Interview | Jamala talks winning Eurovision and winning over gay fans
Jamala caused quite a stir at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with her haunting song, 1944. But whether it was its political themes (1944 was about the Soviet Union’s historical deportation of Crimean people, if you didn't know) or the fact that is was just a great tune, it took the singer to victory.
It seems as though her political streak extends beyond music too; she recently reached out to the Mayor of Kiev to ask him to keep LGBT people sage at a Pride march in the city.
Now, Jamala is coming to London for a performance at G-A-Y tomorrow night (July 30). We caught up with the Ukrainian singer ahead of her show to talk about life since Eurovision, her gay following, and who she wants to see at next year's contest...
How has your life changed since Eurovision?
I can perform in different cities and countries – I had a huge concert in Poland, I headlined a festival in Germany - and I can share my music with people around the world. It’s a great opportunity for me, winning Eurovision. For songwriters it’s a great showcase, but it’s like a step, and I want to be known as a songwriter and a singer, not just a Eurovision Song Contest winner.
What are you most looking forward to about appearing at G-A-Y this weekend?
I’m so excited. I have a lot of fans in London, especially after Eurovision, and I’m happy to be meeting them. I’ll be singing '1944' of course, and other songs about love and how to find your way in life.
Do you think the messages in your music account for your gay fanbase?
Yes, I think so. I’ve had hundreds of letters from around the world from people saying that 1944 sounded like it was about them. I feel we should build a future where people are free to live and love no matter what nationality, sexuality or religion they have.
Gay crowds can be pretty lively. Are you prepared for that?
That’s good for any concert – to have a crazy audience with no inhibitions. Better that than an audience that has its arms folded. This is my first time in London but I did perform in a club in Amsterdam where they were holding a gay party and it was great.
Why do you think gay audiences love Eurovision so much?
That’s a good question. I think it’s because it’s a time where they feel we’re all really equal – man, woman, gay, straight, no matter. Everyone feels welcome.
Did you get to meet the lovely Justin Timberlake backstage?
He congratulated me on his Instagram, which was fantastic, but unfortunately I didn’t get to meet him. I also had praise from Adele, who said in her concert that she loves my song. She’s someone I’d love to duet with.
In your opinion, what’s the best ever Eurovision song, apart from your own of course?
I loved the Italian entry from Raphael Gualazzi from Italy [2011's 'Madness Of Love'] because he’s a real musician. I think this year the contest had a really high level of music, with real singers and musicians.
Have you seen any drag queen Jamalas yet?
There’s a Ukrainian drag queen called Monroe and she loves me, but I haven’t seen her or anyone impersonating me in the Ukraine. But I did see a drag queen do me in Russia. He was dressed just like me.
Are you excited about the Ukraine hosting Eurovision 2017?
Of course. It will be a great show. We’ve wanted this for so long to have this celebration, and I’m sure our government will make it safe and wonderful. And of course I’ll be performing.
This year the special guest was Justin Timberlake. Who would you most like to see perform next year?
I want to invite Beyonce. What do you think?
Well, she’s not usually very busy…
Can you ask somebody and get her to come along? I’d love to perform with her but I don’t think I’d be dancing alongside her. We’d just sing together.
Jamala is hitting the stage at G-A-Y tomorrow (July 30). Visit jamalamusic.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Words by Simon Button
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