When Netta Barzilai was selected to sing for Israel, the first question that Team Insight had was “Will she be able to use the looper?” We needn’t have worried. Sources close to the Israeli delegation have informed ESC Insight that before the final of ‘The Next Star‘, the EBU confirmed that Barzilai’s looper would be allowed on stage in Lisbon if she won through to represent Israel.
Now that we know that the answer is yes and a live instrument will be returning to the Eurovision Song Contest stage, we can explore the importance of ‘Toy‘ in the evolution of the live vocals rule and what potential rule clarifications could await us in the future.
The First Era: Orchestral Manoeuvres
To begin, let’s take a look at how we got to where we are. Before 1973, back in the first era (the Orchestral Era) of the Song Contest, there was no question about how you would perform your song. You would supply your song arrangement and conductor to the provided orchestra, and you would sing into the provided microphone. I spoke to Gordon Roxburgh, author of Songs For Europe, about the way this was achieved:
The host broadcaster, along with the Musical Director (MD) would send all participants the proposed composition of the orchestra, for example the number of violins, oboes, trumpets, keyboards in the ensemble. This would help the various musical arrangers to score the songs accordingly.
This process would also give the participants an opportunity to request any non-standard instruments they wished to include in their compositions:
The host broadcaster and MD would then come back and say we have a guitarist who can double up on the ‘zither’ you want, (so allow one less guitarist in your score) but we can’t help you with a Tibetan nose flautist. If several participants had come back and requested the Tibetan nose flute, then the host broadcaster had the option of deciding whether it was worth including in the orchestra. But if one participant wanted one unique instrument for 12 seconds in their song, then the host broadcaster may decide that isn’t a viable option.
The Metropole Orchestra, 1970
If a delegation decided that it couldn’t possibly do justice to its song without the Tibetan nose flute, then they could choose to have the instrument played live on stage, using up one of their allotted six performers.
The Second Era: Wired For Sound
From 1973 onwards, pre-recorded backing tracks were allowed by the EBU, with Cliff Richard’s ‘Power To All Our Friends’ being the first song to use a partial backing track.
This added an extra complication to the ‘Tibetan nose flute’ problem. If you wanted to use the instrument on the backing track, then you still had to use an extra performer to represent the backing track on stage. The onstage performer could then play live or mime to a backing track, but according to the Musicians’ Union conventions of the time, the person miming on stage had to be the same person whose performance was captured on the backing track. Gordon Roxburgh:
In practice this wasn’t always the case, and the Contest has a few examples where the person on on stage wasn’t the same musician who performed what the audience were listening to. (But of course they are not going to openly admit it). ”
The rule that specified that non-orchestral instruments used in the backing track must be represented on stage is perhaps the origin of the trope of bringing one of your nation’s traditional instruments on stage, which of course became sufficiently common to be given an affectionate mention in ‘Love Love Peace Peace’.
Below, you can see an example of a non-standard instrument being included. Yugoslavia decided an accordion was needed in its 1983 song ‘Dzuli’ by Daniel, which can be seen to be mic’d up and being actively played.
In order to accommodate the wider repertoire of sounds required as the Song Contest and the popular music represented by it matured, a change in the rules was eventually required. This rule change came when Eurovision tracks began to incorporate significant quantities of programmed synthesisers. It is widely agreed that the challenge to the backing track rule came in 1996 when Gina G was ably supported on stage by two synths and two chunky putty-coloured CRT monitors during the Grammy nominated ‘Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit’, to represent the extensive synth programming of composer Steve Rodway. Gordon Roxburgh adds:
The big transition started in 1996 with the likes of the Gina G song where the boundaries were being blurred, and then by 1999 the orchestra has gone, and then ultimately live instruments were gone altogether.
We’re still trying to pinpoint the very last live instrument to appear on the Eurovision stage, but 1997 certainly marks a sea change in the way that Eurovision presentations are constructed. Let’s call that the end of the second era of Eurovision performance.
The Third Era: Dance Alone
The 3rd era of Eurovision performance from 1997 begins with various changes in quick succession.
