From Sister Sledge to the Carpenters to the Jackson 5, performers frequently find talent within their own family tree. The same holds true at Eurovision, where family acts often fare very well. Two brotherly acts have won the contest: Swedish boyband The Herreys in 1984 and Danish group The Olsen Brothers in 2000. But some artistic families stretch across several generations. So, in honour of love and the ties that bind us, we’re celebrating well-known and at times legendary artists who are the ancestors of our beloved Eurovision stars.
Did you know that Eurovision 2011 winner Eldar Gasimov counts a celebrated actor in his family? Or that Ukraine’s hamster wheel singer Mariya Yaremchuk and Malta’s singing doctor Gianluca Bezzina‘s had artistic relatives who challenged the artistic status quo during their time? Sweden’s Benjamin Ingrosso and Russia’s Philipp Kirkorov don’t just have loving parents — they have moms and dads who paved the way to stardom.
Gianluca’s grandfather Gaetano Buttigieg
It’s almost common knowledge that singing doctor and Eurovision 2013 star Gianluca Bezzina is part of a musical family. In 2015, the Bezzina sibling band L-Aħwa submitted “Beautiful to Me” to the Maltese preselection.
But two generations prior, his grandfather Gaetano Buttigieg, also known locally as Gaetano Kanto, was already forging his own artistic path. Buttigieg pioneered the translation of popular Italian and English songs into the Maltese language.
According to Eve, Buttigieg completely challenged the then principle that the Maltese language, which is closely related to Arabic, was not suitable for these types of songs. Buttigieg’s interpretations became famous in the 1950s and 1960s, and nowadays they’re considered his biggest legacy.
Benjamin Ingrosso’s mother Pernilla Wahlgren
Ever since Pernilla Wahlgren hit the high notes in “Piccadilly Circus”, the Swedes have been sold. Over the decades, Pernilla has participated in more than one Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s largest music competition and its long-time Eurovision preselection.
But she is not just a Melodifestivalen veteran, but a skilled actress who has starred in countless plays. She’s twice received a Guldmasken, the country’s most prestigious theatre award. And her acting is not limited to the stage. She played the role of Esmeralda in Fanny och Alexander, which received an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
In recent years, she and her family, among them Eurovision 2018 contestant Benjamin Ingrosso, have been followed in the reality series Wahlgren’s värld. The show is said to be Sweden’s closest thing to Keeping Up With The Kardashians with its successful star “mother” in the centre of it all.
Mariya Yaremchuk’s father Nazariy
If you know anything about Nazariy Yaremchuk, then you know he faced several setbacks at a young age. However, his love of music and his homeland, combined with a strong ability to persevere, led him to become one of the lead singers of the VIA Smerichka by 1969.
After the release of the musical film Chervona Ruta in 1971 — in which Nazariy starred alongside Sofia Rotaru and fellow Smerichka lead singer Vasyl Zinkevych — the group became famous throughout Eastern Europe. Soon after, Nazariy became the first Ukrainian artist to sing at the annual Song of the Year festival in Moscow.
A face of Ukrainian counterculture, Yaremchuk’s repertoire of exclusively Ukrainian-language songs remains celebrated to this day with highlights including “Stozhary”, “Hai, zelenyi hai” and “Nezrivyaniy svit krasy”. He was among the first to popularise Volodymyr Ivasyuk‘s songs “Chervona ruta” and “Vodohrai”, which have since been covered by Ukrainian Eurovision and Vidbir stars such as Tayanna, Ani Lorak and Serhii Babkin. In 2015, Eurovision 2014 sixth-place finisher Mariya Yaremchuk honoured her late father by covering his song “Rodyna” (meaning “family”).
Philipp Kirkorov’s father Bedros
Bedros Kirkorov was born in Varna, Bulgaria, to an Armenian family. Although his parents sang in the local Armenian choir, they did not have any professional music credentials. Philipp Kirkorov, Bedros’ father, was a full-time shoe maker.
Bedros Kirkorov thought of following in the footsteps of his father, but his love for musical artistry was stronger than his desire to turn out a loafer. He eventually moved to Yerevan and then on to Moscow, the biggest Slavic pop — or estrada — scene at that time.
Although his son Philipp went on to become far better-known, it’s safe to say that Bedros set a path for him. Coming as a foreigner to Moscow and establishing a music career is no easy feat, but Bedros pulled it off. It also helped his son to get acquainted with the musicians that would shape Philipp Kirkorov’s musical style, as Philipp traveled with his father on his tours as a child and young man.
Nowadays, Bedros Kirkorov still performs. And sometimes alongside his son too! Recently they went viral on TikTok for recreating a fifty-year-old picture of themselves.
Eldar Gasimov’s great-grandfather Abbas Mirza Sharifzadeh
Born in 1893, Abbas Mirza Sharifzadeh lived through the early age of film. The Azeri actor and performer made a huge name for himself at the start of the twentieth century. Stepping on the stage, aged 9, he launched what would prove to be a very impressive career. As early as the mid-1910s, when the first commercial cameras were made, Sharifzadeh committed himself to becoming a director.
Dubbed the “great actor of tragedies” for his many interpretations of Shakespearean pieces such as Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth, Sharifzadeh became an important actor in Azerbaijan. In the West of Baku, a street still bears his name. Curiously, it’s not that far from the Eurovision 2012 venue.
Abbas Mirza Sharifzadeh isn’t Eldar’s only artistic ancestor. His grandmother Firangiz Sharifova and his great-grandmother Marziyya Davudova featured in stage and theatre plays.
Were you already familiar with any of these names? Who should we include in a next instalment of this series? Let us know in the comments below!