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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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Immigrant Song Contest on BBC Two's Newsnight

Britain's first Eurovision winner and a former Shadow Home Secretary will be judging Thursday's final of this week's Immigrant Song Contest on BBC Two's Newsnight programme.

Sandie Shaw and David Davis MP will also be joined by an ex-immigration officer on the judging panel.

All week six bands made up of immigrants who have moved to Britain have been doing their own cover versions of classic Eurovision songs, as they vie for the mantle of immigrant act of the year.

Amongst those competing are bands who have fled war-torn countries and been imprisoned for their music.

Newsnight Editor Peter Rippon says: "The contest will shine a light on some of the millions of immigrants who have moved to this country – and see how far they have assimilated our national cherished tradition of the Eurovision spirit."

Each night the programme features the backstory of each act – exploring why they came to Britain – before seeing their special Eurovision performances, which were recorded before an audience in a London nightclub.

The six acts taking part are:

Font: Iranian indie-band who have been jailed back home for playing a gig and have come here for six months on a visa with all five band members living in one room in north London. They are covering Congratulations (Cliff Richard);

Mann Friday: Zimbabwean rock band who have still got family living under the Mugabe regime who came to Britain to make a go of their music. Waterloo (Abba);

Why Not Here: Polish heavy metal band whose day jobs include kitchen-fitting. Making Your Mind Up (Bucks Fizz);

Dhalad: Somali rapper who fled the civil war which killed his father. Save Your Kisses (Brotherhood of Man);

Hashmat: an Afghan singer who left to escape the oppressive Mujahedin regime and is now a regular on the Afghan wedding circuit in London. Described by friends as the Afghan Michael Jackson. Boom Bang A Bang (Lulu);

Ya Freddy Wanga: left the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo where a family member has disappeared and came to Manchester, where he's become Man City-obsessed. Puppet On A String (Sandie Shaw).

The contest is being hosted by triple-RTS-winning documentary maker Tim Samuels – bringing together elements of his recent films forming OAP rockers The Zimmers and his immigration exploration in The Poles Are Coming for BBC Two's White Season.

Tim says: "There'll be something deeply memorable about a former Kellogg's factory worker from Congo doing Puppet On A String in front of Sandie Shaw... The bands have each come up with pretty memorable Eurovision interpretations – not least the Iranians who have gone from being jailed in Tehran to giving Cliff Richard a Joy Division makeover."

On Thursday's Newsnight the acts will be brought face to face with the panel of judges – who will give their verdict on each performance and decide on a winner.

The judges are:

Sandie Shaw, who won Britain's first Eurovision in 1967 with Puppet On A String;

David Davis MP, former Shadow Home Secretary;

Steve Bateman, an ex-frontline Immigration Officer turned musician.

Peter Rippon says: "I don't think there's ever been a judging panel like this – but nor has there ever been a contest quite like this."

Hashmat says: "People only see the bad side of Afghanistan with the fighting. I want them to see the good side."

Ya Freddy says: "Life is so stressful we need to have a laugh sometimes – and I think we'll have a laugh with this song."


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