Sep 5, 2016

411/971 Riki Sorsa: Reggae Ok (Finland 1981)

Riki Sorsa is the other Finnish Eurovision legend to leave us during the Eurovision week of 2016. The death of Riki Sorsa did not come as a surprise. He had already beaten throat cancer in 2008 but the second time around the lung cancer got the better of him. Before his death Sorsa mad his illness public talking about the dangers of smoking. In a poignant  and dramatic video from 2016 he talks about having smoked for 30 years and now having cancer. "Did I stop too late" he asks in the video where he can be seen with and without his hair. Soon after that he died as a respected and loved pop singer at the age of 63 on the day of the first Eurovision semi final. 35 years previously he was in the beginning of his career.

In 1981 the Finnish Eurovision selection (watch it here) was full of established pop artists, and the popular favourite was either the Ralph Siegelish song Titanic sung by Frederik or a love duet Mun suothan tulla viereen sun sung by Eurovision veteran Markku Aro and his Singaporean girlfriend Nisa Soraya. There where also other popular entries and well known artists and there was a loud outcry when the jury of experts chose the most unknown performer of the evening with the most unlikely Eurosong.

I was among the large crowd of Finns who thought that by that choice we could kiss goodbye a decent placing in the final results. The 16th place in Dublin proved that the majority was this time right.

The expected low result did not harm Riki Sorsa, quite the contrary. Having sung previously rock in english he now changed the language permanently to Finnish and the style closer to the mainstream Finnish pop. His major successes included a finnish version of a Swedish hit Aftofalken (Muuttohaukka in finnish) and Haaveissa vainko oot mun, which narrowly lost the Finnish representation in 1985 Eurovision song contest to Sonja Lumme. In 1985 Riki also had another entry Lapset maailman which he sang together with another Eurovision veteran Ami Aspelund. That song came fourth. He entered Euroviisut twice after that with songs Viimeinen tie (3rd in 1991) and Silmiisi sun (4th in 1992). 

Years have been good to Reggae Ok. In the 21st century we have been accustomed to a larger variety of styles in Eurovision than in 1981 when the audience and juries expected disco, pop and schlager. The performance of a 28 years old singer is charismatic and he seems to be surprisingly at ease with his peculiar outfit that caused a lot of criticism particularly in the home front.

The band (with the composer Jim Pembroke with dark hair and in dark glasses) does a good job but the main asset of the group is the keyboard-player and accordionist Pedro Hietanen (a stand up comedian as well as an established musician), who all but steals the show from Riki Sorsa, The whole team seems to have a ball on stage.

After hating the song, I've since grown to appreciate and almost love the Finnish entry and I'm very proud that, once again, Finland dared to do something different in Eurovision.

My points 4/5.

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