Belgium’s participants in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest are a group called Ishtar (photo: Bart Musschoot), named after the Babylonian goddess of love. It is an ensemble of ten, but only six members will be on stage during the performance of their Eurovision Song Contest entry: lead singer and mezzo-soprano Soetkin Baptist, composer and guitar player Michel Vangheluwe and the siblings Ann, Marleen, Els and Hans Vandaele.
Ishtar exists since 2003 and released a first CD, called Troubamour, in 2005. The album contains adaptations of medieval European love songs in several European languages, amongst them Icelandic, Dutch, Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian, Estonian and Serbian. All vocal and musical arrangements are based on authentic medieval music sheets dating from as early as the 11th century. A second album will be released later this year.
Next to European love songs, they write and perform songs in non-existent languages. One of these songs brought victory to Ishtar, when they won the Belgian national final on 9th March in Brussels. The televoting audience immediately fell in love with O Julissi. Singing in an imaginary language seems to be a successful formula for Belgium: folk group Urban Trad earned second place with Sanomi in the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest.
Even though the words and lyrics of Belgium’s song don’t have a clear meaning, they tell a story. Composer Michel Vangheluwe describes O Julissi as a piece of music about a child enjoying a walk through a fairytale forest, meeting and greeting the beautiful things of life, but also a few evil ones. With this song, Ishtar is aiming for Europe to be filled with joy, optimism and a warm feeling of happiness for at least three minutes. Eurovision Song Contest viewers, be prepared!