VAL were due to represent Belarus at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam with their song “Da vidna”. The duo are an embodiment of a new generation of Belarusian musicians performing in the country’s native language.
Belarusian broadcaster BTRC chose VAL through Natsionalniy Otbor 2020, its national selection process. After NAVIBAND in 2017, VAL were the second act to win the selection show with a Belarusian song. Could they have brought Belarus back to the left-hand side of the scoreboard?
Here are 10 facts we’ve compiled about VAL. Let’s do this!
Belarus at Eurovision 2020: Facts about VAL
1. They are Vlad And Lera
VAL originally started as a solo project for Valeria “Lera” Gribusova. Under the moniker, she released singles like “V moey komnate” and “Veter vo sne”. In 2019, VAL eventually became a duo when Lera combined her talents with her partner — music producer Vladislav “Vlad” Pashkevich.
2. Lera succesfully participated in several music competitions
Prior to her Eurovision participation, Lera competed in nearly every singing competition under the sun. She travelled from Paris to Moscow and often went home to Belarus with prizes and accolades. In 2015, she represented her country at the annual Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk. She finished second behind the now world-famous Dimash Kudaibergen.
3. They once recorded a joke entry for Eurovision
This ain’t a joke. One year later, one of Lera’s friends founded the trash band Raskalyonnye Utyugi. Eventually, she invited some of her friends to join, including Vlad and Lera. It was there that the two met and worked together closely for the first time. Later, they entered the song “One, Two, Three, Five” to Belarus’ preselection for Eurovision 2016.
4. Vlad wrote the original arrangement for NAVIBAND’s “Story of My Life”
Vlad has also made several serious attempts at composing a song for Eurovision too. Throughout the years, he has produced and arrangement several songs entered into the country’s national selection. The most notable ones include Michael Soul’s 2019 effort “Humanize” and NAVIBAND’s “Story of My Life”. The latter went on to represent Belarus at Eurovision 2017 and qualified for the grand final.
5. Vlad almost went to Eurovision as a backing singer
Not only did Vlad write the arrangement for the Naviband’s entry, he also provided backing vocals for the song in Belarus’ selection. He did so alongside Andrey Katikov. The pair called themselves ToneTwins. However, Vlad did not end up in Kyiv for Eurovision 2017, as it was decided to change the backing vocalists before the contest.
6. Lera entered The Voice of Ukraine
After her Slavianski Bazaar participation, Lera decided to enter The Voice of Ukraine. With Vlad standing by backstage, Lera auditioned with Queen’s “Somebody to love”. She managed to convince three of the four coaches to turn. Among these were Eurovision stars Tina Karol (2006) and Jamala (2016). She joined the latter’s team and eventually reached the knockout stages of the show.
7. Lera had to persuade Vlad to do Eurovision as VAL
Though he had written arrangements and tried out himself a few times, Vlad was not particularly eager to enter Belarus’ national final for Eurovision 2020 as VAL. It’s not that he hated Eurovision, but he was not fond of the scandals and negativity that often surround the Belarusian participants in the contest.
8. Lera has a special ritual before every performance
Before climbing on stage, Lera likes to light a palo santo, a so-called “holy stick” from the Bursera graveolens tree. According to Peruvian shamanic art, the ritual participants will be cleared of misfortune, negative thoughts and other kinds of evil spirits.
9. Their hand movements represent the rising sun
During their performance of “Da vidna”, which means “Until Dawn”, VAL can be seen making a gesture which includes making a circle around their eyes with their hands. According to them, this movement represents the rising sun that they sing about in their song.
10. Lera isn’t always the lead vocalist
More often than not, Lera is the voice of the duo. She provides lead vocals on much of their output, including “Da vidna”. However, Vlad has a strong pair of pipes too. He can be heard singing on “Safe Haven”, the first single on which the pair share lead vocals.
Bonus fact – They were our Wednesday Wishlist pick for Belarus
Shortly after VAL their debut single as a duo in 2019 — “Tikhaya gavan” — we picked VAL as the Belarusian act on our annual Wednesday Wishlist series. This mention was the first European-wide exposure for the group.
Eurovision 2021 update
As of 9 April, neither VAL nor Belarus’ broadcaster have confirmed any details regarding Eurovision 2021 participation. However, on Instagram, VAL wrote “We hope that every artist who was chosen to represent their country this year will make it to the next Eurovision”. This number would obviously include the duo.
Would VAL have brought Belarus back to the top ten? Let us know in the comments.