Exclusive: Tooji (Norway 2012) speaks to escflashmaltaWritten by Marc Calleja Bayliss
The annual Eurovision Song Contest is a competition which features several countries from the European continent though what is quite interesting is that each respective nation brings about a culture, one which is different than that to his neighbour and one which stands out above the rest making the event quite an interesting and rather acquired taste to follow. We have sought to make contact with a number of the participants int his years' edition of the competition especially those who will be competing alongside Kurt Calleja, the Maltese representative in the second semi-finals. The attention of the editorial board is quickly turned to none other Tooji who will be representing Norway with the song Stay. We followed every step of the Melodi Grand Prix and noted a number of potential winners and this was actually one of them. For yet another year, the quality of songs in Norway was quite high and the result achieved by them this year should definitely make them forget a disappointing result achieved by Stella Mwangi and her song Haba Haba. This is what the Norwegian representative had to say to our earlier this week.
Throughout the years, the Scandinavian nation of Norway has been known for being the one which holds the most last place finishes in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest along with an incredible ten in total, four of which in which it did not manage to obtain any points. Nevertheless, in the past couple of years, since the introduction of the semi-final system Norway has been in the final for six of the eight years with three top five finishes coming in 2005 with Wig Wam and ‘In My Dreams, in 2008 with Maria Haukaas Storeng and ‘Hold On Be Strong’ and of course in 2009 with Alexander Rybak and his track ‘Fairytale’ which won the event. Do you believe that the change in results in recent years is a reflection of the direction that the industry is taking and what do you think should have been done to make the final last year?
Many people believe that artists are born as such but in your case, it seems that you hold many talents noting that you were actually a model at the age of sixteen before turning to presenting just a couple of years later as you believe that media and the entertainment industry was clearly the one for you to tackle. In fact, you joined Music Television (MTV) in Norway where you were given the opportunity to host two shows, one entitled ‘Super Saturday’ and the other one being a much more personalized ‘Tooji’s Top 10’. On the other hand, singing is relatively a brand new venture in your regard yet success has come easy as well by garnering much support from the public, which eventually gave you victory in the Melodi Grand Prix. What could you tell us about your life within the various careers and do you believe that you have now found your niche?
At a age of 16, modeling was very fascinating, and the whole industry looked very glamorous. Off course the illusion quickly fades, and I kinda got the harsh reality of it pretty early. When I worked as a television host on MTV, I had a idea about the industry and was used to seeing it purely as a job. What gives me confidence, courage and love is my job as a social worker. While I worked in MTV I took a bachelor in children’s pedagogic and thereafter started working with trafficking cases, asylum seekers and troubled youth in the children’s welfare system. Yes, it is heavy, but it makes me feel worth something. My music will be my instrument to makes changes in my society, and reach out to a lot of people. I know it sounds “Bono”, but I haven’t been sitting on the school bench just to look like I know what I’m doing. I have a lot of experience and academic depth, and with a slowly growing profile, I know I can make changes.
When Stella Mwangi failed to make it through to the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest last year, the Norwegian broadcaster vowed to take a new approach to their national selection and indeed they did by virtue of inviting acts which were at times relatively new but what was even more quite intriguing is that the styles were the most possibly diversified, including sounds which could be said to be typically Norwegian. The move did bode well with the audience which was interested to hear the songs in full and eventually voted in large numbers for what they believed should represent the country. Do you believe that Norway should move into this direction more or do you think, well known acts should be pushed forward to take part once more with a more typical sound that the European audience is more familiar with?
The song that you will be presenting within this years’ edition of the Eurovision Song Contest taking place in Baku, Azerbaijan bears the name ‘Stay’ and is a co-write between Peter Bostrom, Figge Bostrom and yourself. Throughout the Melodi Grand Prix, the main aspect of the song which drew comments and attention from the European public is the sharp choreography which added so much to the song in terms of performance. It is quite remarkable that the comparison that they put forward was with Eric Saade who took to representing Sweden in last years’ edition of the music showcase finishing in third place. The preparations have surely commenced as you prepare to take on Europe by storm but should the people expect anything different from your end?
I will bring fire. More than that, I cant say. ;)
Keeping in line with the concept of this years’ edition of the Melodi Grand Prix, there would surely be a reminder of the fact that in the semi-final stage of the competition, you actually came second and then in the final, the jury thought that you also deserved second place following Nora Foss Al-Jabri with the beautiful and simple ballad ‘Somewhere Beautiful’ which would eventually finish behind you in second place. The achievement in itself is quite astonishing finding success in a short space of time but then again, was it something of a blessing to have won or was it somewhat expected? One has to note that following the release of the physical single, which peaked at number 2, it seemed that you have mastered your popoularity in the best possible. Would you care to comment about the sales of the song ‘Stay’?
To be honest, I’m not focusing so much on sales and charts. I’m focusing on what I can give on stage. When I participated in the conest I was going for gold, but when I actually stood there waiting for the results, I thought it was over, and I was happy to be a part of this wonderfull process. You know, you meet a lot of people who you get attached to, and you learn alot about yourself along the road. So I’m just excited to see where my journey takes me.
The months leading up to the Eurovision Song Contest have always proven to be quite interesting for the fans of the music competition due to the various national selections organized all over the continent in a number of different countries. You were actually one of the first to be chosen in the beginning of February and took up your place in the second semi-final where the competition seems to be quite harsh this time round actually. The genre is pre-defined to be a mixture of ethic/pop with hints of a dance track in there making it one of the few in this manner to be presented. Have you had the chance to listen to the songs that will be competing against you and by any chance, did you hear what Malta has to offer in terms of song and performance?
Kurt Calleja right!? I think this is going to be super exciting. There are alot of strog competitors this year, and I cant wait to meet them. I think we are going to have lots of fun, and in the end, its not in our hands, its up to the people. We just have to give our all.
The Eurovision Song Contest is a leading event in music, which comes each and every year with a number of benefits for artists who either success or rather fail to impress. There is a lot of exposure from the media, more than expected at events which are somewhat also regarded highly by the music community. When taking into account that you have taken up different roles in the entertainment industry, do you believe that following the event, you will remain within this music career as in going onto record an album like many of the predecessors before you who took to the stage decided on doing. What would you say are you major plans following the competition in May?
Music has always been my passion, I just didn't dare to go for it before I was 19 and actually found out I had a voice. MTV and modeling was not what I wanted to do, and even though I’m grateful for the experience, I had my eyes on music all along.
Would you like to say anything to your fans and our readers at www.escflashmalta.com?
I haven’t told you I have been to Malta plenty of times. Both working with MTV on Isle of Malta, and being there on vacation with my family. I love the people, the nature and the culture. Especially I have a wish to visit Gozo, and the blue lagoon again. Maybe you can show me around next time? :)