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Europe faces the music in Estonia

Swiss singer Francine Jordi is hoping for the biggest applause at the 2002 Eurovision contest

(Keystone Archive)

It may not be music to everyone's ears, but the Eurovision Song Contest - which takes place on Saturday - is one of the longest-running programmes on television.

Criticised by some for the blandness of many entries over the years and for often being a beacon of kitsch television, it nevertheless attracts millions of viewers who don't seem to mind the lyrics of such songs as the 1969 winner, a hit entitled "Boom Bang-A-Bang."

Other past titles have included "Wadda hadde dudde da" and "Guildo loves you".

The contest was first held in 1956 at Lugano in southern Switzerland. Seven countries took part and the winning song was the Swiss entry, "Refrain", sung by Lys Assia. Switzerland has won on only one other occasion - with "Ne partez pas sans moi" in 1988, when it was represented by the French-Canadian singer, Céline Dion.

This year, viewers in 23 of the 25 countries taking part will be able to vote for their preferred entry by telephone and by a virtual poll on the official website. The venue, in a hall with seating for 6,400 people, is Tallinn, capital of last year's winner, Estonia.

Switzerland is represented by Francine Jordi, who will be singing one of her own compositions, "Dans le jardin de mon âme" (In the garden of my soul).

The 24-year-old from the predominantly Swiss-German canton of Bern says she wrote the song in French rather than her mother tongue "because the language is more romantic!"

Whichever song wins the 47th Eurovision contest, perhaps the most memorable will be the one performed by a Slovenian trio of transvestites called Sisters. They've been described in the Slovenian press as "not especially bad".

On the other hand it could be the Russian entry. Its title is "Northern girl, Lady Ice. How can I melt you baby?"

by Richard Dawson

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