The festival of Sanremo has just finished and we can go back to whatever we were doing before it started. Nowadays, Sanremo is for the Italians an exercise of endurance, and, let’s face it, a vaguely masochistic practice. We know it’s boring, we know we are not going to like the songs, but every year we must watch at least a few minutes of the show. How can we help it? It’s like visiting your old grandma, who is a bit deaf and keeps repeating to you the same stories all over again: you can’t simply skip the appointment. Sanremo is the Italians’ nonna, and we keep coming back to check if she’s still senile because we grew up with her and, no matter what, we love her.
So it’s a bit funny to discover that most song contests of the world are actually a copycat of the festival of Sanremo. The most famous example is the Eurovision Song Contest, which is quite popular in other European countries. This contest was started in 1956 from an idea of the Italian (are you surprised?) journalist Sergio Pugliese. The aim of the show was to bring the European countries closer and get them to ‘know’ each other after the conflicts of the war. It was only natural to take inspiration from Sanremo, which had had its first edition 5 years earlier, in 1956. In line with Sanremo’s tradition, no winner of the Eurovision contest has ever become very famous except ABBA, who won in 1974. Nevertheless, the number of countries involved and the idea that you can only vote for other countries – not yours – made it one of the world’s most loved song contests – in fact, it’s the world’s most watched event, if we don’t consider sport competitions.
Eurovision spawned other song contests as well: the most popular is Eurovision Asia Song Contest. This involves among others India, Australia, Japan and Oceania countries. This Asian competition started life in 2018, so it’s basically a toddler, but we wish it a long life and to become as old as its far-away grandma – minus the senility.
In the world there are not only examples of Sanremo-inspired festivals. On the contrary, there are competions just like Sanremo, complete with Italian music, just in other countries. One of them is the festival di Viňa de Mar, Chile. This festival started out as a contest for Chilean singers but since 1968 artists from all over the world can participate in it. In 2010 the contest was won by a singer who reinterpreted “Volare”, so if you are looking for a breath of fresh air, this is probably not your cup of tea. An innovative aspect from Sanremo is that the audience, far from sitting stiffly on the plush armchairs like good nephews in grandma’s living room, are quite “expressive” in cheering and booing a singer. Because of this, the Vina del Mar’s audience is named “el monstruo” (the monster) and an artist who “tames the monstruo” is considered as a rising star in the South American pop scene.
Another instance of show-like-Sanremo-but-not-Sanremo is the Chinese Shanremo. Yes, you read it right. Unfortunately, this show doesn’t exist anymore, but was the festival of Italian music in Shanghai, China. All the singers performed in Italian and could be Italian or Chinese. The opening motive of Sanremo was there, the over-enthusiastic hosts were there, but, actually, it wasn’t that boring. In fact, the singers were quite bad but it was a small open-air festival, with the audience cheering and clearly no assumptions, no super-guests.
However, we Italians know it: a song contest is a serious matter, and if it wants to live long, it has to make sure that the viewers don’t enjoy it. Maybe the Eurovision song contest is not extremely popular in Italy because we only want to suffer once a year.
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