Azerbaijan, Energy, Eurovision, Fulbright, National Geographic, Portraits

Touching the Stars: Azerbaijan and Eurovision

While attending the World Youth Festival, sponsored by the pro-government Yeni Azerbaycan Partiyasi (New Azerbaijan Party) youth organization Ireli, I had a chance to meet Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Camal, better known as Ell + Nikki, winners of the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest hosted in Düsseldorf, Germany. Their victory means Azerbaijan gets to play host to next year’s contest. As a very serious observer of the contest and perhaps most interestingly, the politics surrounding the contest, this was no small thrill.

When Azerbaijan won last May, I was nowhere near Europe or a place to watch the contest, but I knew almost immediately of Azerbaijan’s victory. I had already secured the Fulbright grant to Azerbaijan; my close friends and family who are well aware of my obsession with the Eurovision competition made sure I knew who the victor was. Quite simply, my phone blew up. Several months before I arrived in Baku, I think it was the first sign that I was really on my way to Azerbaijan.

From yesterday’s brief remarks at the opening of the World Youth Festival and the evening concert of “Running Scared” by Ell and Nikki:

Eurovision 2011 winners Ell + Nikki (Nigar Jamal and Eldar Gasimov) at the World Youth Festival on October 15, 2011 in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan Eurovision Song Contest Winner 2011 Nigar Jamal in concert on October 15, 2011 in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

The winning song, “Running Scared”:

Last August, I gave a brief interview to Boyd Matson of National Geographic Weekend Radio on the importance of the Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan, please have a listen.

Party in the Baku!