2008 was the year when Azerbaijan decided to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest for the very first time.
The show where the first ever Azeri participant for Europe's favourite TV show would be selected promised to be a magnificent one and was broadcast all over the world also through Eurovision.tv.
It featured 2003 Eurovision Song Contest winner Sertab Erener (Turkey), 2004 winner Rusana (Ukraine) and the 2007 winner Marija Šerifović (Serbia) as special guests and Elnur Gusseinov, Aynur Iskenderli and Unformal as the contestants.
In the end the honour of carrying their flag was handed to a male duo called Elnur & Samir and their song Day After Day. Their extravagant show got them the 8th place in the Final, giving Azerbaijan their first but not the last top 10 placing.
Leading up to a triumph
In 2009, the year when the Eurovision Song Contest took place in Moscow, Russia, it was time to send in the big guns. And it was the world-famous pop artist Arash to take the stage with a young Azeri singer AySel.
Their song Always brought back their first top three placing and became a pan-European hit after the contest.
A little less successful was the year after, but really just a little less. Namely, the Beyoncé-choreographer-trained young artist Safura became one of the main favourites to bring home the victory from Oslo, Norway. However, that was not to be and she finished 5th instead.
The Azeri national selection for the 2011 contest started with semi-finals, leading up to a total of 5 finalists. It was between İlhamə Qasımova, İlqarə İbrahimova, Aynişan Quliyeva, Eldar Qasımov and Nigar Camal.
All of them had the chance to perform four (!) times with well-known songs, ranging from pop hits to Eurovision Song Contest songs.
But that was not the only surprise that evening. Namely, the jury decided there would not be only one winner but two. And they would perform a duet in Düsseldorf under the name Ell/Nikki.
It was not before March when their song would be revealed but it was well worth the wait. Running Scared was not one of the front runners of this year's contest in the eyes of the bookmakers, but it proved to be the winner in the opinion of hundreds of music professionals and televoters all over Europe.
So, in one of the most exciting voting in years, Ell/Nikki took home the victory Azerbaijan had been longing for years. Congratulations!
After winning Europe's favourite TV show, Azerbaijan was handed the honour of hosting the next edition of the Eurovision Song Contest.
And just a bit over 5 months before the contest, the organisers are working very hard to host the best ever show.
Ell/Nikki have continued touring Europe and have become almost cultural ambassadors of Azerbaijan all over the world.