What to look forward to at Finland's 'UMK'09 February 2024 at 12:46 CET
How To Watch: 'UMK' is happening on Saturday 10 February with a start time of 20:00 CET. Finnish broadcaster YLE will be streaming the show live on their online player. On the 'UMK' website YLE will also be offering streams in 7 different languages, plus in two sign-languages.
We've got a big night ahead of us on Saturday as we touch down in Tampere. There, it's all happening at the largest indoor arena in Finland, the Nokia Arena; as Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (or UMK, for short) prepares for its feistiest Finnish fiesta yet!
The 13th edition of UMK has taken things up a notch, as no edition of the contest has ever taken place in a venue as large as this one. In the immortal words of one famous Finnish scholar: "It's crazy! It's party!".
Looking after us viewers on the night will be a talented trio of presenters - UMK 2024 will be hosted by Pilvi Hämäläinen, Benjamin and Viivi Pumpanen.
Anyone who tuned in to UMK in 2023 will remember Benjamin. The multi-faceted musician competed on the night with his song Hoida Mut.
As well as guiding us through the 7 songs in contention for the UMK win, our hosts will also be bringing us the voting.
The Finnish people watching at home will have a majority say on which song gets picked as the winner. Their votes will contribute 75% of the final scores. The remaining 25% will come from 7 specially selected international juries.
In between the songs and the voting, we'll also have some extra-special guests making an appearance and providing further entertainment for those of us tuning in.
The winner of UMK 2023, Käärijä, will be returning to the stage that launched his international career. On Saturday night, he'll be performing a collaboration with one of the breakout stars of UMK in recent years - Erika Vikman. Together, they'll be performing their new single Ruoska.
And our host Benjamin will have more than just presenting duties on his mind.
He's been called upon to perform the opening number of Saturday night's UMK, alongside another act that competed in UMK in 2023 - the band KUUMAA.
All this top-tier talent and we haven't even gotten to the competing entries yet!
Let's get started on that, shall we?
7 songs will compete in Saturday night's competition, with all of them UMK newcomers aside from one - the band Cyan Kicks, who participated in 2022 and placed second behind The Rasmus.
All 7 songs have already impacted the Spotify daily chart in Finland. And at one point, every one of them was placed in the upper echelons of the Top 20 at the same time.
And with the appetite for them already high in Finland, it's safe to assume that a lot of eyes will be tuning in on Saturday night to see what the songs will look (and sound!) like live.
Below, you can learn a little more about each artist competing. And, so that you know which one you're going to be rooting for ahead of the show, you can also take a listen to each of the songs.
Sini Sabotage – Kuori mua
Having sung and played music since childhood, Sini Sabotage rose to fame with her 2013 hit Levikset repee. The song shot up the Official Finnish Charts to number one for singles and downloads, and it went gold in 2013. Sabotage’s accomplishments since then have truly blazed a trail for female rap artists in Finland.
UMK marks a new chapter for Sabotage, or in her own words, a completely new book. According to Sabotage, the colourful contest entry Kuori mua ('Peel Me') was inspired by “a few fireball shots” and a collaborative brainstorming session. The song’s co-creator Vilma Virintie described how Sabotage is like an onion, with its many layers.
“We’re never just what we appear to be on the outside at any given moment. We all have many sides and so much more to give than just one picture, song or moment,” says Virintie.
Cyan Kicks – Dancing With Demons
In 2022, Cyan Kicks competed in UMK with their entry Hurricane, placing second in the final. Their success in UMK was followed by numerous gigs all over Europe, a headline tour in Germany and, just recently, a tour in the United Kingdom and continental Europe along with rock group Smash Into Pieces.
The band is made up of vocalist Susanna Alexandra, guitarist Niila Perkkiö, bassist Leevi Erkkilä and drummer Pietari Reijonen. Cyan Kicks’ sound is easily identifiable, thanks largely to the band’s guitarist and producer Niila. “You could say that our music is a metal heart in a pop wrapper,” states Niila.
The UMK entry Dancing With Demons is the result of long, hard work. It received its finishing touches in London’s legendary RAK Studios with the help of British songwriter Dan Lancaster. The song deals with harnessing one’s inner demons and turning them into a strength.
“Everyone has their own weaknesses and demons, which we’re ashamed of and don’t want anyone else to see. Then, we thought what if we were able to make our own inner demons our allies - what would happen?” describes Susanna.
Jesse Markin – Glow
With his debut album Folk in 2019, Jesse Markin became one of Finland’s most captivating new artists overnight. Markin was voted Newcomer of the Year and his album won the Critics Choice award in the annual Emma Gaala (Finnish Grammys).
