Music is a great way to learn a new language and become immersed in another culture. In this article, Ruud Hisgen from Direct Dutch teaches you a few lines from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest entry from the Netherlands.

The last time a song sung in the Dutch language won first prize in the Eurovision Song Contest was in 1969, when Lenny Kuhr sang De troubadour. It has since become a popular song that can still be heard on the Dutch radio today.

In 2022, the artist S10 (real name: Stien den Hollander) sang De diepte (The depth) as an ode to sad memories and finished eleventh in the final.

EuropapaIn February of 2024, the Netherlands got a big surprise when the Dutch entry for this year’s contest was revealed: Joost Klein singing and rapping the song Europapa, in Dutch.

The reason that this is a shock is because every entry from the Netherlands since 1999 (with the exception of 2010 and 2022) has been in English. 

For many, this production came as a big shock, because it is both extremely happy and deeply sad. The simple but catchy song delivered an unexpected message which is both hopeful yet alarming. In a few weeks, the video clip reached over 12 million viewers from all over the world – more than any other song contest entry before.

Let’s have a look at the lyrics, so you understand what it is about, while at the same time learning some useful Dutch words and idioms:

1. Welkom in Europa, blijf hier tot ik doodga (Welcome to Europe, stay here until I’ll die)In his own words, Joost Klein’s identity is first and foremost European. He has roots in Friesland, where he was born in 1997 and grew up in a small village called Britsum, near the capital of Leeuwarden.

In 2008, at the age of 10, Klein started his own YouTube channel, called EenhoornJoost (Unicorn-Joost). In 2009, he lost his father to cancer and, less than a year later, his mother to cardiac arrest. The song Florida 2009, which he sang at a festival in 2022 for the first time is a recollection of these traumatic losses.

In 2016, he stopped as a YouTuber and became a full-time artist, musician, poet, writer and much more.

2. Bezoek m’n friends in France, of neem de benen naar Wenen (Visit my friends in France, or make a run to Vienna)Ik wil weg uit Netherlands maar m’n paspoort is verdwenen.

(I want to leave the Netherlands but my passport disappeared)

In Europapa, Joost raps about his feelings of restlessness. He is in two minds whether to take a bus to Poland or a train to Berlin. Paris cannot be a destination because he has no money, “Ben aan het vluchten van mezelf, roep de hele dag om “Help!” (I’m running from myself, shouting “Help!” all day long)”.

Joost is completely “in de war” (confused) and feels lonely (German: allein) in Germany and Italy. And yet, he is sure of one thing: he’ll stay in Europe until the day he dies.

3. Toch doet het pijn (Still, it hurts)Wherever the musician would go in Europe, he feels he’s “running from himself, shouting for “help” all day long”. He gets no help and has no liking for the special dishes of the places he visits, “Hoef geen paella, no, ik weet niet eens echt wat dat is” (Don’t want paella, no, I don’t even really know what that is)”.

But then, after he has turned the radio on, he suddenly hears the Belgian singer, rapper, songwriter Stromae (real name: Paul van Haver, Brussels, 1985). Stromae sings about his absent and deceased father in the moving 2013 song Papaoutai (French: Papa, où t’es? , Dutch: Papa, waar ben je?). In English, it translates to “Dad, where are you?”.

This sad song reminds Klein of the death of his own father and triggers a drastic shift in his feelings. Europapa suddenly turns into a hardcore techno rave party. This style of electronic dance music was made very popular in the nineties by producers like DJ Paul Elstak (who contributed this part of the music to Europapa). The style of dancing in the music video is what is commonly called gabber (“friend” in Amsterdam slang), which originates from gabbercultuur, a Dutch subculture from the ’90s. In the video clip, you can see this dance which is still popular today.

4. Aan het einde van de dag, zijn we allemaal mensen (At the end of the day, we are all human)Mijn vader zei me ooit: Het is een wereld zonder grenzen.

(My father once told me: It is a world without borders)

After the music of the rave party dies down, there is a short moment of silence. In this stillness, it is as if we hear Joost’s father speak. He says, “Welkom in Europa, jongen! (Welcome to Europe, son!)”. Joost then remembers his dad, his “Euro-papa”, saying the phrases above. His father used to work with asylum seekers (asielzoekers) in Friesland and his conviction that the world has no borders is the essence of what he wanted to convey to his own children.

5. Ik mis je elke dag, is wat ik stiekempjes fluister (I miss you every day, is what I secretly whisper)Zie je nou wel, pa, ik heb naar je geluisterd. 

(See, dad, I did listen to you)

These are the last lines. They are not sung or rapped but spoken. The lyrics, which were written in the form of a letter, end with the words “From: Me, To: My parents” on the screen. When the song was launched on February 29, 2024, on a Thursday afternoon, Joost Klein said in Arjen Lubach’s show, “The letter is a kind of closure for me. Mom, Dad, you will always be there for me, but I cannot carry this pain with me forever”.

A song of hopeEuropapa is both a persuasive ode to a borderless Europe and a moving tribute to Joost Klein’s papa and to his mama. The words seem so simple at first sight, but the message is intensely hopeful, for all Europeans.

Perhaps you’re hosting Dutch guests and want to make them feel nice and “gezellig” when watching the European song contest? Then check out the Dutch courses at Direct Dutch! They offer courses for every skill level, as well as free resources and articles to help you develop your Dutch quickly and easily.

Author

Comments are closed.