The first time I learned about Dana International was on the short lived UK television series Beautiful People. In the episode entitled “How I Got My Plumes,” main characters Simon and Kylie, played by Luke Ward-Wilkerson and Layton Williams respectively, sneak into the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest and get locked into a handicap bathroom with Dana International herself (this was suppose to explain why Dana International was so late for her reprise in the actual Eurovision Song Contest). In this episode, Dana International sing her well-known song “Diva,” which won the contest that year with a score of 172 points.
Since in the episode, they only play a small snippet of “Diva,” I decided to find the original Eurovision performance on Youtube. Since the song is Hebrew, I had to look up what the song was all about. The song “Diva” is apparently an ode to power women in history, both real and mythical. Some of the examples being Cleopatra, Victoria, goddess of Victory (surprise, surprise), and Aphrodite, goddess of Love. As I listened to “Diva,” I noticed that this song is very poppy song, which means that there are solely elements of the Western world. It was very hard for me to discover any elements of the Eastern world like we would find in the songs of Umm Kulthum, Fairuz, and other famous Middle Eastern singers. I think one reason behind this transition to a very Western approach to music is due to the exposure of new technologies that have been made readily available for many musician. These technologies allow these artist to stray from traditional styles of music and try new things (i.e. electric guitar, synthesizer, etc.).
Another thing I noticed when watching the performance of “Diva” is Dana International’s use of the microphone. Unlike Umm Kulthum who would sing far away from the microphone, Dana International sings with the microphone very closer to mouth until she sings really powerful notes. The microphone, in a sense, becomes a part of her as well as her performance. This furthers the idea that technology becomes a significant part of music and performance.
Click here to listen to Dana International sing “Diva” at the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest