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Eläkeläiset: Humppa, Alcohol and No Sex

Finlands ultimate party band brings its blend of old and new to St. Petersburg to celebrate 20 years of musical history.

Published: December 11, 2013 (Issue # 1790)



  • Eläkeläiset have renewed a Finnish artform by injecting a healthy dose of humor and modernity.
    Photo: Pentti Hokkanen / for SPT

Eläkeläiset the band that brought the Finnish 1930s dance music humppa international popularity is celebrating its 20th anniversary and claims it has not changed anything in its style or approach throughout the years. Why fix something that is not broken? says musician Jarmo Toppo Koponen, known within Eläkeläiset as Onni Waris.

With songs about drinking, dancing and old age, Eläkeläiset will come to the city to premiere songs from its new album as well as to perform its many favorites from the past two decades.

Eläkeläiset (Finnish for pensioners) could take any international pop or rock hit from Led Zeppelins Living Loving Maid (Shes Just a Woman) to Nirvanas Smells Like Teen Spirit and turn it into the fast humppa or slower jenkka music styles, popular in pre-war Finland and primarily limited to elderly Finnish audiences until the band took it on in 1993. Played in the accordion-driven humppa style, which is described by the band as the Finnish hillbilly version of American jazz, even the best-known songs may not be immediately recognizable.

Called Humppakalmisto (Humppa Cemetery), the bands new album takes aim at international traditional songs and the blues, including Eduardo di Capuas O sole mio, Big Joe Williams Baby Please Dont Go, traditional Cuban song Guantanamera and Mexican folk song La Bamba. The choice of material was influenced by the move from Eläkeläisets long-time record company Stupido Records to the Tampere-based Akun Tehdas.

We decided, Okay, now we have a new record company and it would be a good idea to release an album, said Koponen. A guitarist with his original punk-metal group Kumikameli, with Eläkeläiset Koponen plays keyboards, sings and writes lyrics.

So we started looking for traditional songs and public domain songs, which you dont have to have permission to translate. So we were picking up on old blues classics like Rollin and Tumblin and Baby Please Dont Go, the Australian song Waltzing Matilda and Negro spirituals like Swing Low, Sweet Chariot all those songs that you can make any kind of version of without getting in trouble with copyright owners. I think we had 28 or 30 songs for the album, and we just chose the best ones. So we have more time to struggle with the next album.

I think we have about 100 songs for the next album, and our label in the process of getting copyright permissions. There are all kind of songs heavy metal, some Motörhead, Chuck Berry and whatever. But we need more time to get permission to make the album, so it is a good idea to release something now. Then its our 20th birthday, and its also a celebration album.

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Thursday, Apr. 17


Expocenter Eurasia at 13 Ulitsa Kapitan Voronin is the sight of Goods on the Way, a five-day event starting today showcasing the latest in the industrial products industry. Bags, backpacks, swimsuits and much, much more will be available to attendees hoping to update not only their style but their accessories for the upcoming summer.


Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldnt miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norways largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


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Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the deserts most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDAs Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBAs Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


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