By Viktar Korbut
For quite a long time, our country has failed to win the International Vitebsk Pop Song Contest at the Slavoniс Bazaar Festival. In the past, there were successes every year. In 2003, Maxim Sapatkov won the Grand Prix — a triumphal start for Belarus. In 2004, Piotr Yelfimov captured the major award and, in 2005, it went to Polina Smolova. Alena Lanskaya is this year’s winner, having received 179 points (of 180 possible) for Sky Knows and White Swallow (performed in Belarusian). Her win confers special status. Mr. Yelfimov and Ms. Smolova tried to conquer Eurovision after their success at the Slavonic Bazaar and Alena has similar plan, hoping to try her luck in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, which is to host the next European musical festival. Symbolically, Eurovision-2011 winners Ell and Nikki especially attended the Vitebsk event, to sing their Running Scared — the song which brought them luck at German Dusseldorf this year.
Ms. Lanskaya was much excited before the contest, viewing it as the most important in her artistic biography. “The Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk is a very strong international contest — being among the most popular both in our country and other post-Soviet states,” she says. This year, first place went to Ukrainian Vladimir Kvasnitsa, while second place was shared by Lithuania’s Ruta and David Deyl of the Czech Republic. Alisher Karimov of Kazakhstan and Cristina Skarlat of Moldova shared third place.
The 20th International Vitebsk-2011 Pop Song Contest’s Grand Prix awards $15,000, with those holding 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes receive $9,000, $6,000 and $3,000 respectively. Alena Lanskaya plans to spend hers on paying those who’ve helped her to achieve success: her director, stylist, music teacher and the song’s author. “I have a complicated character. It’s not easy to work with me but it’s necessary to reward people for their job,” she is convinced.
Interestingly, this year’s Slavonic Bazaar gathered almost all the former Grand Prix holders for the first time (of the young performers’ contests). Popular stars performed on the Summer Amphitheatre’s stage; among them were Polina Smolova and Piotr Yelfimov of Belarus, Ziki of Serbia, Damir Kedzo of Croatia, Donatas Montvidas of Lithuania and Ukraine’s Natalia Krasnyanskaya.
Belarus’ Culture Minister, Pavel Latushko, views the Slavoniс Bazaar in Vitebsk Festival as hardly imaginable without its Pop Song Contest. He stresses the high level of contestants’ performance, saying, “This proves that the contest is in demand, being popular. It has a high status and prestige in the musical world — which is important for Belarus.” People’s Artiste of the USSR, composer Igor Luchenok, agrees, “It’s vital for countries not only from the former USSR to be friends, but also those from around the globe.” This year, Mr. Luchenok was awarded the Belarusian President’s special award: ‘Through Art to Peace and Mutual Understanding’, gaining a place on Star Avenue, which is situated close to the main singing ground of the Festival — the Summer Amphitheatre.
No doubt, the Slavoniс Bazaar in Vitebsk has become a festival not only of music and friendship, but also of love. Serbia’s Svetlana Slavkovic, who won the 1997 Grand Prix, tells us that the event helped her to find her husband — singer Ziki, who won the Vitebsk Festival in 2002. The couple met in this Belarusian city, falling in love and living happily together ever since. Ukrainian Natalia Krasnyanskaya also found her love at the Festival. She won at the age of 17, in 2007. “I then fell in love for the first time. Now, I’m walking along the places I remember, crying. Vitebsk is a very romantic city.”