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🇸🇪 Slideback Sunday: When Roger Pontare celebrated indigenous culture in the land of pop

A feast to the eyes and ears

The ’90s were a successful decade for Sweden in Eurovision. A couple of top 10 placings, two 3rd places and two victories, one of which brought us back to Stockholm. Following, Charlotte Nielsen’s victory, the contest was hosted in the Globen Arena for the first time. Roger Pontare had the honour of representing the host nation on home soil.

The singer had already won Melodifestivalen back in 1994, with a duo with Marie Bergman. However, on 10th of March 2000 Pontare scored 227 points and by quite a large margin won Melodifestivalen with “När vindarna viskar mitt namn”. Like many many Swedish songs during the first half of the decade, the song was later translated into English for the contest – in this case Roger Pontare ‘s song was called “When Spirits Are Calling My Name”.

The song is a celebrates the indigenous culture and people who are protecting their old culture and traditions. During the performance Roger Pontare wore traditional Sami costume and he was accompanied on a stage by a Cree Indian dancer, a Thule Eskimo and a Norwegian Sami. Finally, after revealing the results Sweden managed to score 88 points and finished 7th.

A feast to the eyes and ears for folk lovers

I think this one is a love or hate song and as a sucker for ethnic pop/rock I love everything about this song and performance. The clothes, the smoke, the fire, great lightning, some amazing camera angles and huge crowd support is one of the reasons I fell in love with Eurovision. The only complain I could say is this – even though English suits this song very well, I would have left it 100% in Swedish, because it has even more magic then.

And that bridge – wow! Did the same guy sung for Sabina Babayeva in 2012? I’m joking of course, but that is one of my favourite moments of the contest. Sweden, please give us something like this in the upcoming decade, maybe Jon Henrik Fjällgren?

What do the others think?

Oliver – Roger Pontare’s entry is a prime example of cultural and indigenous collaboration

This is, by some margin, my favourite Swedish host entry. When I think of an ideal host entry it needs to have the following criteria:

  • A good singer
  • A strong song
  • The combination of the two that somehow authentically reflects an element of the host country/national culture/zeitgeist.
  • Something that deepens an audiences understanding of space and place that the show would not otherwise have showcased.
  • A song that acts as a complete contrast or tonal difference to last year’s winning act

When Spirits are Calling my Name ticks every box and then some. It is an incredibly powerful statement to have the first host entry of the millennium take a moment to pay homage to it’s indigenous peoples and cultures. As Justas points out, however, Roger Pontare’s performance also pays homage to other indigenous peoples across the globe. Where this could have easily been a moment for cultural appropriation, it acts as an indigenous collaboration, respectfully showcasing different cultures. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears every person who wears indigenous clothing are from the culture the clothing represents. Put another way, the performance gives space for authenticity as opposed to random backing singers/performers appropriating or exploiting the cultural identity of the Sami, Inuit and Native American peoples respectively.

For a contest initially designed to unite nations, culture and showcase talent – I can’t think of a more poignant way to do it. Roger’s vocals are outstanding. The lyrics (though more nuanced in Swedish) depict a powerful and haunting narrative. The issues raised are just as resonant now as they were twenty years ago.

To me, 7th is a massive injustice. This would have been my winner in Stockholm.

Borislava – staging diversity

First things first, the song stands out with lyrical and sound clues that are quite reminiscent of song styles from the naughties, which is impressive for an entry from 2000. Additionally, I’m always a sucker for a folky sound! That being said, it was mostly the stage design that caught my eye and I had to look into it, and ended up learning that Roger Pontare was accompanied by an Cree Indian dancer, a Thule Eskimo and a Norwegian Sami for a celebration of indigenous cultures around the world. Which is always amazing in my book.

Aline

In Eurovision, I love to see countries mixing up cultural elements in their entries. Both “Higher Ground” and “Spirit In The Sky” are great examples of displaying a cultural background. Both songs were enormously popular with the public, which was also visible in their televoting results. “When Spirits Are Calling My Name” is a less recent but also a great example of showing your background with pride in a musical way. Roger Pontare ‘s outfit was incredible, his vocals and the pyro effects on stage created the perfect atmosphere for the song. However, for me, it would have been even more effective if Roger kept the song in Swedish. A mix of all those elements created a perfect total package for a performance in my eyes.

What are your thoughts on “When Spirits Are Calling My Name”? Do you like Roger Pontare’s performance? Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter@escxtra on Instagram and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates! Also, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to see our reactions to the over the coming months.

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