17:03 May. 23, 2016
Ukraine's Jamala wins 2016 competition with a song dedicated to deportation of Crimean Tatars under Stalin
When St. Petersburg's renowned Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra performed Bach in the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria in early May, days after Syrian and Russian forces had forced Islamic State fighters to retreat, the Kremlin pulled off a media masterstroke.
Millions of TV and Internet viewers around the world saw Russian power — military and cultural — defeating the barbarism of the Islamic State.
Before the Islamic State's expulsion, the terror group destroyed parts of the UNESCO World Heritage site and used its Roman ruins as a backdrop for beheadings and executions.
On May 14, however, that same Russian regime was musically mugged at the Eurovision Song Contest by Susana Jamaladinova — known as Jamala — a Crimean Tatar who won by singing about Moscow's oppression of her kin.
Music and culture are increasingly important tools in conflict
Eurovision is a kitschy and popular Europe-wide TV talent show in which one artist or band from every participating country performs an original song and viewers cast votes.
About 200 million viewers watched Jamala perform "1944," an emotional lament that mixes Turkish-style harmonies with a cool, Western beat and tells how the Soviet Union deported Tatars from their Crimean homeland during World War II.
"The strangers are coming," Jamala sang. "They come to your house. They kill you all, and say, ‘We're not guilty, we're not guilty.'"
Her song, she admitted, was openly political. And while it referred to the Stalinist-era exile, it also implicitly referred to Moscow's 2014 annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.
In this confused era of unconventional confrontations, can music be an active tool of conflict? Music has been part of warfare for a millennium, whether it was medieval trumpeters, Scottish bagpipers or military parades with marching bands. But there may be reason to argue that music, and culture more generally, are increasingly important in conflict. Full story