Well, the title of this post pretty much explains itself, doesn’t it. Not that I’m going to let that stop me from elaborating on it in a completely unnecessary fashion. It’s a Jaz trademark, for Stig Rästa’s sake!
So, cue the intro that needn’t be: you’ll all be aware by now that one of the (seemingly) many male/female duets competing in Eurovision 2015 is Uzari & Maimuna of Belarus. Uzari – singer and composer from a musical family, whose ESC representation has been years in the making – and Maimuna – violin prodigy, who played with the Belarusian presidential orchestra and has two solo albums to her name – formed a musical partnership after bonding over the majesty of The Lord of the Rings soundtrack (and, most likely, how badly both of them needed to pee after sitting through 3+ hours of cinema).
The eventual result? ‘Time’, which will carry the hopes of Belarus on its relatively up-tempo shoulders in Vienna. Uzari and Maimuna themselves will be carrying those hopes too, of course.
I recently had the chance to ask the pair how it feels for two soloists, talented in their own rights, to form something of a super-duet; what we can expect from their Eurovision performance (i.e. will there be a giant snake-and-Maimuna-filled hourglass onstage?); and, what their favourite 2015 entry is (you’ll never guess). That’s just to name a few of my probing questions, which would have been more out-of-the-box if I wasn’t such an interview newbie. I guess I’ll have to play that particularly rude round of ‘Would You Rather?’ with another Eurovision star, another time.
ANYWAY, read on to find out what Uzari & Maimuna had to say to EBJ, and let me know what you think of Belarus’ chances in Eurovision 2015 down below!
FYI: I know, I know…there are at least three other Belarusian interviews orbiting Planet Eurovision at the moment. But I figure that just means everyone wants a piece of the pair, and that their lovely PR expert (extra lovely seeing as she’s Australian) is very accommodating! Plus, this interview is still technically exclusive…to this blog. So there.
Good morning/afternoon/evening, guys! I’d like to kick off this interview with a question for Maimuna. As someone who is used to performing as a solo instrumentalist, how do you feel teaming up with a vocalist for an event as big as Eurovision? Do you think you and Uzari might continue your working partnership after the contest?
M: I hope so. We’re both so proud of ‘Time’ and how the song works with his vocals and my violin, so you never know what else we could end up doing afterwards.
One of your big hits has been ‘Queen of Africa’, which is always on my workout playlist because it’s so high energy and has such a great atmosphere. Is it as enjoyable to play as it is to listen to?
M: Thank you so much. I really love playing it as it shows what sounds and notes a violin can produce. Plus it keeps my fingers and my mind very nimble.
Uzari, you have tried to represent Belarus at Eurovision a few times in the past (‘Secret’ is one of my favourite national final entries from recent years, in fact!). What do you think made ‘Time’ the song that helped you get there?
U: Oh, that’s a tough question. I loved being backing singer for Anastasia [Vinnikova] in 2011 as it gave me the chance to see how the whole event worked and what effort was required; and to enjoy the opportunity. That’s why I entered the Eurofest national finals in 2012 and 2013. In 2014 I was focusing on Nadezdha for Junior Eurovision (with the song ‘Sokol’) but after writing ‘Time’ and working with Maimuna, we both agreed that it seemed ‘right’.
Do you think that Eurovision experience as a backup singer prepared you at all for what to expect as a lead artist in Vienna?
U: I hope so. Then again, that was four Eurovisions ago and each event has different themes, stars that emerge, and celebrated characters and songs. Maimuma and I met Arash (who came third in 2009 ESC) last week and he said what I think we both already knew: work as hard as you can, but somehow also find moments to simply take it all in and enjoy.
What does it mean to you both to be representing Belarus in the 60th Eurovision Song Contest?
U: A dream come true. It’s such an honour and the Belarusians have been so enthusiastic and supportive. We want to do our best for them.
M: I’m not sure it’s sunk in properly yet – maybe when I’m onstage in Vienna?
What do you think is the best part about performing as a duet?
U: You are not on your own. A duet becomes a team so that you both have a hand in what is created, performed and shown to the world. Maimuna’s talent just amazes me and she has the personality, intelligence and kindness to back it up.
M: I always wanted to work with Uzari and the song he wrote needed my violin: it just worked. We get along really well, we both love our work and are really looking forward to Vienna.
Have you listened to any of the other songs competing this year? If so, do you have any favourites?
U: Not all of them yet, but that’s only because they’re not all released [as of March 12] – I’m particularly interested in the songs from the first semi-final. Who are we up against? The variety and quality has been very impressive.
M: I have checked out the songs that are available. With ballads, retro-jazz and techno, there’s a big selection that has enough to appeal to everyone. I don’t have a favourite, or if I do, it’s ours, of course [jokingly].
The official video of ‘Time’ was released recently, and it’s stunning. Can we expect a similar theme to come through in your stage presentation in May, or will you be trying something different?
M: We are sworn to secrecy but we do want something stylish and strong. No glitter, unicycles or burlesque dancers for us! [Am I wrong to be a little disappointed about this?]
Do you have a particular goal for your result in the contest (qualifying, making the top 10 or going all the way) or do you just want to put on the best show possible and do Belarus proud?
U: You answered the question for us, in a way [sorry about that!]. We both want to do our best on stage, represent Belarus and enjoy every single moment of the experience.
Finally, do you have anything you’d like to say to your Australian fans (who can actually vote for Belarus this year!) and EBJ’s readers?
U: Our Aussie press lady, Kath, told me to say ‘G’day’ to you all and that Guy Sebastian is a really good choice. We hope to meet up with him – and the famous Julia Zemiro – in Vienna.
M: We hope that you guys enjoy the Eurovision experience – not just as viewers but also as a participating country who gets to vote!
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, guys. I wish you the best of luck in Vienna, all the way from the Land Down Under!
Whether you’re supporting Belarus or not this year, I hope you enjoyed this interview, because I think I’ve caught the bug now. Watch out, ESC representatives – I’m coming for you with mundane question after mundane question! Or perhaps that aforementioned round of ‘Would You Rather?’…
If you are on Team Belarus for 2015, here’s who to get in touch with and where to go for all things Uzari & Maimuna.
Kath Lockett (Media/PR)
Olga Salamakha (Belarusian/Russian contact)
How do you think Belarus will fare in Eurovision this year? Can Uzari & Maimuna knock TEO’s cheesecake off the cake stand, or will it be ‘Time’ for them to go home after semi final 1?