It reads like a farfetched screenplay. Born in Colombia, 23-year old Jurgis Didziulis journeys to Lithuania — his grandparents’ homeland — and takes refuge in the Vilnius club scene. He forms a band. He marries an Irish pop singer. He releases two albums and becomes a regular on MTV (in the Baltic Republics, anyway). In this tale of globalization, the happy ending comes replete with the gigs, the girl and the groupies. Now, seven years after Didziulis left Colombia, it includes representing his adopted country at Eurovision.
In “Eastern European Funk,” Didziulis and his funk band InCulto blend the Latin rhythms of his childhood with Lithuanian folk music. In the song’s official preview video, they don plaid pants, blow kazoos and make merry with everyone from butchers to Vilnius’ hot young things, all the while chanting their simple message: “Get up and dance to our Eastern European kinda funk!”
Sure, it’s about having a good time. But look past the confetti and you’ll find a tongue-and-cheek commentary on Western Europeans, and the fashionable belief that Europe stops at the German border. As the lyrics state:
Yes Sir, we are legal we are, though we are not as legal as you. No Sir, we’re not equal, no, though we are both from the E.U.
For Lithuanians, the dancing serves as a reminder of how far they’ve come–and that there are fates far worse than dealing with snooty Frenchman:
We’ve had it pretty tough, but that’s ok, we like it rough. We’ll settle the score, survived the Reds and two World Wars.
Didziulis denies any political messaging. “Our song is very basically about us wanting you to dance to our Eastern European funk,” he recently told reporters from the eurovision.tv web site. But given the backlash against immigrants throughout Europe during the recent recession–Gordon Brown ran for re-election with the slogan “British jobs for British workers”—it’s hard not to indulge an immigration theme.
In this light, the video plays on the stereotypes attached to migrant workers. Do all six of those men live in that tiny house? Is he pulling vodka out of the fridge (and will he use our tax-payer funded National Health Service for alcohol treatment)? The song’s most direct jab pokes fun of the well-to-do Londoners and Parisians who view immigrants solely as the help:
We build your homes and wash your dishes, keep your hands all squeaky clean. But one of these days you’ll realize, Eastern Europe is in your genes.
Lithuania doesn’t have a stellar record at Eurovision. Despite competing in the contest ten times, it has placed 20th or higher on just two occasions. In 2001, when Lithuania finished 13th, it was represented by Didziulis’ wife. Perhaps fortune will favor her husband too?
Probably not. InCulto competes in the second semi-final–the more challenging of the two. Unless Didziulis works on his enunciation, the humor of his song will be lost on the public. It’s unclear if Western Europeans will buy into a slap-in-the-face anyway. Bookies have the group down to finish in the bottom five; only the Netherlands, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Slovenia have worse odds. On a good night, InCulto can hope to finish 12th to 15th in their semi-final.