Marina Satti ready to ‘rock the stage’ at Eurovision

It was just a few days after “Zari” was revealed as the song that would represent Greece in the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, Sweden, on April 11, and we were at a party in Thessaloniki, in the north of Greece. Most of the guests were hanging out in the courtyard and chatting when the birthday boy announced that “Zari” (Dice) would come on the playlist next. “If you dig it, come in,” he shouted. In seconds, her 15-square-meter living room transformed into a crowded dance floor, with bodies “falling and rolling like dice,” to quote a lyric from the catchy trap-pop song. I couldn’t help but think if Marina Satti would ever know what she had accomplished.

The same thought persisted in the days that followed as I scrolled through a river of social media posts ranging from deification to defamation of the song’s controversial video, which mocked Greek holiday stereotypes. Even mainstream media outlets were full of commentators trying to analyze the article, taking us back to the heyday of Eurovision in Greece (2004-2011). Indeed, for a few days at least, “Zari” caused a national division regarding Greece’s international image.

Among other things, the song is now among the top 10 favorites to win on Saturday and is already a staple of all Greek discos and parties. But the question remains: did Marina Satti ever think that her song would make so much noise? “No, definitely not,” declares the 37-year-old artist shortly before leaving for Malme.

What kind of place were you in when the public television channel ERT contacted you, for the third time, in September 2023, to ask you to represent Greece at Eurovision?

I was in an “enthusiastic” phase. Their previous approaches had filled me with apprehension, I was in another creative phase. This time I felt ready but I didn’t have a song. I wondered what kind of trouble I was getting myself into.

Why a waste?

Because I had never done something like that before: a commanded inspiration. Usually, when I like something in the songs I write – the music, because I don’t write lyrics – it’s me who communicates it, not the other way around and especially not with a deadline.

Was the deadline strict?

Well, we were receiving songs at ERT until December. We created a file where we stored the things we liked. If there was something in a song that I liked, I would contact the author.

What made the shortlist?

We had narrowed it down to 10 ideas. Some were dance songs, in the same style as “Zari”. There was a soft ballad similar to “Pali” (one of the songs from his last album, “Yenna”, which was very well received), while we also received harder sounds, but with folk and urban elements . Everyone who heard the ballad thought it was “it.”

So we almost went to Eurovision with a ballad?

The idea troubled me and I asked myself: “We are going to a party with so many upbeat songs, with a lot of noise; should I go with something sweet? Then I asked myself, “You only have three minutes. What kind of impact do you want to have? It’s not like a concert where you have time to unfold your story.

So how did you end up with “Zari”?

Music producer OGE sent me a demo of “Zari”, written in English with two rs. It was a melody to which I could add whatever lyrics I wanted.

And how did he get this title?

OGE told me this happened while it was saving the file. He didn’t know if it was the Eurovision tune; he saw it as a roll of the dice. At the same time, Kiki Tsolka (Public Relations Manager at Minos-EMI) noticed that every time the melody sounded, my body reacted. And that’s when I said, “Let’s do something like the demo, but it has to have a zurna.” » We bounced around all sorts of ideas until someone suggested we use the actual melody from the demo – with a zurna.

I detect a certain fondness for zurna.

One of the comments we received during the initial recording was that we needed to reduce the volume of the zurna. But that’s the problem: you can’t reduce it. If I had wanted something softer, we would have used a flute. The zurna, associated with the low frequency daouli, created a certain intensity, an emotion close to ecstasy. But we also wanted the end result to be very melodic. We did 60 versions of the song, in different keys, but we felt the song was missing that attention-grabbing element, that “let’s do it” moment.

So, how many vernacular languages ​​does “Zari” cover?

There are rhythms and grooves that can be found all over the world. I use a very familiar rhythm in Greece, the syrtoroumba, which is similar to the balos, and which people abroad know and dance to, even if they call it something else. I also add an urban sound similar to reggaeton, which is currently the predominant sound worldwide.

Is this what the ERT asked you to deliver?

What I was asked to do was to present an audiovisual show that people would see on their TVs and not live – that’s why the show is so one-camera, single-shot based. We only have three minutes to create a world. We have humor, femininity, a lot of courage and attitude.

Many of this year’s entries follow the Finnish recipe of “Cha Cha Cha”, with crowd-pleasing pieces and choreographies that will go viral on TikTok. I think the closest entry to ours in spirit is Ladaniva’s “Jako” for Armenia.

Of course, although Armenia has more folkloric elements than ours. I wish it was more modern. But I really like it. It’s charming and fun, and full of positive energy.

What other entries stand out?

I would have loved to have had the Ukraine chorus (in “Mama Teresa” by Jerry Heil and Alyona Alyona). I also like Switzerland and Spain. The latter evokes something melancholic, a nostalgia for the 1980s mixed with the new disco vibes of Dua Lipa and The Weeknd. And of course Cyprus, with Silia Kapsis. She is only 17 years old and is an extraordinary singer and dancer. I don’t know how she managed to conquer both at such a young age.

Are you, like all of us Greek Eurovision fans, fantasizing about a victory and an “Athens 2025”?

I don’t know what’s going to happen. Honestly. I obviously don’t want this to end badly. I want us to succeed, especially seeing how much joy it brought to all the people who expressed such positive feelings about the song. I will try to give everything I have. I can’t control the outcome, but I can control that we rock the stage and that what you see is great.

Mixed welcome

Judging by comments on social media, other Eurovision fans do not share the Greeks’ skepticism. From start to finish, “Zari” impacts, makes them move to the rhythm. They may not understand the lyrics, but they certainly understand the vibe. And their positive reception means the recipe works.

At the same time, the Greeks are still bickering, even in Kathimerini’s offices. That’s why we asked a few colleagues if they had anything to say to Satti.

When “Zari” first came out, Greeks were divided into three camps: those who went crazy for it, those who didn’t like it at first but warmed up to it later, and those who hated it.

I was in a taxi just a few days after the release and “Zari” was playing on the radio. I asked the driver if he liked the song that would represent Greece in Eurovision. “Not at all,” he replied. But you know what? It’s good that some people like it and some people don’t. I prefer that to the song which has no impact. So, I’m really happy that the song is being communicated, and even happier that people my age are saying that it expresses them.

Does “Zari”, as an overall project, represent your tastes and references, or is it a deeper commentary on Greece, as some say? If this is a comment, is it trying to be humorous or literal?

I’m not sure the video would have been what it is if the song wasn’t for Eurovision. It is designed according to the mission entrusted to me, or at least the way I understood this mission. But everything we do is a result of who we are. Anything someone does in a statement. I’ve been performing at festivals abroad since 2018, so I know what people like and what works, and I’ve noticed that foreigners have a very clear idea of ​​what Greece is like. I knew how to approach this contrast and these stereotypes with humor. There was also my reaction to hearing myself introduced as “the representative of Greece abroad” when my name was announced for the content of the song. I laughed and thought, “Great! So, I’m going to show them Greece. This is how the idea of ​​the tourist guide came to me, which does not say what Greece is, but shows what I see of it.

But ultimately, how do you see Greece today?

It is East and West, past and present. It includes all kinds of people. It’s all of that and we’re all part of it. My goal is to show that we are relevant, that we are not a country on the margins. I want to be able to present something and hear a stranger say, “Wow! Does this come from Greece?

Let’s end with a dilemma: which would you prefer, finishing in the top five or having “Zari” sung for another 20 years?

Why does it have to be one or the other? What made you feel like less is more for me?

The original version of this article appeared in K, Kathimerini’s Sunday supplement.