The drawing back of the Iron Curtain and the Balkanisation of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s meant more countries in Eurovision and a headache for the contest’s organisers at the EBU. The solution they came up with in 1993 – before the various relegation systems, before the inauguration of the first (and then second) semi final – was Qualification for Millstreet (see No. 472).
Romania was one of the seven ‘new’ countries attempting to take part that year (alongside Bosnia, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia). In January 1993 state broadcaster Televiziunea Română (TVR) conducted a national final of 11 songs to select their first Eurovision entry. Veteran chanteuse Dida Drăgan was victorious with Nu Pleca (Don’t Go), beating off competition from the likes of Monica Anghel (who would go on to represent Romania in 1996 and 2002) and Nicoleta Alexandru (Romania’s representative in 2003).
On 3rd April 1993, six weeks before the contest proper, the seven new Eurovision nations gathered at Radiotelevizija Slovenija’s Broadcasting Centre in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, for the pre-selection final. Each country also sent a single juror who gave their votes in the usual Eurovision manner (12,10, 8 etc) though with so few contestants 5 points was the lowest mark possible. There was no hint of collusion among the former Yugoslavian nations – none of the three awarded their top mark to a fellow Balkan state – yet hosts Slovenia were triumphant and their neighbours Bosnia and Croatia were the two additional qualifiers for Eurovision in Millstreet, Ireland. Dragăn, although she picked up 12 points from Croatia, was placed last by four jurors and so finished bottom of the pack, 6 points adrift of the Hungarian entry in 6th place.
Dida Drăgan was born in 1946 in Dâmboviţa, 50 miles north west of Bucharest. In 1972 she won the prestigious National Festival Of Popular Music competition, which earned her the nickname “The Fiery Voice of Romanian Rock”, and led to a record deal with the East German state-owned record label, Amiga. Successful across the Eastern Bloc she became one of Romania’s most popular singers and even attempted a political career, standing for the centre-right Romanian National Liberal Party after the overthrow of communism in December 1989.
So why did Nu Pleca do so badly? As far as we are concerned it stood head and shoulders above everything else at the Slovenian pre-selection contest. Was it the microphone malfunction early on in the performance? Did the single jury member system give rise to tactical voting, marking down the better song to give their own entry more of a chance?
And if Dida Drăgan had made it to Millstreet, how would she have fared? Well, her diva-of-a-certain-age performance (she was 46 at the time) brings to mind Mia Martini’s rendition of Rapsodia (see No. 450) in the previous year’s contest, and that song finished 4th; but whereas 44-year-old Martini’s voice was shot to pieces in 1992, Drăgan still has a strong set of pipes, more reminiscent of Martini’s own younger self (see No. 379). We think Nu Pleca could – and should – have done very well indeed.