Tonight the first semi final of Festivali i Këngës 58 was held in Tirana, Albania where ten acts will be hoping to go through to Sunday’s final. Albania uses the Festivali i Këngës to choose their Eurovision entry, but this year the festival winner and song may not be their Eurovision entry.
Rumour has it that the winner of the Festivali i Këngës 58 may not be the Eurovision entrant and indeed the winner may also be allowed to change the song. However for tonight we heard the first ten artists who all hope we will see them again in the final on December 22. The lucky finalists will be announced tomorrow, December 20.
The contest took place at the Pallati I Kongreseve and was hosted by Alketa Vejsiu. She is known in Albania for producing X Factor and Your Face Looks Familiar. She wore a white dress with an unusual cut at the top which made her look like a human Academy Award. As expected she did a lot of talking at the beginning of the show. The bright pick dress she wore in the second half of the show has to be seen to be believed. Her version of Soldi also needed to be heard.
Jonida Maliqi opened the show singing her entry from last year, wearing a bright red bridesmaid type dress. She stood on a podium high on the stage.
The international judges who will help decide the finalists were Christer Björkman, Swedish Eurovision expert, Dimitris Kontopoulos, composer of Shady Lady amongst many others, and,Felix Bergsson head of the Icelandic delegation and Hatari’s best friend. They were joined by two fine Albanian dames.
All the acts were introduced by generally static postcards where they all blew coloured pixie dust into the air, before their performances.
The closing act was Mahmood and since he clearly couldn’t better Alketa’s version of last year’s second placing Soldi, he chose to perform his new single Barrio. However after having a chat with him, Alketa managed to change his mind and he ended the show by performing Soldi.
Bojken Lako – Malaseen
Veteran rock act and festival regular Bojken opened the contest with his newly dyed pink hair. This was a plodding number with a throw back feel to the days of Visage, Ultravox and glam rock Bowie. His band was all in black with two of them handling the electronics. Not a total audio or visual treat but a good enough opening number.
Kanita Suma – Ankth
Drama next from the princess in white, Kanita. This had a piano player tinkling along in the back ground while Kanita emoted through the verses and screamed through the verses. The song had a powerful ending but as second in Eurovision never seems to be lucky, the act and song could struggle.
Devis Xherahu – Bisedoj me serenatën
A song that Serbia would give its right arm for, this was a Balkan ballad straight from the turn of the century. All in black Devis was accompanied well, with a smooth string arrangement from the orchestra. The performance highlighted the difference of winning this competition with a classy ballad, but would it be right for Eurovision.
Aldo Bardhi – Melodi
The first song of the night with any beat about it, with a long guitar intro. Not only that but this was the first entry of the evening to feature backing dancers. Adhering to no Eurovision rules there was eight of them, as well as the band and orchestra. Alas this too is not a winning Eurovision entry and despite the party feeling is likely to be left in the semi final.
Kamela Islamaj – Më ngjyros
More drama here from Kamela who looked like she had just painted the top of her dress on her. It was difficult to see because of the stage lights, but it looked like the bottom of the dress was a frilly white. The singing, while quite powerful was lost in a set of notes that didn’t seem to have any tune. The piano featured heavily again and the big ending of course was the type of thing Albania has liked to send in the past.
Nadia and Genc Tukiçi – Ju flet Tirana
Now this was a very stirring and anthemic number, in tribute to the host city. The orchestra was out in full force for this one, which is thirty years out of date. A large choir added to the atmosphere. Good intentions but no hope of winning Eurovision.
Sara Bajraktari – Ajër
It was an all black dress for Sara, as a sole guitar opened her song. Sara sang this sea shanty type of song very well and was very reminiscent of some of Portugal’s entries from the past. A pleasant enough chorus, which, since five acts are heading to the final, should see her getting another chance to impress on Sunday.
Elvana Gjata – Me tana
This was a very polished performance from the all dressed in white, Elvana, who actually managed to throw in elements of every Albanian entry from the past into one song. She was accompanied by eight dancers and probably had the song with most international appeal this evening. Very ethnic and very visual.
Renis Gjoka – Loja
It was back to black for Renis and the second more rock type number of the evening. Renis knew how to work a microphone as he performed another number which really didn’t go anywhere, but the members of the orchestra all seemed to be in a race to see who could out do the other. As good a chance to qualify to the finals as any of the others.
Albërie Hadërgjonaj – Ku ta gjej dikë ta dua
It looked as if the host had forgotten about Alberie as we were treated to a folk interval act after Renis, but it must have been that it took her a while to get the broadband receiver she wore on her head. This was definitely a heart wrenching ballad if ever there was one and a good way to end tonight’s contest.
Albania At The Eurovision Song Contest
This year will be the 17th time that Albania takes part in the Eurovision Song Contest. The winner of Festivali i Këngës 43, Anjeza Shahini was the debut Albanian entrant and did very well placing 7th with the song The Image Of You. The following year, Ledino Celo came 16th with the song Tomorrow I Go.
In 2006 Albania failed to reach the final for the first time when Luiz Ejili became the first man to represent Albania with the song Zjarr E Ftohte. He was also the first entrant to sing in Albanian at the contest. This was the first of seven times that Albania failed to make the final.
Last year, Jonida Maliqi became the fourth Albanian contestant to finish in 17th place with the song Ktheju Tokes.
Below is one of the favourites to win this year from Elvana Gjata.