Since its debut in Eurovision in 1994, Poland has switched between a national final and internal selection. For the last three years, a national final (Krajowe Eliminacje) has been the chosen method, which initially gave the country strong results. Last year’s disappointment saw the usually loyal Polish diaspora fail to back a commercial dance track produced by a Polish DJ and sung by a Swede.
It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that TVP opted not only to return to internal selection, but to pick a very Polish group to fly the red and white flag in Tel Aviv. Who can forget those Polish milkmaids in Copenhagen, the last time TVP adopted this approach?
Tulia is an all-female ensemble from the north-western port city of Szczecin. There are four members, Joanna Sinkiewicz, Dominika Siepka, Patrycja Nowicka and Tulia Biczak, whose name was given to the band. Their style mixes traditional Polish folk music, including “white voices”—a vibrant Eastern European singing style, with more commercial music. The group has a large following among Poles, thanks in part to their unusual reworking of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence, which has notched up over 3.5 million views. The group shot to fame in Poland after winning the prestigious Opole music festival in 2018 and released its first album, also called Tulia, shortly thereafter.
Much like “My Słowianie” in 2014, “Pali się” was already a hit single in Poland, having been released in September 2018. For Eurovision purposes, the song has been adapted to have some English lyrics with a renamed bilingually as “Pali się (Fire of Love)”. The concept is essentially an extended metaphor comparing love to fire. A reference to the fire brigade is picked up in the music video, which has not been changed for Eurovision. The moody, black and white images capture life in the Polish countryside and is a stark contrast from the fire of the lyrics. Pali się would literally mean “it is burning” suggesting perhaps that beneath the seaming drudgery of everyday life in a small Polish town there lurks deep passion.
Will the Polish diaspora turn out and vote for something so reminiscent of home? Can the staging in Tel Aviv convey the message of the song? Will Europe be captivated by folk music from a little known corner of Central Europe? We’ll find out in May. What can be said is that Poland has picked an unusual entry and will introduce Europe to a different musical style.