He found inspiration for his music in movies, literature and his own life. Where Folk focused on social perspectives, his 2021 album Noir explored Markin’s personal life. In addition to everything else, Markin has also made music for the second season of the Moominvalley series.
Markin decided to enter UMK because his entry Glow felt right. The song is an excellent example of how Markin combines genres and styles that are important to him right now in one single.
“One of the main points of the song is ‘don’t give up’. Even the smallest spark can get things going if you just try. Musically speaking, the song contains afro-vibes, cosmic soundscapes and so much more,” describes Markin.
Mikael Gabriel x nublu – Vox Populi
Mikael Gabriel and Estonian rapper nublu are among the most successful rap artists in their respective countries. Released in 2010, Mikael Gabriel’s debut album Pohjosen poika was well received, and the singles on his 2015 album Versus broke streaming records even before the album was officially released.
Nublu rose to become Estonia’s biggest artist and rap phenomenon when he was voted Hip-Hop/Rap/R&B Artist of the Year in 2020. A collaboration by Gabriel and nublu, Universum, was released that same year, quickly rising to become one of the most listened-to singles in both countries on Spotify.
Mikael Gabriel x nublu’s UMK entry is called Vox Populi. The song talks about how it is sometimes hard to know what’s true and what isn’t in such polarised public forums.
“The song deals with political and cultural divides, saying that even though we’re all entitled to our own opinions, it doesn’t necessarily make them true. Everyone should use their voice, but at the same time you should also keep in mind that you will be judged no matter what,” says Gabriel.
Sara Siipola – Paskana
Sara Siipola’s dark and soulful voice has enchanted Finns with such songs as Rohkee sydän, Susta tulee tähti and one of her latest, Uusi musta.
Siipola grew up in the Ostrobothnian town of Laihia. In 2016, she graduated with a vocational qualification in business in Vaasa. Shortly thereafter, she began her singing career. Within five years, she had a raft of singles, a debut album and the music programme Tähdet Tähdet under her belt.
“I love writing songs on big topics. I really want people to be able to listen to my songs whenever they want to feel self-confident and connect with others," says Siipola.
Her UMK entry Paskana ('I’m a f***ing wreck') is about a friend who loses their father and the feelings that the loss stirs up. During one evening, Siipola watched how her friend tried to be present at a dinner party after experiencing such a loss. Paskana deals with grief and lets the listener feel heartbroken: why do others go grocery shopping and go on with their lives when my own world has stopped cold? According to Siipola, the power of the song stems from the fact that it doesn’t romanticise the idea of grief, that there will be a happy ending.
Sexmane – Mania
Sexmane, a.k.a. Max Sene, is currently one of the most listened-to artists in Finland. His 2019 debut album Sextape was a roaring success, sitting on the Official Finnish Albums Chart for over 100 weeks. His second album Väärinymmärretty earned the artist four Emma nominations (Finnish Grammys).
His 2023 album Sextape II sealed his success. After the album’s release, 18 of its 20 songs made the Finnish Top 50 chart. Sene was nominated for four Emmas in two consecutive years and won the title of Finnish Artist of the Year.
His UMK entry Mania was formed slowly from different pieces. Sene wrote the song at different times and in different moods, which is also apparent in the song lyrics.
“The words in the chorus crystallise my thoughts: it’s quite all right to be a bit ‘crazy’. I know that a lot of young people are struggling with mental health challenges. I want to give them the strength and courage to hang in there.”
Windows95man – No Rules
Windows95man is an embodiment of the '90s, who frees a once timid family man from his everyday life. It all started when Teemu Keisteri’s home videos on YouTube began to circulate all over the world. One of the videos even ended up in a commercial aired during an NHL game.
In 2013, a DJ gig at the Flow Festival brought the character known as Windows95man to life. His artist costume consists of a pair of very cut-off shorts made by Keisteri’s friend, and a Windows95 t-shirt ordered online. Since then, Windows95man has performed at Helsinki’s New Year’s celebration in 2022, as an opening act for Käärijä at the Helsinki Ice Hall and at numerous smaller events.
At UMK, Windows95man will be releasing his very first single, No Rules. The song title refers to the artist’s motto, which appears in both his music and other artistic productions. Henri Piispanen is the singer in No Rules. Keisteri explains that the chorus of the song was so challenging that he had trouble finding a singer with enough technical skill to pull it off. Piispanen was the only one whose voice could go high enough.
“In my opinion, all Finns are a bit looney-tunes deep inside, and I wanted to bring that out more. Now I can share my music with an even bigger audience as well as spread the joyous message of No Rules,” says Keisteri.
If you're new to UMK, or if you fancy a nostalgic trip through editions past, check out this round-up of some musical highlights from the Finnish song competition in recent years:
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