Throwback Thursday: Belgium’s Urban Trad give traditional a whole new meaning

Loosing a close race!

In this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re flipping through Belgium’s catalog of Eurovision entries. Despite there being a huge variety of songs to choose from, it all came down to pinning a special moment in time and one of my first obsessions with the contest – Eurovision 2003.

Language Twist

In a variety of languages across the continent (24 to be officially recognized as working/official) Belgium’s Urban Trad decided to go with a much more creative approach. They used their “Thank You, Next” card to all of them and decided to go with an imaginary language which at that time was probably considered as a tad eccentric.

They’ve got 4 languages in Belgium and they’re singing in an imaginary one, the very essence of the Euro!

 Terry Wogan

However, I would strongly disagree. The whole concept of sending something to Eurovision is to stand out and be memorable. The beauty of “Sanomi” as a song is that it completely relies of creating an ambiance and giving the viewer the option to relate to the song in a very personal/subjective way.

Urban Trad performing “Sanomi” live at the Eurovision Song Contest 2003

Additionally, the fact that it manages to avoid walking the “middling” line and be polarizing all across the board speaks volumes about the importance of having a creative and “out of the box” approach when it comes to selecting a song for Eurovision.

Sanomi & Me

I remember hearing “Sanomi” for the first time in one of those local TV station Eurovision preview shows (yes, I am ancient) and being quite intrigued about what was the idea/concept behind sending an entry like this to Eurovision.

It only took a dial-up connection (me being ancient, moment number 2) for me to surf my way to Belgium and listen to some little snippets of the song that caught my interest.

Eurovision 2003 was also the first contest I started hosting my Eurovision watch parties (yes, it featured some snacks, my friend, crayons and a handwritten spreadsheet of all the competing acts). The polarizing factor of the song kicked in and took my friend by surprise. She was determined to give it the lowest score possible, but that is when my devious plan of negotiating begun.

In true Balkan manner, I traded my high score for her favorite Slovenia’s “Na Na Na” (yes, she had, has and continues having horrible taste in music) and Sanomi ended up in our joint top 5 once we added up the scores.

Now that I managed to give my opinion of the song (and reveal my actual age) I think I am ready for the polarizing opinions of my teammates. Sanomi (since it’s an imaginary language I decided to replace the word enjoy with Sanomi).

Opinionated XTRA bunch

Rodrigo: Belgium has such a repertoire of phenomenal entries and we decided to go for this… sigh. It’s not that this entry is bad, it’s that it’s SO bad that it beggars belief it actually managed to score any points. To me music is about the ability to communicate feelings, and for that there needs to be an understanding of what’s being said, at least on the part of the performer. Don’t get me wrong, I can get very emotional with entries in languages I don’t understand but it’s usually derived from the feeling conveyed by the artist when performing – they know what they’re saying and they manage to make it translate even if not a word is understood. With Sanomi, what others regard as genius I think of as pure creative laziness coated with artistic pretension. This entry is high up there in my list of most hated of all time. Also, #justiceforTatu and/or #justiceforFLY

Tom R: I’m going to begin by saying… I’m just glad Turkey won! There are very little positives about this song – they both sound much like they are being strangled and squealing random words only known to martians from outer space. Many people call this “beautiful” and “magical”, I call it pure and utter rubbish! How this come in second place is beyond me. 2003 was such a strong year in my opinion and then this went and finished in 2nd place (with the even worse entry from Russia in 3rd place but that’s another review for another time)! If I had to say something positive about it… I like the beat and it was better than t.A.T.u. and Alf!

Ryan: Sanomi feels like one of the biggest fan favourites from the 2000s but I can’t say I ever found it more than pleasant. The imaginary language sounds nice on the ear, but lacks an easy emotional connection lyrically as a consequence. The stage presentation was very strong, although for me this wasn’t the second strongest song in 2003. My personal favourite was t.A.T.u, and I thought their live performance was more than adequate, and Sertab was a worthy winner… despite 8-year-old me very much disliking it on the night!

Constantinos: I gotta be honest, the early 2000s were dark times for the contest for me. It wasn’t until 2005 where I started to watch the contest (or at least remember watching it), and upon discovering the 2000-2004 contests…I didn’t miss out. Of course, there are gems to be found in every year, and this is a highlight from that…unfortunate patch. The production alone, distinctly early 2000s with the classic faux DJ record scratch-esque glitches thrown in alongside intoxicating vaguely Eastern production makes this such a striking listen. And then to top it all off, THEY’RE SINGING AN IMAGINARY LANGUAGE. The power that that has, the intelligence that that has, the clearance that that has, the access that that has, the influence that that has, the profile that that has, the international implications that that has. When people try and act cute by pretending that Belgium only got good at Eurovision from 2015 onwards, I direct them to this innovative masterpiece.

What do you think of “Sanomi”? Would you like to see Urban Trad return to Eurovision?

Let us know your opinions in the comments below and on social media @ESCXTRA. Do you agree with the team?

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