Ukrainian folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra delivered an impressive and emotional rendition of their song Stefania in the grand final of Eurovision this evening.
The Ukrainian act is the favourite to win currently, having been frontrunners since Russia’s invasion – which prompted organisers to ban the country from competing.
The group was dressed in elaborate outfits, including long multi-coloured fringed ensembles, a pink bucket hat and others in traditional patterns.
They are one of 25 acts vying for the top prize following the week-long contest in Turin, Italy. Their performance, which combined rap and Ukrainian folklore, went down well with the audience of 7,000 in the Pala Olimpico, who cheered the group on with many waving Ukrainian flags.
At the end of the performance, which included break-dancing, the group thanked everyone for supporting Ukraine.
The band’s song, ‘Stefania,’ was written as a tribute to the frontman’s mother, but has transformed since Russia’s invasion on February 24 into an anthem to the war-ravaged nation.
The lyrics ‘I’ll always find my way home, even if all roads are destroyed,’ written by frontman Oleh Psiuk, have taken on special meaning since the invasion.
The six-member, all-male band received special permission to leave the country to represent Ukraine and Ukrainian culture at the music contest. One of the original members stayed to fight, and the others plan to return as soon as the contest is over.
Members of the band ‘Kalush Orchestra’, Oleh Psiuk, Tymofii Muzychuk, Ihor Didenchuk, Vitalii Duzhyk, Oleksandr Slobodianyk and Vlad Kurochka, who perform on behalf of Ukraine
Britain’s Sam Ryder (pictured) and Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs are each given a 10% shot while the Italian duo of Mahmood & Blanco have a 6% chance of winning
Singer Chanel performs on behalf of Spain during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin this evening
The contest is underway this evening with 25 bands performing in front of a live audience in the northern Italian city of Turin
WRS from Romania performs during the final of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest in Turin this evening
The Rasmus from Finland singing Jezebel perform during the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Palaolimpico arena, in Turin
Members of the band ‘Subwoolfer’ perform on behalf of Norway during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022
The winner is chosen in equal parts by panels of music experts in each competing nation and votes by the viewing public, leaving room for an upset.
Britain’s Sam Ryder and Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs are each given a 10% shot while the Italian duo of Mahmood & Blanco have a 6% chance of winning. All eyes are also on the nations who might not vote for Ukraine, after Russia and Belarus were excluded amid the invasion.
The winner takes home a glass microphone trophy and a potential career boost.
The event is hosted by Italy after the Italian rock band Maneskin won last year in Rotterdam.
The victory shot the Rome-based band to international fame, opening for the Rolling Stones and appearing on Saturday Night Live and numerous magazine covers in their typically genderless costume code.
Twenty bands have been chosen in two semifinals this week, and will compete along with the Big Five of Italy, Britain, France, Germany and Spain, which have permanent berths due to their financial support of the contest.
Russia was excluded this year after its invasion of Ukraine, a move organizers said was meant to keep politics out of the contest that promotes diversity and friendship among nations.
Ukrainian music fan Iryna Lasiy said she felt global support for her country in the war and ‘not only for the music.’
Back in Ukraine, in the battered northeastern city of Kharkiv, Kalush Orchestra’s participation in the contest is seen as giving the nation another platform to garner international support.
‘The whole country is rising, everyone in the world supports us. This is extremely nice,’ said Julia Vashenko, a 29-year-old teacher.
Chanel from Spain singing SloMo performs during the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Palaolimpico arena
Alvan and Ahez of France perform live during the Grand Final of the 66th Eurovision Song Contest in Turin this evening
Alvan & Ahez from France singing Fulenn perform during the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Palaolimpico arena
‘I believe that wherever there is Ukraine now and there is an opportunity to talk about the war, we need to talk,? said Alexandra Konovalova, a 23-year-old make-up artist in Kharkiv. ‘Any competitions are important now, because of them more people learn about what is happening now.’
Anastasia Khardikova, a 24-year-old Ukrainian living in Sweden, said she intends to vote for Kalush Orchestra, and is persuading her friends abroad to do the same.
Graham Norton returned for his 13th contest to cast a watchful eye over proceedings while delivering his customary barbs.
Eurovision entrant Sam Ryder will take to the stage, 22nd in the running order, in a bid to improve the UK’s standing during the grand final tonight.
The 32-year-old TikTok star will perform his uplifting pop song Space Man, which he co-wrote with Grammy-winning songwriter Amy Wadge, who has previously worked with Ed Sheeran and Max Wolfgang.
This year’s final features the 20 successful nations from the week’s two semi-finals, as well as the so-called big five of the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.