Music and Politics in the Context of Eurovision Project (Essay)

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For this project, I chose to read “State, identity, and the politics of music: Eurovision and nation-building in Azerbaijan.” This article was written by Murad Ismayilov. Ismayilov is a sociologist from the University of Cambridge. His main focuses of study are global knowledge structures, education, global health, modernity, nationalism, global politics, and religion. In this article, Ismayilov claims that the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) interfered with Azerbaijan’s nation-building. To give a brief background, the ESC is a music contest amongst many European nations.

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The winner of the previous year’s contest has the privilege of hosting the next year’s contest. Azerbaijan won in 2011 and therefore was given the honor of hosting the ESC in 2012. Ismayilov claims that the ESC interferes with Azerbaijan's Western sense of self among the people of Azerbaijan, interferes as a unifying force within the midsts of the rapidly maturing civil society, interferes as a medium to which the elements of western pop culture could evolve more in the country, and interferes as an element the decouples the processes in the cultural domain from conflicts of settlement and diversification. The author then discusses four areas that support his claims. They have to do with Azerbaijan’s self-perception, civil society, cultural field, and foreign policy. In terms of self-perception, Ismayilov states that the presence of this contest helped to establish a sense of identity in the country, and to transform relations between east and west Europe and the broader Eurasia region. He states that in terms of civil society, the exposure to Western culture helped to bridge the gap between local and foreign groups, contributing to the formation of a more coherent society, and national identity. The nations culture evolved and also exposed their culture to people worldwide. Lastly, in terms of foreign policy, the ESC opened the country up to international relations amongst the artistic community, caused more engagement internationally, and contributed to shifts in the music culture in the country.

While the author is claiming that the ESC helped to shape Azerbaijan’s nation, I believe that that the presence of the ESC in Azerbaijan actually distracted the process of nation-building, causing the country to conform to outside stigmas of what life should be like. The author makes claims that the ESC exposed Azerbaijan to western culture which ultimately lead to Azerbaijan building their national identity around western culture. While it is true that western culture was introduced as a result of the ESC being held in Azerbaijan, I believe that it distracted Azerbaijan from who they truly are. Essentially, they saw what western culture was like, and immediately began to adapt to it rather than adapting and learning about their own unique culture. Azerbaijan’s national identity came as a result of the ESC however, I believe it was not their true national identity.

I believe that the author was effective in persuading his audience of his claims. However, I do not fully agree with the author's thesis. Some parts I agree with, others I do not. I disagree with his claim that Azerbaijan's national identity was shaped as a result of the ESC, as discussed in the previous paragraph. I do agree with the authors claim that the ESC opened the country up to international relations amongst the artistic community, caused more engagement internationally, and contributed to shifts in the music culture in the country. Any type of music festival provides the opportunity to learn new ideas and concepts in terms of music, especially when it is an international festival.

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