Eurovision has a lot of ‘your fave is problematic’ moments, and perhaps none are encapsulated better than Germany’s 1979 entry, Dschinghis Khan by Dschinghis Khan:
I love this song. I love the disco beat. I love the ridiculous choruses. I love the tall German man whirling around the stage with a cape. And yet…and yet…it’s a song about a murderous dictator sung by a group of people engaged in a serious case of ‘exotic Orientalism’.
After Dschinghis Khan, the group’s biggest hit was likely Moscau, released just in time to capitalise on the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
It’s the same story – twirly cape, easy to emulate dance moves, a catchy hook that contains laughing, and was another hit for the group.
And with those songs being a hit, the group ended up making a career out of travelogue songs built upon the thinnest of stereotypes, like….
Samurai (oh, no they didn’t go there, did they?)
And Mexico (okay this seems fine but wait when did Mexico turn into a leather daddy bar?)
And Rome (yes your eyes are not deceiving you that’s an attempt to recreate a debaucherous orgy at a television event where there’s a small child in the front table)
And Israel (oh my god they’ve made the baby backup dancers wear yarmulkes)
And somewhere else in the Middle East (okay so it’s appropriative but what’s most disturbing about this is the guy in the top hat and sequined vest with no shirt underneath)
And the Wild West (which was apparently just an excuse to break out the leather trousers again)
At this point, you get the picture. All of the songs involved elaborate costumes that played on ethnic stereotypes; all of the songs sounded vaguely the same; all of the songs had a rocking disco beat which allowed for the twirling of caps and the spinning of skirts. It was very much a product of its time, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Which is why I can’t quite figure out whether it’s a good idea for Moscau to have been resurrected as the German theme for the World Cup. The song does have a tradition as being used as a sports theme – it was used during Australian coverage of the 1980 Olympics – but many of the original members are dead, including ‘sweep the cape’ guy Louis Henrik Potgieter.
Dschinghis Khan are still touring as a new group called ‘The Legacy of Dschinghis Khan’, which includes at least one person of colour, and at least one former pickup artist, but that apparently wasn’t enough, so German producers added Jay Khan, veteran of boy bands. (I’m not going to comment whether the producers though, ‘Dschinghis Khan…you know what…I know another Khan who can help out with this song.’ Their collaboration has resulted in this version of Moscau, where some of the original lyrics have been replaced by football references:
And this Spanish version of Moscau, with Jorge Jiménez and Marifer Medrano in front of an obvious greenscreen:
And the Internationale Version, which mixes English, German, Spanish, and Russian all together into some sort of delirious melange where the only thing one can understand is the ‘Hahahahaha!’ It makes it sound like these are people getting ready to heist the World Cup in some diabolical revenge plot:
So the larger question is: is it any good? And the truth is, I can’t say. Dschinghis Khan is still a problematic fave, with the band’s current lineup still trafficking in ethnic stereotypes. The new football lyrics don’t bring anything to the song (let along that egregious guitar solo at the beginning). And yet, since I’ve started researching this post, I’ve found myself listening to Dschinghis Khan nonstop on Spotify, because their songs are just so catchy.
So I don’t know anymore. I can’t change the past, but what’s the responsibility of Eurovision fans of the future to say: “Hey, I love that beat, but maybe don’t link it to problematic images?”