Keep it hot! Hungary’s Joci Papai spins amid the flames during first rehearsal

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He’s the first Romany artist to represent Hungary at the Eurovision Song Contest. And during his first rehearsal at Eurovision 2017 Joci Papai once again served a heady mix of traditional and contemporary sounds, retaining the soul and spirit that made him a worthy winner at home.

Wearing all black — including low-slung trousers and a leather jacket with gold buttons — Joci was visibly nervous on this much bigger stage. At times his voice quivered and you could see his hands shaking. But with each run-through he grew in confidence, and rightly so. The LED is simple and tasteful — you see cut-outs of fronds and birds that look classy and somehow significant. (They actually come from the intro of a popular animated Hungarian cartoon series).

He also gives his act extra rhythm by beating on a traditional milk jug. Joci’s team tells us that the Romany people, who have traditionally struggled economically, have turned the milk jug into an instrument over time. “You don’t have to have money to make music,” they tell us.

His violinist plays on the small island stage in the audience, but rather than being a distraction she adds another focal point as Joci and his dancer perform their traditional dance on the main stage. During their intimate hand-on-hand dance the circular stage erupts with pyro all around — literally bringing the heat as they stare into each other’s smouldering eyes. The flames also provide a nice transition to the spoken word segment, which, as ever, fits so nicely.

The vast stage did, at times, feel somewhat empty. Hopefully producers will include more close-ups and tighter crops to keep the artist in focus.

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Read all of our Eurovision rehearsal reviews

Read all of our Hungary Eurovision news here

Photo: Eurovision.tv (EBU)