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France places Eurovision hopes on refugee baby

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France's Madame Monsieur performs during a rehearsal for Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, Portugal on 6 May 2018. Reuters/Pedro Nunes

French pop duo "Madame Monsieur" hope a song inspired by the plight of a refugee baby plucked from a sinking boat in the Mediterranean will strike a chord at next week's Eurovision song contest.


Mercy was born in March 2017 on the Aquarius, the vessel which rescued her Nigerian mother as she attempted the perilous crossing from Libya to seek a new life in Europe.

Like so many before, the people smugglers had little regard for their human cargo and the boat she sailed on soon began to sink.

Madame Monsieur -- Emilie Satt, 29, and Jean-Karl Lucas (35) -- were rehearsing in the studio when they saw a photo of the just born Mercy on Twitter.

"We were really moved by this story; we wanted to put into music the feelings it inspired in us," they told the AFP news agency in an interview.

Then when they were chosen to represent France at this year's Eurovision contest in Lisbon, "we knew immediately it would be with this song".

"The song is about human qualities such as solidarity and tolerance ... It makes sense for Eurovision which was originally set up to promote European values such as peace and fairness."

At the end of April, two journalists with France Inter found Mercy and her mother Taiwo in Sicily, in the largest refugee camp in Europe.

"We were very relieved that they were found alive and in good health. We are in constant contact with the people who are closest to them," Jean-Karl said.

The two musicians plan setting up an association to help Mercy and her mother but this has been put on the back-burner for the moment ahead of the competition.

1977 last French victory

France last won the Eurovision song contest an age ago in 1977 when Marie Myriam sang L'Oiseau et L'Enfant (The Bird and the Child).

But hopes are high that Madame Monsieur can do well and bookmakers have them second favourites after Israel.

There seems too to be more interest in France in this 63rd edition of Eurovision after the French entry was decided by a televised knock-out competition in January.

Madame Monsieur's back-story also helps.

A couple for 10 years, married for two, they have a minimalist, Nordic fashion take with Emile's striking blond hair offset by the black polo necks they both wear.

Top designer Jean Paul Gaultier will dress them for the 12 May competition.

"People are above all touched by Mercy but let's say that us being together is the cherry on the cake," says Satt, who wrote the lyrics and the melody.

Jean-Karl meanwhile looks after production and instrumentation.

Their first album, Vu d'ici (Seen from Here), was released last month and sounds resolutely "pop" while at the same time being "a photograph of what has moved us in recent years", Jean-Karl said.

For example, a track entitled 22.11.2013 was inspired by the double suicide of a couple in their 80s who died hand in hand.

Eurovision, with its global audience of at least 200 million people, "is a huge opportunity for us, a display case for our work we could never have expected", says the duo.

(with AFP)