From 1999 onwards the orchestra is no longer a compulsory aspect of hosting the Song Contest and it quickly disappears. Televoting pushes the musical selections to more electronic, dance-oriented music; further emphasising the use of dancers instead of on-stage musicians. The audience no longer expects to see instruments represented on stage, except if it adds to the aesthetics of the performance.
However, the key rule remains: no vocal or vocal imitation sounds may be included on the backing track. This rule sensibly bans recorded backing vocals and recorded vocals supporting the main singer, but perhaps less sensibly it bans the use of synthesisers and electronic instruments using choir imitation settings.
In the popular music landscape of 1956 when the Eurovision Song Contest began, it was unimaginable that the exotic new musical instruments that were developing at the intersection of modern classical music, horror film soundtracks and garage electronic tinkering would become a core part of the chart sound. The first UK Number 1 single to feature a synthesiser was ‘Runaway‘ by Del Shannon in 1961, but it wasn’t until the end of the sixties that synthesisers became common stage and studio instruments amongst pop and rock musicians.
The kind of synthesisers that could have caused a philosophical problem for the live vocals rule were things like the Mellotron. Originally developed in the early sixties, it used tape loops of real instruments or vocals that could be triggered by a keyboard to produce infinite but slightly ghostly notes. A Mellotron using the choir setting (demonstrated in the video of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ below) would therefore have second-hand recorded vocals on the backing track and should theoretically have not been allowed.
Analogue synthesisers work by adding simple waveforms together electronically to create complex sounds. It’s possible to make an analogue synth sound that sounds a little bit like a choir singing ‘ah’. With early synths, these noises weren’t convincing enough to fool anyone, but the rule created the philosophical category of ‘vocal imitations’ that would keep the live vocal rule happy for a while longer. You can hear a sample of an analogue vocal synth below.
Every Modern Vocal Is Modified
One thing that has never been in question is whether it is admissible to treat vocals. Almost everyone who sings down a microphone has some reverb applied. It’s really unpleasant to listen to a totally dry vocal, and large amounts of reverb are often used to reduce the impact of a duff vocal. Yes, especially in karaoke.
The degree and method by which you treat vocals can be controversial. When the Olsen Brothers included a little bit of vocoder in ‘Fly On The Wings Of Love’, this was met by protests from the Russian delegation.
There are two different effects that are generally referred to as vocoders – they both involve the mixing of vocal sounds and instrumental sounds to create special effects, but by different means. See Sound on Sound for technical details.
The effect used by the Olsen Brothers to such great effect is a true vocoder – he’s using a regular microphone. If it was a talk box you would expect to see a tube in his mouth. A vocoder mixes the tune of a live vocal with the imprint of a specific set of frequency envelopes, creating the robotic, low resolution vocal effect.
The main way that a talk box could be deemed to be against the spirit of the rules is that you can be much more lax about hitting a note when the note is supplied to you by an external instrument. This overlooks the fact that the combination of singing and playing when using these devices is a skill in itself, and suggests that a talk box could be used to automatically tune a vocal. The original ones using 1970s technology couldn’t, but the story doesn’t stop there.
First released in 1997, Auto-Tune is a music production tool that takes the idea of mixing a vocal input with a supplied note to the next level. It analyses the waveform of a note and then shifts it to the nearest exact semitone. It can do this harshly and noticeably (Believe by Cher) or subtly and almost invisibly (basically every pop record since the millennium) and it can be used both in studios and live to tidy up vocals to meet public expectations. Because vocal capacity is one of the criteria by which the Eurovision juries are supposed to judge entries, auto-tune is clearly not something we would want at the Contest. But would we also want to ban the creative uses of the Cher effect?
The Fourth Era: Grab The Moment
Last year, we may have seen the start of the fourth era of Eurovision Song Contest performance. Whilst representing Norway, JOWST pushed the envelope on both treated vocals and backing track vocals. The chorus of ‘Grab The Moment’ featured a section of Aleksander Walmann’s vocals which had been treated in a way that turned them into a set of synthetic stabs that critically for the rules couldn’t be performed by the human voice alone. This was definitely a vocal-like sound with recognisable lyrics, and sync’d up to an image of a pixellated Aleks singing the same lyrics. But it was appearing on the backing track? What happened?
