Eurovision Blast From Zagreb Past: Insieme

Oh no, as if all of this wasn’t enough, the European Broadcasting Union cancelled this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. As one of my fellow guides said, “well, now I’m officially depressed…”

This is the first article of our April 2020 section “Zagreb Couch Guide”. Every Friday we visit one of the sights in Zagreb “on line” or share a story from the rich history of our city… This April 2020 all guided tours are cancelled, but Rilak’s Zagreb Guide is continuing online, with…

silhouette of man standing on stage
Photo by Thibault Dandru00e9 on

Now, if you’re European, you know this is a big deal – the Eurovision Song Contest is held every year, in May, from 1956. The rules of the contest are simple and yet so complicated… First, a representative from each participating country is presenting an original song, with usually an over-the-top performance, like only Europeans could do. I think Stephen Colbert best described it in a video from 2016. I’m sorry, Stephen, but I doubt Europeans will let Americans compete. Although, you’re on the right track of “bizarre chic”of the Contest.

After each song is presented, the famous voting starts where, in theory, each country gives votes to a song it considers best. In reality, a nuance politics can be seen in Europe through the voting procedure, where countries usually vote for their neighbors, regardless of the quality of the song.

After all the votes are counted, the country that won can organize the contest the following year. This year, the contest was supposed to be in the Netherlands, after they won last year. Surprisingly, the song was quite “normal”.

Maybe a biggest example of the “mix” of Eurovision is the year 2007. Our neighbors from Serbia won that year, rightfully so, with a song “Molitva”, but the second place was won by the act coming from Ukraine which is so crazy that we Europeans actually adore it!

And now, for the first time in history – the contest was cancelled, like so many other music festivals and sporting events. The organizer, the EBU, had a difficult task and ultimately they made their decision. With all of these recent events in Europe, maybe it’s not the right time for a music contest. On the other hand, maybe it is a right time – maybe music can entertain us and help us in overcoming this difficult situation.

A similar problem occurred the first and only time the contest was organized in Zagreb. Croatia won the contest only once, in 1989, as a part of Yugoslavia. The winner was a young group called Riva from Zadar, a town in the region of Dalmatia.

Following their win, the contest of 1990 was held in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. The early 1990s were very turbulent times in Southern and Eastern Europe, especially in the countries of ex-Yugoslavia, with the fall of communism and fears of conflicts and yet, the song contest was held, even in these difficult times. The contest was held in Vatroslav Lisinski hall, a large concert hall constructed during the 1960s and 1970s, named after Vatroslav Lisinski, a great Croatian composer of the 19th century.


Vatroslav Lisinski Hall. Photo by Flammard.

On your next visit to Zagreb, if you’re searching for a nice musical event, be sure to check the schedule of Vatroslav Lisinski hall. Maybe you’ll find an idea for a nice evening in Zagreb.


Vatroslav Lisinski hall, interior, 2008. Photo by Roberta F.

The winner of the Zagreb 1990 contest was Italy, with a song called “Insieme 1992” (“Together 1992”). The title was referring to the unification of the continent and the processes of the contemporary European Union that started in 1992. Today, we need these sort of songs more than ever, reminding us of the need of solidarity in Europe and all over the world. This song is more relevant than ever – we’re all in this together, Europe is in all this together – insieme… and music is helping us in this situation. Stay safe, stay healthy, enjoy a good read or a good song…



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