June 29th marks the day which the Tahitian King Pomare ceded independence and turned over rule to the French government. Since 1984, this date has been a celebration on the islands for the self-rule and autonomy to govern over its own affairs while remaining being a part of France. Today we will look at French Polynesia’s relationship with the Eurovision Song Contest.
In 1981, Jean Gabilou (born Gabriel Lewis Laughlin) from Papeete was chosen to represent the motherland in Eurovision. Gabilou was in a couple of boy bands, before starting a solo career where he found a little bit of success in France before representing them with the song ‘Humanhum’ (Land of men). He finished third with this song (behind winners Bucks Fizz) and now spends most of his time travelling and performing across the pacific islands, where he remains very popular.
Fast forward 25 years and Tahiti once again graced the Eurovision stage, this time for the microstate of Monaco. Vanessa Roche, who is probably Tahiti’s most well-known dancer was on the stage as backing dancer for the Polynesian inspired Coco Dance. Séverine Ferrer, the singer was born in Reunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, however her inspiration for this song was French Polynesia which was evident in the Tahitian lyrics in the song. The song finished in 21st place in the semi-final, unfortunately not reflecting the popularity the song had among some fans. Sadly this is the last time we have seen Monaco at the Eurovision Song Contest. Vanessa Roche now runs a dance school in Fa’aa, directly opposite Tahiti’s international airport.
Most recently, Ugo Benterfa (Ugo) entered Destination Eurovision – the French national final of 2019 with the song 'Ce qui me blesse' (What hurts me). Ugo moved to Tahiti at the age of 14, where he started to engage in the local music scene, which has inspired a lot of his songs upon his return to France. He finished in 5th place in his semi-final, missing out on an opportunity to be in the final by just 1 point.
We wish all the people in French Polynesia ‘Heiva o te’ and a ‘Bonne fête de l’autonomie’ and we hope to see you again at Eurovision very soon.