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Belgians create feel good factor

12 May 2008 at 16:56 CEST

A normally larger group of musicians who regularly play together, having to limit their number of performers to six people for the Eurovision Song Contest performance, singing in an imaginary language for Belgium. There's a strange sense of Deja-vu here, for it was only five years ago, back in Riga in 2003 that Belgian group Urban Trad did exactly the same thing and ultimately ended in second position in the Eurovision Song Contest final with their song Sanomi.

Ishtar are a 10 piece band normally, but for their act in Belgrade they are represented by lead singer and mezzo-soprano Soetkin Baptist, composer and guitar player Michel Vangheluwe and the siblings Ann, Marleen, Els and Hans Vandaele. Ishtar were formed in 2003 and released their first album in 2005. The project contains adaptations of medieval European love songs in several European languages. All vocal and musical arrangements are based on authentic medieval music sheets dating from as early as the 11th century.  

The stage setting was a dark background, with graphics which could be described as resembling something similar to musical notes. The whole performance was very upbeat and lively, with lead singer Soetkin walking intermittantly between all of her backing musicians throughout the song. Reactions in general were very positive, as indeed was the upbeat press conference which followed.

Soetkin confessed that her favourites from this years Eurovision Song Contest were Bosnia & Herzegovina and Israel as their singers were the ones which touched her most.  The group then performed a guitar backed rendition of a Serbian song from their first album which went down a storm with the local press. 

Composer Michel Vangheluwe went on to tell the assembled press how the composition was born, he said "I composed the song in one morning, I woke up and it was a beautiful day, and i had flash backs of my childhood memories, i was thrown back to my youth, the vulnerability of childhood, the good and the bad things, the bad things being the crocodiles in the song!. I wrote the melody first, and afterwards came the words. The human voice is the best way to express emotions, the words were not so important, just a patchwork of joyful sounds." He also went on to say that the imaginary language is called Ishtarian.


Prior to competing in the Belgian national selection, Ishtar had only made their own albums and sold them at concerts around Belgium. After winning the competition a label became interested in recording something so that as many people as possible could enjoy the music. The single went to number one in the charts and the band admitted they were both surprised and proud about the achievement.

The press conference closed with another rendition, this time of the Belgian entry O Julissi. Ishtar will be hoping to end the run of disappointing Belgian results in recent years when they compete in the First Semi-Final here in Belgrade on Tuesday 20th May. Stay with us for the latest galleries of Ishtar's rehearsals.