Whilst the temperature back in Malta sits at a balmy 22 degrees, in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, it’s an icy -5. But what’s an even bigger contrast is that while most twelve year olds are back at home, going to school and spending time with their friends – Ela Mangion is gearing up to perform in front of the biggest audience of her life at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.
Having performed in countries from Italy to Lithuania and Russia, the scenario isn’t that strange to Ela. But this event, the little sister (or brother) of the adult contest which takes place each May, is the biggest opportunity she’s had so far. “It’s a really good promotion for young singers. It’s nice to unite with other countries,” she tells me. She fondly recalls meeting some of the other contestants of this year’s contest here and there in the past, including the two female hosts of this year’s contest, adding “It’s like we’re on a journey together.”
Preparing for such an event like this is a hectic challenge, there’s a lot going on here. The schedule is tightly packed with rehearsals and excursions, and there’s even time slotted in for the kids to unwind at the “Euroclub” in the show’s official hotel. The team from PBS includes a producer, songwriters, choreographers, dancers as well as press and media managers. Some would be intimidated by this, but Ela seems to be taking it in her stride. “I’m more excited than nervous… but if there is any nervousness, it’s the positive kind,” she admits. “But I’m relaxed. I think if other people see me relaxed, they can be relaxed too. It’s tiring – but I like it, I like this life a lot,”.
“Marchin’ On” is the song that Ela will be singing at the contest. It’s an anthemic song that talks about dealing with the pressures of social problems that we come across in life, and how with the help of everyone, we can overcome these problems. “The song came out exactly how I wanted it – I really feel the message. The first time I heard it, I was mind blown,” she says. She worked together with producer Cyprian Cassar on the melody and asked lyricist Emil Calleja Bayliss to help create the story.
It’s clear that this girl lives and breathes music. “I like RnB, Soul, Jazz, and of course pop music,” she says. Ela cites many of the musical greats as her inspirations, and talks about her admiration for artists such as Beyoncé. “But I don’t want to listen to pop music all the time,” she interjects. “Everyone is blasting the radio with pop music.” It’s clear that she’s interested in fresh and new sounds – the next thing I know, she’s telling me about the young American singer/songwriter/producer H.E.R. “She’s amazing, one of my inspirations. When I see her perform, I think ‘I want to do that – she’s a singer, songwriter, producer – a triple threat’,”. I tell her that her unique taste is quite striking to me. “The beautiful thing about music is that you try to do something that everyone else does. You have to be unique, that’s the best thing. That’s why I try to search for older artists, which I mix with modern tastes,”, she says. She looks up to local talent too – “We have a lot of talent in Malta. I love Brooke, Ira, Amber… they are icons for me”, she excitedly tells me.
But where does this all come from, I wonder? “My father is the musical one in my family. He listens to everything from soft rock, jazz…,” she tells me, adding “I get my inspiration from him,”. On the other hand, she looks up to her mother for fashion – one of her other big interests. “She’s like my stylist – a fashion inspiration”. After the contest in Minsk, she wants to get even more into music. “I am going to take lessons in guitar, and after lessons in music production. I want to produce to write…. I want to do everything,” she tells me, before pausing and stating “I want to start playing the drums… but then I also want to play the harp!” I look at her inquisitively, surprised at her wish to play the harp. “You can use it for a lot of things, it makes music really melodic,”.
It’s clear to me that Ela is really invested in music. She’s supported in all of this by all of her friends back home. “Everyone’s really supportive of me, even my teachers at school – I love them all so much.” She tells me how she managed to get some of her friends to take part in her music video for Junior Eurovision. “They’re singing [my song] all the time – in class, in the hallways,” she smiles. “But I am missing them a lot. They’re even organising a party at school to watch the contest!.”
Ela Mangion will perform “Marchin’ On” at this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest – live on TVM from 16.00 local time on November 25th. The online voting is already open, and you can vote for Malta (alongside 2-4 other countries) at www.vote.junioreurovision.tv. This counts for 50% of the overall result. Stay tuned to escflashmalta.com even through social media platforms; Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news from Minsk, Belarus.