Georgia’s National Broadcaster Surprises With Unexpected Entrant For Eurovision 2018

Jazz group chosen for Georgia's Eurovision 2018 entry
Efrem Lukatsky / AP Images

Since September 1, the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest has started coming together, with various countries announcing their participants as the months go by. On December 31, Georgian national broadcaster GPB confirmed that they will be sending jazz group Iriao to Lisbon this coming May.

As reported by WiWiBloggs, the seven-person ensemble was chosen internally by GPB, a decision which surprised Eurovision fans as they had thought it most likely for Georgia to host a national final to pick their entrant, as was the case in 2017. Even in 2016, when rock band Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz were chosen internally, their song was decided by a public vote.

Even more shocking, however, was Georgia choosing a jazz band to participate; as a general rule, this type of music does not fare too well with Eurovision voters. Usually, countries send either up-tempo songs or ballads, with the occasional in-between or rap/hip-hop. ESC fans are concerned that, given past history, Iraio will have little to no chance of reaching the final.

Iriao came onto the Georgian music scene back in 2013, founded by David Malazonia. The composer himself has been in the industry for the past three decades, writing songs for not only Georgian artists but also those from Germany. He has also created music for TV productions, as well as theater. Iriao’s music style contains not only jazz influences, but also that of Georgian ethno-folk. Malazonia is said to be one of the first composers to mix the two genres; in fact, the band’s name actually derives from the phrase “Iraio-uruao.” This relates to Krimanchuli, a type of Georgian yodeling style.

The group consists of six members alongside Malazonia: Nugzar Kavtardze, Shalva Gelekva, Mikheil Javakhishvili, Levan Abshilava, Bidzina Murgulia, and George Abashidze. The issue with the number of musicians, however, is that Eurovision Song Contest rules dictate that only six people may be on stage at on time. Therefore, it will be up to the band’s leader, or possibly GPB themselves, to decide who must stay on the sidelines during their live performance. Given that there are two vocalists in Iriao, there is speculation that one of them will be removed as all other musicians in the group are necessary to the performance.