Hera to Represent Iceland in Eurovision

A screenshot from RÚV. Hera Björk during the Söngvakeppnin final, March 2, 2024

Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV), The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, has decided that singer Hera Björk will represent Iceland with her song Scared of Heights at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö in Sweden this May. According to an announcement from RÚV, Hera was the undisputed winner of Söngvakeppnin, Iceland’s preliminary competition.

Only two days ago, RÚV launched an independent inquiry into the voting process of Söngvakeppnin. Several voters reported glitches in RÚV’s voting app. Some who attempted to vote for Hera’s main competitor, Palestinian Bashar Murad, shared screenshots of error messages or indications that their vote had gone to Hera instead. The songwriter for Bashar’s song, Wild West, submitted a written request for an independent inquiry into the error.

Few votes in question

RÚV says that both songs were affected by the voting app glitch and that Hera’s victory was dominant as she received some 3,500 more votes than Bashar. According to the voting app’s developers, only 748 votes were in question. “The votes possibly affected due to this glitch were even fewer than originally thought and it’s clear that this had no impact on the final results,” RÚV’s announcement read. “Hera Björk is the undisputed winner of Söngvakeppnin 2024.”

Saddened by the discourse

Iceland’s participation in Eurovision has been criticised in light of Israel’s ongoing participation in the competition during its military action in Gaza. Bashar’s participation was seen by many as a statement to oppose the war, but he was also subjected to racist comments during the process. Hera’s songwriter, Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir, known professionally as Ásdís, said that she wanted Bashar to represent Iceland and that her conscience didn’t allow her to participate further.

Hera said that she was saddened by the discourse. “Both in terms of how people talked about me and my supposed viewpoints, but even more so about how Bashar was treated,” she said.

Program Director Skarphéðinn Guðmundsson said that RÚV was aware of the discourse surrounding the competition. “We encourage everyone to support Hera and her team,” he said. “She will be a fantastic representative for us.”

Independent Inquiry into Eurovision Controversy

A screenshot from RÚV. Hera Björk during the Söngvakeppnin final, March 2, 2024

Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV), The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, has decided to launch an independent inquiry into the voting process of Söngvakeppnin, Iceland’s preliminary competition for the Eurovision Song Contest. A specialist will be tasked for the job, Vísir reports.

Glitches in voting app

The winner of last weekend’s contest was singer Hera Björk with her song Scared of Heights, beating out Palestinian contestant Bashar Murad in the final. Bashar was leading in both the public vote and jury vote after the first round of competition and several Söngvakeppnin voters reported glitches in National Broadcaster RÚV’s voting app. Some who attempted to vote for Bashar shared screenshots of error messages or indications that their vote had gone to Hera instead. The songwriter for Bashar’s song, Wild West, submitted a written request for an independent inquiry into the error.

Stefán Eiríksson, Director General of RÚV, would not give more details about the inquiry at this point. “We have had discussions with a specialist in this field to provide an independent inquiry,” he said. “Nothing else has been announced.”

Winning songwriter pulls out

Meanwhile, the songwriter for Hera’s song has announced that she will not accompany Hera and her team to the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö. Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir, the singer-songwriter known professionally as Ásdís, said that she wanted Bashar to represent Iceland and that her conscience didn’t allow her to participate further. “I’ve been very clear about my views that the results are in question,” she told RÚV. “There have been legitimate concerns raised about the voting process and I don’t think RÚV has given clear answers.

She added that she’d been encouraged to participate as a songwriter and that she’d submitted her music to the competition before Israel’s recent military action in Gaza. Iceland’s participation in Eurovision has been criticised in light of Israel’s ongoing participation. For instance, the Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists asked its members not to participate in the show unless Israel was banned.

Hera Björk Wins Amid Eurovision Controversy

A screenshot from RÚV. Hera Björk during the Söngvakeppnin final, March 2, 2024

Hera Björk has won Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin, but it is still unclear whether she will represent Iceland in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Hera won Iceland’s pre-Eurovision competition with her song Scared of Heights last Saturday, beating out Palestinian contestant Bashar Murad in the final. Some have called for an independent investigation into the voting process after reports of glitches in national broadcaster RÚV’s voting app.

Iceland falls on bookmakers’ lists

Five acts performed in the televised Söngvakeppnin finals last Saturday evening, with Hera Björk and Bashar Murad voted as the two finalists. Prior to the final, Eurovision bookmakers had considered Bashar as most likely to become Iceland’s Eurovision representative and had placed Iceland in third place on their Eurovision betting odds lists. Since Hera’s win was announced, Iceland has fallen to eleventh place.

Glitches in voting app

Several Söngvakeppnin voters reported glitches in National Broadcaster RÚV’s voting app on Saturday. Some who attempted to vote for Bashar shared screenshots of error messages or indications that their vote had gone to Hera instead. Vodafone Iceland stated that any glitches were not due to a systemic issue on their end. RÚV is looking into the matter, but director of Söngvakeppnin Rúnar Freyr Gíslason has stated that the total number of votes affected by potential glitches were not so great as to influence the final outcome. The composer of Wild West, the song Bashar performed, has called for an independent investigation into the matter.

