Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (Pertti Kurikka’s Nameday) hasn’t just come out of nowhere to sign up for Eurovision 2015.
A special mention in their biography should go to Lyhty ry, a Finnish non-profit association on intellectual disabilities founded in 1993, which provides housing and organizes workshops, educational services but also cultural events and leisure activities. One of their music workshops was frequented by Pertti Kurikka, the guitarist of the band, a huge fan of punk rock, who happens to have Down syndrome. In 2004, he meets Kalle Pajamaa, who noticed his potential and built a band around him. Today, the band includes also Kari Aalto (vocals) – also a big punk rock fan, Sami Helle (bass) and Toni Välitalo (drums). They all have been playing music since they were kids and grew up with music. And they all happen to have Down syndrome.
This hasn’t stopped them to make their own songs, write their own lyrics and kick ass on stage. Since their starting point in 2009, PKN has released 5 EPs and one compilation album and has been subject to the award-winning documentary The Punk Syndrome, released in 2012 (you can watch the trailer here). In addition to Finland, the band has toured in United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Canada, Kosovo, the Netherlands, England and Switzerland. And they’ve recently reach a peak in their success with Aina mun pitää (Always I Have To), the song which will represent Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest 2015. Which was no longer released at Finnish labels but with Sony Music. Which, we have to admit, it’s not necessarily a punk record label.
Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät is a beautiful story in so many ways. One side goes to what they represent within the values of our contemporary society. They make an impeccable example for anti-discrimination. They are an artifact coming out the nonprofit organizations’ efforts of achieving their missions. They underline the differences between countries in what concerns the inclusion of disabled people. And this should matter a lot. But what matters at the same rate is that this win was brought to us via punk music, the style which allows the marginalized categories to express themselves since 1977. PKN’s public statements couldn’t be more representative for the style that formed them as musicians: singer Kari Aalto says that every person with a disability “should say what they want and do not want.” “We’re mentally handicapped,” declares Sami Helle, the band’s bass player, with no fear of breaching the political correctness language guides. “We are rebelling against society in different ways, but we are not political. We are changing attitudes somewhat, a lot of people are coming to our gigs and we have a lot of fans. We don’t want people to vote for us to feel sorry for us, we are not that different from everybody else – just normal guys with a mental handicap.” he said for The Guardian.
I’m thinking that if we could just put aside the politics portion from this equation and relieve them from the burden of having to explain themselves, we might get a big weight off their shoulders and give them the space to express themselves instead. They are doing such an awesome job.
- Kari Aalto – singer
- Pertti Kurikka – guitare
- Sami Helle – bass
- Toni Välitalo – drums
Influences: Karanteeni, Kollaa Kestää, Ratsia, Sensuuri, Ypö-Viis ja Pelle Miljoona
Record Label: Sony Music Finland