France are represented at the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest by Alvan & Ahez and their song ‘Fulenn’. And when a multi-instrumentalist electro artist meets a traditional vocal group aiming to showcase their regional heritage through music, you can be fairly confident that the end result is going to sound pretty special.
‘Pretty special’ would be an understatement, however, with the bombastic, beat-heavy song arguably not sounding like anything we’ve had at the Eurovision Song Contest before. Now that the collective are in Turin to take Fulenn to the PalaOlimpico stage, they’ve been relishing those first few rehearsals, during which they’ve gotten to discover precisely how their song translates into their Eurovision performance.
It was so great. It was freaking awesome! We are really happy to have a stage like that; the fire, the flames, the lights. It was so good. And to sing Fulenn on a huge stage like this – wow. It was really impressive. But despite the big stage, we felt comfortable there; we felt at home.
The staging they’ve come up with for the performance is an elaborate one. But that’s actually less about the artists trying to impress via scale, and more about the fact that their song, perhaps more than most others, needs some visual assistance in the telling of its story.
It’s really inspired by the lyrics of the song. We have the green lights representing the forest, and the fire is the spark. There are not that many people who speak Breton. So thanks to the staging, it helps viewers really understand the atmosphere and the meaning of the song. The rock energy and our attitude help, too.
The meaning in question is based on an ancient myth from their homeland, Brittany. It’s one that they are happy to share with all of us in more detail, so that when we tune in to the performance on the night of the Grand Final, we can enjoy spotting the elements of the story in their presentation of it.
Fulenn means spark. The story is based on a Breton legend about a lady who loved to dance. But it was forbidden to dance, especially for a young woman; so her family put her in a tower. She manages to escape, and she then meets a mysterious and beautiful young man. But it ends up going very badly for her. It’s not a happy ending – it’s not a Disney movie. But we wanted to take this legend back; we really think that this young lady is actually very powerful. She stands out, she frees herself by doing whatever she wants. We wanted to speak about emancipation, about freedom. Especially for women.
The fact that Alvan & Ahez are performing in Breton has been a big talking point since they won the French Eurovision pre-selection back in early March, Eurovision France: C’est Vous Qui Décidez. But then it’s no surprise that much has been made of it, given that the last time Breton was performed on a Eurovision stage was over a quarter of a century ago (in 1996, fact fans!). The artists are pleased about the fact that it’s a discussion that people are having, however. And they are always happy to tell us more on the topic.
The Breton language we heard from our grandparents, and our parents, too. We learned it at school also. It is very natural for us to speak Breton, but actually not many people even in Brittany speak Breton. Only around five per cent of Brittany, in fact. So there is a real pride in being able to sing in Breton. It’s a huge pride and such an honour, too.
Alvan & Ahez have made it known they want to show that tradition is not something stuck in the past; rather, it is constantly evolving. And the same can be said when it comes to their language.
It’s true that when we speak about minority languages, we often think in terms of the past. But we really wanted to show that this language we are representing is actually alive and healthy, and we can mix it with electro music and other influences. The Breton language – we want it to grow. It really can fit every style of music. That’s what’s so magical with music, we can explore a mix of so many different things And that’s what we wanted to show – bringing the language to such a great event like the Eurovision Song Contest.
To see (and hear) the ancient legend from Brittany being performed at the PalaOlimpico in Turin, you can watch the Grand Final of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday 14 May, where Alvan & Ahez will be representing France with Fulenn.