After the Song Contest, it became clear that because the vox chop stabs weren’t reproducible live on stage by the human, the EBU had cleared JOWST to include the vox chops on the backing track. JOWST says that they did have a backup plan if the decision had gone the other way, but that it wouldn’t have been as effective. But how did the EBU come to the decision that a manipulated vocal track was acceptable on the backing track? Would it have made a difference if the real Aleks was miming to the vox chop? Did the graphic overlay make a difference? Would it have made a difference if it had been another part of the song?
It appears that there has been no formal change in the Eurovision rules to reflect the JOWST precedent. Any country that selects a song with a similar element will have to seek clearance to perform it, running the risk of the Contest being accused of favouritism and lack of transparency in the event of a negative decision.
For Lisbon 2018, Netta has been allowed to use her looper at the Song Contest. This is different again.
The looper isn’t like autotune or like a pre-recorded vox chop. Through using the looper, Netta’s vocals become an instrument that will be played live. She can apply various filters, harmonic and rhythmic changes and accompany her own live vocals. She can add beatboxing. She could in theory do the whole song with no backing track. She can display tremendous amount of technical and compositional skill at the same time as giving a superb vocal.
However, she will also be playing a musical instrument, which is also against the existing form of the rule. If the EBU were to formally relax the rule as demonstrated by the above examples, we would not have been on tenterhooks to hear whether Netta is allowed to use her looper on ‘Toy’ and we would allow further musical diversity and personal expression into the contest.
We should formally acknowledge the start of a new performance era for Eurovision by creating a full ruling on which vocal treatments are allowed on backing tracks, and which technical effects may be produced live …and also a full investigation on why so many people are hiding their backing singers.
As always, the Eurovision Song Contest has to find a way to keep up with technological progress whilst still retaining the live magic that keeps 200 million people tuning in every year.
In the meantime, ESC Insight is very happy that Netta can start up the looper.
At some point we’re going to have to discuss San Marino’s ‘Battle Of The Bands’ setup 1 in 360, but for now, let’s just raise an eyebrow and move on with the rest of the news this week. Four more songs declared, and more line-ups for National Finals are settled. Plus we have Serbia putting on a show like it’s the late twentieth century.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: A Song For Sheeran
Ed Sheeran puts his foot in it, the Balkan Ballad of Ewan’s dreams arrives, and the script calls for ‘a lawyerly voice’. Time for another seven days of Eurovision news from Ewan Spence and ESC Insight; plus music from Slavko.
As the 2018 National Finals Season enters the final run, keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast for more Eurovision news, fun, and chat. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.
Around this time two years ago a good friend of mine sent a link to a YouTube clip that he thought I might enjoy. I clicked on the link and was immediately transported to a snowy alpine scene and a wooden stage upon which six strapping chaps in lederhosen began cavorting their way through a very catchy, typically Bavarian sounding schlager.
That song was ‘Voll Ma Tanzn Gehn and the group went by the name of voXXclub – the non-capital “v” and the double-capital “XX” I later discovered are essential to the brand (it’s also another act this year with capital letters in the middle, oh brilliant… – .ed). I was immediately captivated by the engaging performance, which featured much traditional leg and foot slapping as the chaps danced their way through the expertly choreographed song. These boys were having fun, and it showed!
Before the song even finished I was browsing down the right-hand side of the page to see what other delights that guys could offer. There were links to a large number of videos and live performances and within no time at all I was headlong into a full-on avalanche of lederhosen enhanced volksmusik.
The song which had the highest number of hits (currently sitting at over twenty million!) was ‘Rock Mi‘. From the opening bars, which resemble Queen’s anthemic ‘We Will Rock You‘, I knew I had discovered something amazing… The song was insanely catchy, the choreography was slick, the positive vibe that shone through the whole thing was infectious and then there was the fact that the whole package was being delivered by six hunky grown men in lederhosen! What more could a red blooded male who was more than acquainted with Dorothy ask?
After a bit of research, I found out that the band had been formed in Munich in 2012 to cash in on the growing German/Swiss/Austrian volksmusik movement. Korbinian (Bini), Michael, Florian, Christian, Stefan and Julian were launched onto the music scene with a more folksy and gentle version of ‘Rock Mi‘ which failed to do much in the charts. That was followed by a couple of other singles before a decision was taken to oompa-up ‘Rock Mi’ and relaunch the boys with a poppier, more current sound. The remixed version stormed the charts in all three home territories (the guys are a mix of German, Swiss and Austrian themselves) and the voXXclub phenomenon had arrived.
