Last week, it was announced that Andrew Lambrou had been selected to represent Cyprus at the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest. This is significant for a few reasons, but mainly because he is the first Cypriot Eurovision representative to actually be of Cypriot descent since 2017. In this editorial, I want to articulate the importance of Cypriot representation at Eurovision, particularly for the diaspora.
Cyprus has had one of the most interesting trajectories of any participating nation at the contest. It is currently the country with the most participations to have never won the contest, an honour that was held by Portugal until 2017. Having struggled to crack the top 10 throughout most of its history, it had a spate of successes in the 90s before struggling for most of the 00s. Then, after a steady streak of qualifications, Eleni Foureira – one of the biggest pop stars in the Hellenic world, unleashed Fuego on the world and gave Cyprus its first (and only) top three finish.
In the P.F. years (Post-Fuego), Cyprus has become known for sending uptempo pop songs by female artists, to the point where it has become woven into the BBC’s commentary scripts during the semi-finals. Even though 2022 presented a slight change of pace – i.e. a mid-tempo bilingual pop song – a ‘brand’ has certainly been forged.
More significantly, but perhaps more discreetly, this period never saw a single representative that was actually Cypriot, neither by residency nor by descent. Until Andrew Lambrou, the most recent Cypriot Cypriot representative was Hovig back in 2017. As much as I have enjoyed the bops Eleni, Tamta, Elena and Andromache shipped over, part of me has always been disheartened by how the Cypriot candidacy had become a vehicle for Greek artists to boost their profiles, and therefore denying Cypriots the same opportunity.
Representing Cyprus in its own right
On a personal level, as a British-born member of the diaspora who has no direct connection to Greece, I haven’t felt particularly ‘represented’ by Cyprus’ recent representatives. Even though I have been a fan of each of their respective discographies pre-contest, I would still have preferred seeing Cypriot artists get a chance to shine. This is especially important because the roster of Panik Records – the record label behind most of Cyprus’ recent entries – is rather thin on the ground when it comes to Cypriot talent, as the vast majority of their artists are Greek.
Moreover, having Greek artists repeatedly represent Cyprus reinforces a narrative that Greece and Cyprus are interchangeable. I could write an essay just about why this is inaccurate at best and dangerous at worst, but many academics already have. The bottom line is that the optics of an internationally-broadcast cultural exchange of this scale matter, and I think Cypriot people deserve to have our unique identities, and all those layers and complexities, shown to the world.
If you’re a Greek person reading this, know that I adore and respect the deep ties we have to our sister nation (and very much appreciate your loyalty in the voting), but understand that many Cypriots living abroad often have to constantly correct other people’s incorrect assumptions about us. Our cultural, political and linguistic ties matter, but so do our distinctions.
Representation for the diaspora
And now back to Andrew Lambrou. By my count, Andrew is the first foreign-born member of the Cypriot diaspora to represent Cyprus at Eurovision since Lisa Andreas all the way back in 2004. This is a big deal, and this sentiment was shared by the multitude of Cypriot diaspora social media accounts I follow – including @nepomak and @thecypriotstory.
Now, I am wise enough to not expect an entry produced in Nicosia and sang in a Cypriot dialect with traditional instrumentation, it just won’t happen. But regardless, this will be an entry that represents the hundreds of thousands of Cypriots living outside of the island in a way that no song by a Greek artist could. In my experience, members of the diaspora are often very connected to their roots, and yet have very different perspectives and ways of identifying compared to the native Cypriot population – so to see this represented at Eurovision for the first time in almost two decades will be a big moment.
Regardless of the eventual outcome, I applaud and thank CyBC for opting to platform Cypriot talent this time around. In addition, I hope that the incoming Panik Records talent show for 2024 will ensure a pipeline of Cypriot representatives for the years to come.
If you want to learn more about Cypriot history and the evolving dialog around Cypriot identity, I recommend the following:
- The From Root To Vine podcast by Maria Christodoulou (PODCAST)
- Exploring Cypriot Identity Series – Introduction (VIDEO)
- ‘The Cyprus Problem: What Everyone Needs to Know’ by James Ker-Lindsay (BOOK)
- ‘Colonial and Postcolonial Cyprus: Transportal Literatures of Empire, Nationalism, and Sectarianism’ by Daniele Nunziata (BOOK)
- ‘Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices From a Divided City’ by Bahriye Kemal, Alev Adil, Aydin Mehmet Ali, Maria Petrides (BOOK)
- ‘Writing Cyprus Postcolonial and Partitioned Literatures of Place and Space’ by Bahriye Kemal (BOOK)
- ‘After The Formalities’ by Anthony Anaxagorou (BOOK)
- ‘The Island of Missing Trees’ by Elif Shafak (BOOK)
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