Efendi was due to represent Azerbaijan at the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam with her song “Cleopatra”. The song is a biographical ode to the Ancient Egyptian Queen, mixing modern pop music with traditional ethnic instrumentation and Buddhist chanting.
Azeri broadcaster İTV internally selected Efendi and her song. The selection panel was composed of an international jury, which included music producers, composers, television industry professionals and journalists.
We’ve compiled 10 facts you need to know about Efendi. Let’s do this!
Azerbaijan at Eurovision 2020: Facts about Efendi
1. She found fame through reality singing competitions
Samira Efendi set her heart on becoming a performer from a young age and has participated in a number of Azeri singing competitions to help hone her craft. The star has appeared on Yeni Ulduz (2009), Böyük Səhnə (2014) and The Voice of Azerbaijan (2015-16).
Samira has had increasing success on the shows. On Böyük Səhnə, which was used as Azerbaijan’s national final to select their artist for Eurovision 2014, Efendi made it to the third heat, where she was eliminated just before the grand final. She went one better on The Voice of Azerbaijan. After turning all four chairs with her audition of Beyoncé’s “Listen”, Efendi made it all the way to the grand final of the show, but just missed out on victory.
2. She’s already represented Azerbaijan on the international stage
Following her success in national singing competitions, Efendi started representing her country in international events. So far this includes appearing on Silk Way Star (2017), Star of Asia (2019) and Voice of Nur-Sultan (2019), all of which included artists from across a number of CIS/Turkic countries and were held in Kazakhstan.
Although a year later than planned, she’ll be adding Eurovision to this list next year after being confirmed as Azerbaijan’s representative for Eurovision 2021.
3. She has a third-place streak
Over the course of her various appearances on televised singing competitions, Efendi has built up a streak of finishing in third place. After reaching the grand final of The Voice of Azerbaijan under the supervision of Azeri singer Tünzala, Samira eventually took home the bronze medal. She later earned another podium finish on Silk Way Star, again finishing in third place.
If you want to take the series of threes further, Efendi was eliminated in heat three of Böyük Səhnə. We’ll have to wait and see if the Azerbaijani star’s third-place streak continues at Eurovision 2021, or if she can go home with a different coloured medal. Perhaps three is just Efendi’s lucky number.
4. She’s attempted to represent Azerbaijan at Eurovision five times
Efendi has been determined to represent Azerbaijan at Eurovision for a number of years now. In addition to competing in the 2014 national selection Böyük Səhnə, the star has regularly been involved in the country’s internal selection processes since 2015. Last year, Samira was confirmed as one of the final four acts being considered to wave the Azerbaijani flag at Eurovision 2019. The 2020 selection was the fifth time Efendi had put her name forward, and thankfully the fifth time was the charm.
In an interview on late-night talk show Fatehin divanı (Fateh’s couch) after the release of her Eurovision 2020 entry “Cleopatra”, the star said she initially didn’t believe the delegation when they told her the good news. But, she says she never gave up on her dream to eventually perform on the Eurovision stage and has been putting in the hard work over the last five years to make it a reality.
5. She’s experienced at singing in multiple languages
In addition to her native Azeri, Efendi has become well versed in singing songs in a number of other languages. Naturally, this includes English, which is the primary language of her Eurovision 2020 song “Cleopatra”. In addition, her travels to fellow CIS countries to perform have seen her wrapping her tongue around the local dialects. For instance, on Silk Way Star Efendi performed a variety of songs, including ones in Kazakh and Uzbek.
Not just limiting herself to Turkic languages, Efendi has also dabbled in Spanish. The Azerbaijani star released the single “Tocame” (“Touch Me”) in 2017 alongside Romanian singer Seeya, which they sing entirely in Spanish.
6. The Buddhist chanting in “Cleopatra” is her own voice
One of the most iconic moments of “Cleopatra” is the short Buddhist-chanting interlude before the chorus. Efendi repeats the phrase “Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō”. These are religious words that are chanted in all forms of Nichiren Buddhism and refer to the Japanese title of the Lotus Sūtra.
In her interview on Fatehin divanı, Samira confirmed that the voice you hear on the track at this point is indeed her own. However, they have altered the recording to make it deeper and more dramatic.
7. She battled the wind of Gobustan whilst filming the music video
The music video for “Cleopatra” was filmed over the course of three days in the Gobustan region of Azerbaijan. The area is best known for its rock petroglyphs and mud volcanoes. However, in the depths of February, the area can also be rather cold and windy.
Efendi shared a behind the scenes look of the music video shoot on her Instagram after the MV had reached more than one million views, saying “Our fight against the cold on the mountain was not in vain!”. In it, we see the Azeri star’s outfits blowing effortlessly in the gusty conditions. At points, Samira and her backing dancers have to practise the routine in big puffy coats to keep warm.
No wind machine needed here, Gobustan provided a natural one for her.
View this post on Instagram
Our fight against the cold on the mountain was not in vain! ? 3 days, more than million views, first in trends, thousands of comments! You can’t imagine how happy I am! ? Thanks! I love you ?? ? Da? ba??nda soyuqla mübariz?miz bo?a getm?di! ? 3 gün, bir milyon bax??, trendl?rd? birinci pill?, minl?rl? ??rh! M?ni nec? sevindirdiyinizi t?s?vvür ed? bilm?zsiniz! ? T???kkür edir?m! Sizi çox sevir?m ?? #efendi #efendimusic #eurovision2020 #eurovision #esc #cleopatra
8. She’s a European tourism guru
Efendi may have never been to Rotterdam before, but she certainly knows a thing or two about a plethora of other European destinations. In 2019, the star was a guest presenter on Azerbaijani travel show Oralar. If you ever need advice on what to do when you’re planning a trip to Belgrade, Sarajevo, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Geneva or Paris, then Samira is the person to ask.
During her time on the show, the Azeri singer sampled a number of local delicacies. This includes snails, which Samira was given a plate of whilst exploring Paris. Skip to 36:30 in the video below to see her reaction to eating escargots for the first time – let’s just say, we don’t think she’s eaten them again since.
9. She owns a cake house
Outside of her music career, Efendi has a bit of a sweet tooth. The star has set up Efendi Sweet Boutique, which is an online cake house in Baku. The site’s Instagram page shows that they make a variety of sweet treats, from cakes to eclairs.
Next time you’re in the land of fire and in need of a sugar rush, then you know where to look.
10. She’s performed on a Formula 1 race track
Throughout the past few years of her music career, Efendi has had the opportunity to perform in a number of interesting locations, both nationally and internationally. One of the more unusual ones was on a Formula 1 race track.
Samira performed Azerbaijan’s national anthem at the closing ceremony of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2018. The star performed on a podium in the middle of the racecourse as a number of the drivers looked on. We’re thankful to report that none of the cars were actually racing around the track while Efendi was singing – the only thing she had to battle with was the wind.
Eurovision 2021 Update
Two days after the cancellation of Eurovision 2020 for coronavirus precautions, Efendi took to Instagram to inform her fans that she will indeed be waving the Azerbaijani flag in 2021:
“Guys, i have great news to share with you😊
Yes, I will represent Azerbaijan at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2021! Thank you for your support and unforgettable emotions! Can’t wait to see you ❤️”
Would Efendi have broken her third-place streak with “Cleopatra”? Are you excited to see her return for Eurovision 2021? Let us know in the comments below.