea at the Amstel Hotel. It’s no secret that lovely places make me zen! While sipping my perfect hot cup of Earl Grey tea I read an email that can be compared with winning a million euro lottery. I was welcomed as a communication officer by Rotterdam Partners and would be part of the Host City team, working on the incoming visitors communication for the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 event!!!!!!
With this exciting news in my purse I attended Prem’s program with a big smile. Glued to my device, I eagerly subscribed to every social media page related to Eurovision. I was ready for this adventure.
For almost 5 months I was living on cloud nine. I was working on two DesiYUP concerts Yoga Nidra and Many Faces of Love and Eurovision Song Contest (ESC). My life was perfect! Being a tiny speck in the vast universe of the Eurovision Song Contest universe was a gigantic deal for me as an organizer of boutique concerts. I had the opportunity to learn more, get more experience with large scale events and another major perk was the location. It was happening in my hometown, Rotterdam. To sum it up this was a once in a life time gig, praised for it’s inclusivity, epic acts and over the top costumes.
The preparations were in full swing. Rotterdam would be decorated like an Indian bride with ‘flags’ as the main eye-catching jewelry. The aim was to make sure that every citizen, 170 nationalities, would be part of this music fest. Key players of every sector had to ensure the best experience possible; hotels, artists, restaurants, press, taxi’s, tourist points. You name it, they were all part of city branding. Host City Rotterdam was racing towards the best edition ever organized in the history of ESC.
Then the unexpected happened. We were confronted with Covid-19. At that moment we just finished the city map that was sent to the printer. The city map was the ESC passport to the city with the coolest local events and best highlights that Rotterdam can offer to tourists. Luckily, we were able to stop the printing right on time without wasting piles of paper.
Corona, the uninvited guest, literary crashed the party before it even started. And instead of running around the press area with an ESC badge around my neck I was at home. We were in a strict lock down. in April 2020 I lost every single planned project. My mind switched from creative to crisis mode.
There was no time for me to mourn lost projects. It was time to take action! I had to ensure my financial freedom at all cost, making sure that I do not depend on the government and protect DesiYUP from being closed. So during the lockdown I started working as a communication officer for the municipality and luckily I’ve received great opportunities to showcase my skill set. ESC was officially over for me…..
Months passed. With DesiYUP things were still very quiet since I had no intention to organize free online events. It was a good time to observe, take notes and work in solitude on new concepts. No harm is done if I’m not active on social media or that my company is slow-going. What can be expected without government support or grants? DesiYUP is a teenager now, and like every teenager she has to deal with this complicated world.
When I saw the ESC Swingalong Song in May I felt a sensation of ‘missing out’. It was a supercool video with our mayor and deputy mayors dancing. #ESC2021 was happening again, but this time without tourists. Offline events were replaced by online events. It was a big fat Indian wedding, but without guests.
Pulling of an international event during a pandemic is remarkable. What amazed me is the Make it Happen attitude and resilience of Rotterdam. The developments unraveled like a good page turning novel containing multiple story lines to keep the reader engaged. The team behind ESC2020/2021 did an outstanding job during unorthodox times and they deserve to be applauded for their hard work.
On the day of the finals I bought a good amount of snacks and my tablet was charged. Checking out live updates of ESC fans was part of the excitement. There was one more reason to be emotionally invested in ESC for two years. Jeangu Macrooy with Surinamese roots represented The Netherlands with his well-thought song ‘Birth of A New Year’. The song is an ode to his ancestral history fusing English lyrics with Sranangtongo (Surinamese tongue) “Yu No Man Broko Mi”, stating ‘you will not break me’. It was for the very first time in the 65 years of Eurovision Song Contest history that lyrics of a song was partly sung in Sranangtongo.
Macrooy’s song about showing courage resonated with many of my Facebook and Twitter friends with Surinamese roots. It was perhaps not really the performance, but the lyrics that mainly impacted them. My Facebook and Twitter timeline filled with emotional messages.
The Surinamese Diaspora community connected with Macrooy’s spot on message. It was a song that acknowledged their past and perhaps even present and only for this gesture Macrooy deserved more than 11 points. What I missed in Macrooy’s performance was a sense of ‘togetherness’.
You Cannot Break Me
How to merge awareness of the past with the golden opportunities of the present and future? The message ‘you cannot break me’ would mean so much more if it was conveyed beyond racial and ethnic identification. It would be a great opportunity to showcase the cultural diversity and dynamics of Suriname as a plural nation while making a strong link with development of the Surinamese Diaspora in The Netherlands. It would do more justice to the ESC slogan OpenUp. This is merely my humble opinion to tactically score more points. After all ESC is also a game of about soft politics. It’s not without reason that nations are coming together in this musical spectacle. Music is used as a soft power to sharpen political ties and nurture allies.
A big bummer was the absence of 2019 winner Duncan Laurence who was tested positive for Covid-19. Thanks to him The Netherlands had the honor to host the Eurovision Song Contest. The last time that our country scored the highest points was in 1975.
Two Surprises in the Grand Finale
Ending on a more positive note: the grand finale had two surprises in store for me as a viewer. Presenter Nikki de Jager carried the ESC shows with impeccable grace. I loved her style of presenting. Some experts even whisper that she has outgrown The Netherlands and might leave the country for better career opportunities. Time will tell. The other surprise was the Italian band Måneskin winning ESC2021 with their Rock song ‘Zitti E Buoni’. I didn’t see that one coming. The band was raw, authentic and gosh what a voice…. Counting the audience and country points were the most exciting moments of the entire show.
In two years time I fell in and out of love with this unique television music show. Let’s hope that the next time when The Netherlands wins the Eurovision Song Contest the world has defeated Covid-19 and let’s pray that no other virus pops up to cause havoc in our lives for the next 50 yeas.…ideally never!
I got my ESC closure. Ready to move on and organize boutique concerts. Keep an eye on this website. Updates will be shared very soon. I’m ready to Open Up again!