Icelandic musicians call on RÚV to not participate

There have been calls to boycott Eurovision among the Iceland public this year due to Israel’s participation in the contest. These calls have been echoed within the Icelandic music community as well. Over 550 musicians in Iceland signed a petition calling on RÚV to boycott the competition if Israel is permitted to participate. The signees include a plethora of well-known artists such as Emilíana Torrini, Bríet, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Páll Óskar, and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir (Of Monsters and Men). The Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists also released a statement urging RÚV not to participate in the contest.

RÚV Director Stefán Eiríksson has previously stated that the broadcaster would leave it up to the winning musician of Söngvakeppnin to decide whether or not to participate in Eurovision in Malmö, Sweden this year.

Murad Unveils “Wild West” Video Ahead of Song Contest Finals

A screenshot from Bashar Murad's video to Wild West

The Palestinian musician Bashar Murad premiered his music video for “Wild West” earlier this week. The song is Murad’s entry for Iceland’s Song Contest, and he will be performing at the Song Contest finals this Saturday.

A “journey from Palestine to Iceland”

The Palestinian singer-songwriter Bashar Murad premiered the music video for his song Wild West at Kex Hostel in downtown Reyjavík on Monday. The video, which took four weeks to make, was also released on YouTube yesterday. The video was directed by Baldvin Vernharðsson and produced by Fannar Ingi Friðþjófsson.

Wild West is Bashar’s entry in Iceland’s Song Contest — Söngvakeppnin, an annual music competition determining the country’s representative for Eurovision — and he will be among the contestants vying for a spot at this year’s Eurovision in the Song Contest finals this Saturday.

In addition to releasing the video, Bashar also published a brief statement about the song, the music video, and his hope of winning Eurovision for Iceland: “Wild West is about the desire to escape and experience everything the world has to offer. The song is about my journey from Palestine to Iceland, which started as a small idea but became a reality thanks to my collaboration with my Icelandic family,” Bashar was quoted as saying.

“Growing up, it would have meant a lot to me to see a Palestinian standing on the Eurovision stage,” Bashar continued, “but we haven’t had the opportunity to showcase our culture, beauty, history, and community. Therefore, I am grateful to Iceland for giving me this opportunity now, and I hope to bring Eurovision to Reykjavík in 2025.”

The 2024 Song Contest finals will be broadcast live from the Laugardalshöll Arena this Saturday, March 2.

Demonstration in Support of Palestine in Front of Iceland’s Parliament

Pro-Palestine demonstration, January 27th

As promised, despite the shutting down of the solidarity tent, where Palestinians and their allies had been camped in front of Parliament from December 27th until their permit expired on January 24th, demonstrations calling upon the Icelandic government to take action regarding Palestine have continued.

Demonstrators assembled at Hallgrímskirkja church in downtown Reykjavík at around 2:00 PM yesterday and then marched west, chanting, drumming and carrying banners, before reaching Austurvöllur, the square in front of Parliament. Among the attendees were esteemed author Illugi Jökulsson, who gave a speech, as well as rapper Alexander Járl performing a musical number.

Bashar Murad performs

The highlight of the event was Palestinian singer Bashar Murad, who is set to compete in Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin song contest. Bashar first came to the attention of most Icelanders after the Icelandic band Hatari represented Iceland at Eurovision in 2019, which that year was held in Tel Aviv. The band visited Palestine and became acquainted with Bashar Murad, who was already an established artist, and collaborated with him.

At the demonstration, Bashar gave an a cappella performance of “Mawṭinī”, which means “My Homeland”, the lyrics to which were written by the Palestinian poet Ibrahim Tuqan with music by Lebanese musician Mohammed Flayfel composed for it in 1934. The song has a long and storied history, and is considered by many to be the unofficial second national anthem of Palestine.

The demands remain the same

The demands of the protesters, reiterated at the demonstration’s conclusion, have not changed. Palestinians in Iceland have implored the Icelandic government to follow through on their policy of family reunification, wherein those seeking international protection in Iceland may also be reunited with their families. This policy has been applied, for example, to Ukrainians in Iceland, but the family members of many of the Palestinians in Iceland are still in Gaza, and they want the government’s help in retrieving them. The government has thus far contended that it is not obliged to fulfill this request.

In addition, they have asked that the government cease deportations of Palestinian asylum seekers, and they have called for a meeting with government ministers.

Demonstrations are likely to continue, as per a statement organisers of the solidarity tent made shortly after it was taken down: “Our shared responsibility does not end at this tent; it extends to the ongoing pursuit of justice, peace, human dignity and the protection of vulnerable lives in Palestine. We feel that we have no choice but to continue.”