Building The Brand
Over the next few years the boys toured their first three albums and were regularly seen on pop, schlager and volksmusik TV shows across all three countries. They honed flashmob performances of their singles into a fine art and could regularly be found doing impromptu performances in shopping centres, on buses, trains and even in planes.
In 2015 Julian left the group, leaving them as a five piece, but the fun and camaraderie seems to have been unaffected and if anything, the guys perform even better now in their more compact form.
Time To Fly The Flag
I’ve spent the past couple of years enjoying their joyful sound and can regularly be found slapping my thighs to their dulcet tones, so you can imagine my unconfined delight when NDR announced in December that “My voXXclub” are one of the acts that have been shortlisted to compete in February’s “Unser Lied Fur Lissabon”, where the German entry for Lisbon will be selected.
Their most recent album, ‘Donnawedda‘, was released on 29 December and whilst there are a few tracks on it which would have made great entries in their own right, but the guys have be working with a team of specially selected song writers to come up with their song for the German final.
You can bet your bottom Euro that they have my full support as they set down the lederhosen-clad gauntlet to get Germany back on the left hand side of the scoreboard in May. I won’t deny that was hoping for ‘Rock Mi Mark Two‘ with all the fun and spectacle that a similar song could bring to the competition. Did I get it?
After Norway set the precedent last year for vocals not appearing on the backing track (but sounding lke they appear in a Eurovision song), Israel is set to find the limits of that rule if Netta brings her looping machine to the Lisbon stage. That little complication, the fun in San Marino, why we still have Markus Rivas (hint, it’s Excel), and a subtle mention of Val Parnell all turn in this week’s Insight News podcast.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: One Of Us
Another week of Eurovision news in one bite-sized podcast from Ewan Spence and ESC Insight. This week, horny vikings, Israeli rules lawyers, and Excel breaks in Latvia; plus music from The Experiment.
As the 2018 National Finals come at us thick and fast, keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast for more Eurovision news, fun, and chat. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.
From the launch of Iceland, Estonia and Ukraine’s National Selections to further Semi Final action from Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Sweden, this past weekend saw a packed viewing schedule for the hardcore Eurovision fan. You can view the full Newsletter for a roundup of all the latest results, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the three countries that made their selections for Lisbon this week…
Denmark: Rasmussen – Higher Ground
Written by the Swedish team behind 2010 Melodifestivalen fan favourite Kom by Timoteij, Denmark’s Eurovision hopeful this year is a dramatic folk-rock ballad that leans heavily into the Nordic country’s Viking history – a pose that could play well on the nautical-themed Lisbon stage. Singer and potential Game of Thrones extra Rasmussen has impressive pipes, but may need to work on his stage presence to really make this pop in Portugal.
Italy: Ermal Meta & Fabrizio Moro – Non mi avete fatto niente
Given that San Remo pre-dates the Eurovision Song Contest and doesn’t place choosing an entry for their sister contest as their highest priority, it’s little wonder that Italian entries seldom sound like ‘typical’ Eurovision songs. So is the case with this slick, sincere AOR ballad from two of the country’s most successful solo artists of recent years. Possibly a little too lyrical and low impact to be truly competitive – but Salvador taught us that anything is possible, and it’s heartening that Italy are continuing to keep the quality control high as the search continues for their first 21st century win.
United Kingdom: SuRie – Storms
The BBC continued to slowly edge in the right direction with the third edition of Eurovision: You Decide last Wednesday. There were no Eurovision winners in the pack, but it was a slick, professional field and the best performance won on the night. Storms currently lacks the impact it probably needs to really make a splash in Lisbon, but SuRie has the professionalism and experience to elevate the material. A well-judged revamp could still rescue this from our right-hand holding pattern.
Stay tuned next week for more national selection antics, including finals from Belarus and Montenegro, plus the first steps on the journey from Armenia, Slovenia and host nation Portugal. Sleep? Who needs it…
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For the tenth time over the last two decades, the Eurovision Song Contest in 2018 will have a first-time host. Our Portuguese friends have already done a great deal of work in preparation for Lisbon: all indications are that RTP has put together a highly skilled team.
