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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. 24

Learn more about Denmark during the Danish Business Delegations visit to SPIBA this evening starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Danish Culture Institute. Danish Consul general Klaus Sorensen will be in attendance and the buffet following a presentation on Danish companies in Russia will be the perfect opportunity to network with the assembled businessmen.

AmChams Human Resources Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning in their St. Petersburg office. Check their website for more details.

Friday, Apr. 25

Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finlands Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from

Saturday, Apr. 26

At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping malls Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.

Sunday, Apr. 27

Families shouldnt miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.

Monday, Apr. 28

The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBAs Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.

Tuesday, Apr. 29

Improve your English at the British Book Centers Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.