Eurovision Song of the Week: Fernando en Filippo (Netherlands, 1966)

If the title and image of this post had not named the country which sent Fernando en Filippo to Eurovision, would you have guessed that it was the Netherlands? The Dutch “en” (“and”) is almost invisible between the Spanish Fernando and the Italian Filippo.

I chose a Dutch song this week to continue testing my German. Last week, with a Swedish song, it wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped. (Link) Will it be more useful now that I need to understand some Dutch?

First Impressions

Unfortunately, we don’t have a video of Milly Scott’s life performance of Fernando en Filippo in the Netherlands’ Nationaal Songfestival of 1966. But we can listen to the recording from the festival’s official album.

Even the music is a surprise, isn’t it? The Mexican sound is obvious. I think there was a similar trend in American pop music from the 1950s, thanks to Latin American and Italian influences. Dutch lyrics with Mexcian music are no weirder than English lyrics with Neapolitan music. But while it’s easy for me to take the latter for granted, perhaps someone who is more unfamiliar with Dean Martin would have a more difficult time.

Then there is the nonsense hook “Tong-tiki-tong”. Did it also remind you of tiki bars? The twist is that tiki bars played Polynesian rather than Spanish or Latin music. So perhaps the repeated “tiki” was just an accident — because the lyricist wanted something different from “la la la” or “shoo-be-do.” But it’s funnnier to me to think that a Dutch lyricist’s idea of an exotic land combined Latino culture and Polynesian bars!

Further Consideration

So how did Fernando en Filippo sound on the live show? I could not find a clip from the English broadcast, but the French clip is on many YouTube channels.

The announcer describes Fernando en Filippo as “une parodie de chanson mexicaine” — a parody of a Mexican song. That changes my view immediately. As funny as I found this Dutch entry, I still took it seriously. I hadn’t thought it actually was a joke!

Tong-ki tong ti-ki kong-kong-kong
Ri-ki kong-kong-kong ti-ki kong-kong
Ri kong-kong ti-ki kong-kong-kong
Ti-ki kong-kong-kong

Fernando, Fernando
Gitarist uit Santiago
Speelt de hele avond solo
En rijdt dan nog naar San Antonio

Filippo, Filippo
Is heel anders dan Fernando
Heus die stapt niet in z’n auto
En rijdt dan nog naar San Antonio

Maar Fernando die verlangt zo naar haar
Ook al is hij moe, hij pakt z’n gitaar
Geeft z’n liedjes en z’n liefde cadeau aan haar
In San Antonio

Fernando, Fernando
Gitarist uit Santiago . . .

Tong-ki tong ti-ki tong-tong-tong . . .

Fernando, Fernando
Gitarist uit Santiago . . .

Ongelukkig valt het lot op een keer
Op een nacht vindt hij zijn meisje niet meer
Zij ging ‘s avonds naar Filippo
Verdween alleen uit San Antonio

Filippo, Filippo
Zegt nu ‘s avonds tot Fernando:
“Wacht nog even, want ze komt zo”
“Ze komt voor mij uit San Antonio”

Tong-ki tong ri-ki kong-kong-tong . . .

The lyrics also give us a fascinating mix of cultures. Take my favorite line (because I understood it without any help): “Fernando . . . speelt de hele avond solo.”

Look at all the languages playing together! As we’ve said, “Fernando” is a Spanish name. “Speelt” is related to the German “spielen” (to play). If you know English and German, “de hele avond” is obviously “the whole evening.” And of course, “solo” is from the Latin root “solus,” which means “alone.”

Lost (and Found) in Translation

Dutch looks a lot more like German than Swedish does! Listening was a challenge, but after I could also read the lyrics, I understood more. For instance, “verlangt” is close enough in German and Dutch — so as soon as I knew it was there, the whole line “Fernando verlangt zo naar haar” became clearer. Fernando was longing for a woman! And when I checked the Diggiloo Thrush translation, I saw I was right! (Link)

Another interesting line is: “Geeft z’n liedjes en z’n liefde cadeau aan haar.” Again, my English and German must work together to understand it: “geeft” is like the English “give,” while “liedjes” is like the German “Lied.” What I didn’t expect was that French and Dutch would share the word “cadeau” for “gift”!

Fernando en Filippo was a fun song to study, but I’m still not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, a Mexican-inspired Dutch entry is disappointing as a Eurovision song. On the other hand, it’s an excellent satire of Eurovision itself. All other participating countries entered a song in their own national style, each representing a slice of European culture. The Netherlands sent a song in the national style of a country from the other side of the world. It’s very sharp commentary on tradition and authenticity in songwriting! But the national juries who awarded points that year were not very impressed. Fernando en Filippo went home with the dreaded null points.

Now what do you think? There was still no televote back in 1966, but I want to end this post with my usual question . . .

Would you have voted for Fernando en Filippo in Eurovision 1966?

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