The contrast with 2017 is rather stark. We quickly had our theme (‘All Aboard’), hosts, and venues sorted; and there’s no real scuttlebutt or rumbling about things going awry. Ticketing has been something of palaver, arguably because it seems everyone who’s ever considered attending the Song Contest has aimed for Lisbon 2018: high demand means a lot of people have been disappointed. From the outside looking in, preparations are going well.
The Swan Is Graceful On The Surface
Sometimes, however, the greater pressures on first time Eurovision hosts are internal rather external.
This is a chance to showcase the host city and country and its people to a global television audience. Eight hours of live broadcasts will focus primarily on the competing entries but will also offer a great deal of scope for marketing. An early decision to choose a theme that relates to a widely known epoch of Portuguese history that, in a literal sense, put Portugal and Portuguese all over the world map, is not surprising. But there are multiple ways that RTP can employ ‘All Aboard’.
Various members of ESC Insight writers have already presented their own words on RTPs choices. Style maven Lisa-Jane Lewis has already offered a deft analysis on the choice and presentation of this year’s hosting team as being narrow in terms of notions of gender, while historian Catherine Baker has also given us an excellent analysis of why RTP’s theme for Lisbon 2018 is something of a historical whitewash. This article takes a similarly critical tack with perhaps a somewhat broader brush by looking at the challenges and opportunities when an ethnostate hosts its first Eurovision.
We would like to highlight an approach that would leverage an opportunity to reframe what it means to be Portuguese-and, by extension, European-in the 21st century.
The Choice Of Nationalism
Nationalism, as a concept, is rather controversial. To some, nationalism is about reclaiming pride, assert uniqueness, or articulating a sense of self: to others, nationalism represents extremism, racism, and the worst of humanity. In discussing nationalism here we are focusing on the idea of an unique people – a nation – that is defined by shared values, history, experiences or a combination of all three. Benedict Anderson referred to nations as “imagined communities”, something that exists both between and within individuals. Nationalism is shared and personal.
There is a plethora of forms of nationalism, but in the context of the Eurovision, ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism are two that are particularly relevant.
Ethnic nationalism is the idea of a nation – and often, by extension, a state – defined around a common ethnicity or lineage and a shared territory. This is not a modern concept: among the ancient Greeks, Herodotus promoted an ideal of citizenship of a city-state based on shared kinship (blood relations), as well as shared language and customs. In other words, under ethnic nationalism you are born into the nation, your blood is, literally, from the nation.
If that sounds impossibly tidy, it is. Long before the invention of the combustion engine people moved around – a lot. When they moved they, as my beloved grandmother would delicately say, intermingled. Sometimes someone passing through stuck around; other times someone went on a journey and never came home. In both scenarios someone from another nation partnered with someone local, producing children who were not of a single lineage. Long before we had motorways or airports we had intermingling. In the modern age we have even more. When discussing ethnic nationalism we are not discussing – or endorsing – concepts like ethnic purity. It does not exist. It is also not worth celebrating.
An alternative to the idea of ethnic nationalism is civic nationalism. Civic nationalism is defined by the values or principles of a nation-though a physical territory is also affiliated with civic nationalisms. The migrant societies of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States are examples of ostensive civic nationalism (the denigration of indigenous communities is also a shared element of these, alas). Their espoused civic nationalism, frequently embedded in a discourse around diversity, does not operate in the same way for everyone. There are still elites; there are still marginalised communities. In other words, civic nationalism is also untidy.
In Europe, as the British, French, Belgian, Italian and Portuguese empires began to crumble, some from previously distant colonies moved to Europe. Today’s United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Italy and Portugal are culturally, linguistically and ethnically diverse. With the exception of the UK, these are all ethno-states that have become more diverse: the UK was fashioned as the (unequal) union of different nations-though in matters of policy, English culture predominated. In reality, none of these European countries were ever monocultural or monolingual: there has always been a great deal of linguistic diversity in each of these states. More untidiness.
