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TIME: Selling Azerbaijan

Ready for prime time? Azeri pop star Sabina Babayeva, right, will sing at Eurovision
Amanda Rivkin

Selling Azerbaijan

by William Lee Adams
May 14, 2012

Last May, Ell & Nikki, an obscure duo from Azerbaijan, won the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest. The country’s President, Ilham Aliyev, treated the musical win like a military triumph, describing it as “a victory for the people of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani state.” By winning the pan-European singing contest — which, kitschy as it is, unites the region like little else — Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku, earned the right to host this year’s show, which will be broadcast to more than 100 million people at the end of May.