THERE are varied motivations for representing one's country in
the Eurovision Song Contest: a first shot at fame, patriotism, the
resurrection of an ailing career. For Sarah Breiter, the vocalist
in the Swiss entry this year, it's "to sing to the world about the
love of God".
Joining Ms Breiter on stage in Malmö, Sweden, next Tuesday, will
be five other members of the Salvation Army, who together have
formed "Takasa". The name, which means "purity" in Swahili, was
created after the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which
organises the annual contest, ruled that the group would not be
able to appear as "The Salvation Army" ("Heilsarmee") or wear the
uniform. EBU regulations prohibit performances that "promote
commercial or non-commercial brands".
In December, the Salvation Army's head of marketing and
communications, Martin Künzi, said that changing the group's name
and uniform would "disrupt the concept"; but in March the
organisation announced that the changes had been made in order to
comply with regulations "without belying itself as a Christian
organisation". The band would offer "pure musical enjoyment that
also implies spirituality".
The group won a national competition to find the country's
Eurovision entry with the song "You and Me". Katharina Hauri, who
plays the drum, described it as "a parable about how we serve in
the Salvation Army. . . We are all here for each other."
The oldest member, Emil Ramsauer, aged 95, who plays the double
bass and electric guitar, has been playing music with the Salvation
Army since the age of ten, including a spell in England during the
Second World War.
Christoph Jackob, on vocals, admitted that "some people may be
quite perplexed" by the band's involvement in the competition: "A
lot of people still find us antiquated . . . We want to show them
that the Salvation Army can also be in, modern and provactive."
The semi-final of this year's contest is on Tuesday, before the
final the following Saturday.