Most recently, from 1980s onwards, the collapse of Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union transformed these large political empires into a collection of numerous ethnostates (states framed around an ethnic nationalism), though in reality none of these were ethnically homogenous either.
Another important recent (in historical terms) development was the idea of the supranational state. The European Union is a level of governance above that of its individual member nations. In something of a paradox, several former Yugoslav or Soviet member states have either acceded to EU membership or have applied to do so. To accede requires a re-orientation of their domestic legal frameworks towards the EU’s ideas of EU citizenship, which is very much a civic nationalism.
Let’s take a look at Portugal’s history as it relates to ethnic and civic nationalism.
Senhors É Senhoras Do Mar
It is not surprising that RTP has chosen to integrate a maritime theme into hosting. Having led one of the world’s great empires it is in the country’s cultural DNA. Given that the national epic poem of Portugal is based on the voyage of Vasco da Gama to India, it is clear that Portugal’s past global exploits are a particular point of pride. Their former empire is also part of the Portuguese narrative of ethnic nationalism – something that is not unique to Portugal (or Europe, for that matter).
Sara Tavares at Festival da Cancão 1994 (Source: YouTube/RTP)
Out of a population of 10 million living in Portugal today around half a million (roughly 5%) were born in a former Portuguese colony, mostly in Africa. This has been reflected on the Eurovision stage. Artists like Sara Tavares (1994; ‘Chamar é musica’) Tó Cruz (1995; ‘Baunilha e chocolate’), MTM (2001; ‘Só sei ser feliz assim’), and Homens da Luta (2011; ‘A luta é alegria’) each reflected the important cultural contribution from these communities to modern day Portugal. Prior to ‘Amar Pelos Dois‘, Portugal’s most successful Eurovision entry was a celebration of this diversity: Lucia Moniz’s 1996 entry ‘O Meu Coração Não Tem Cor – My Heart Knows No Colour’.
Lúcia Moniz at Festival da Cancão 1996 (Source: YouTube/RTP)
What initially was a system of disseminating European culture and values around the world whilst exploiting resources and commodities, eventually became something different. The main currency of exchange among the lusophone (Portuguese speaking) countries today is culture through a shared language – music, in particular.
The suggestion is that RTP use ‘All Aboard’ to shift from a discourse of ethnic nationalism to one of civic nationalism.
This is already reflected in its membership in the European Union and Comunidad dos Paises de Lingua Portuguesa. It just needs to be more obvious and purposive.
There are two recent examples of how hosts can celebrate ethnic and civic nationalism at the same time: Oslo 2010 and Vienna 2015.
Both Norway and Austria are presumed to be monocultural ethnostates by some. In reality, each host city includes a broad a range of ethnicities. Both had hosting teams that reflected this ethnic diversity. Oslo’s interval act featured Norwegian hip hop act Madcon. Vienna went a step farther by choosing Building Bridges as their theme, reflecting both Vienna’s history as a crossroads between central and western Europe and Austria’s modern day multiculturalism.
Here are some more concrete suggestions for how the 2018 production team could effectively leverage both ethnic and civic nationalism. First, include the Portuguese diaspora: One of the three hosts, Daniela Ruah, is from the Portuguese diaspora. So too, by the way, are the current title holders: the Sobrals lived in the US for several years before returning to Portugal. Excellent start.
Second, feature the global Lusosphere: the interval acts for all three broadcasts are a chance to showcase Portuguese culture and music’s global reach. An emphasis on how the former colonies have enriched their culture would be great. Look at Birmingham 1998’s interval act for inspiration.
The interval act in Brum (Source: YouTube/escbelgium4)
Lisbon should feature its uniqueness and its diversity, in the context of today’s Europe. Doing so makes the case for civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism co-existing in a productive way.
Lisbon is great city. It is easily accessible within a couple of hours’ flight from many other European capitals. It is lovely and warm in the spring. It’s relatively affordable. If you have not yet acquired any tickets for the live broadcasts, consider coming to Lisbon anyways. There will be excellent public spaces to view all the broadcasts, along with other events and activities.
Whatever RTP decides, Lisbon 2018 promises to be a cracker of a Eurovision.
Anderson, B. (2006). Imagined Communities: Reflections On The Origins And Spread Of Nationalism. London: Verso Books.