Popular Music in Post-War Finland

A Timeline from the 1950s


Main styles: humorous schlager (rillumarei), jazz schlager, Slavic romances, Latin rhythms, Italo schlager, tango, rock’n’roll, cowboy songs


  • Album Saimaan valssi (The Waltz of Saimaa) and the film Kaunis Veera eli Ballaadi Saimaalta launches the career of a popular male choir, Kipparikvartetti (Skipper Quartet).


  • Rovaniemen markkinoilla (At the Rovaniemi Fair) film launches the concept ”rillumarei” which refers to folksy entertainment, especially music.


  • American male quartet Delta Rhythm Boys tries singing in Finnish and has number one hit with their version of the folk song ”Tula tullallaa”.


  • Olavi Virta, later known as the king of Finnish tango, joins Musiikki-Fazer recording company and scores his first number one hit with ”Tulisuudelma” (Kiss of Fire).


  • All the top records of the year are performed by Olavi Virta: ”Istanbul”, ”Täysikuu” (Full Moon), and ”Sokeripala” (Sugar Cube).


  • Legislation changes: restrictions lifted on import records.
  • Annikki Tähti’s schlager ”Muistatko Monrepos’n” (Do You Remember Monrepos) becomes a popular symbol of longing for Karelia. In 1956, it’s awarded the first Finnish gold record.
  • Former sports hero (e.g. Olympic gold 1948 in Javelin) and popular troubadour Tapio Rautavaara starrs Finnish “western” film Villi Pohjola (Wild North).


  • First rock’n’roll concert is held in Turku.


  • Finnish Elvis Contest.
  • Italo pop music reaches its peak. The best-known Finnish example, Laila Kinnunen’s ”Lazzarella”, is released.
  • Estonian singer Geor Ots wins fame with his “Saarenmaan valssi” (The Waltz of Saarenmaa).


  • Toivo Kärki, the number one Finnish schlager composer during the 1940s and 1950s, has Eila Pellinen to sing his “Näin kai määrätty on” (Things Happen That Way), which in 1939 had won the international song competition by the British music paper, Rhythm.


  • American teen pop star Paul Anka performs in Linnanmäki fairground, Helsinki.
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Main styles: teen pop, tango, pop schlager, instrumental twist/surf, beat music, protest songs, bluesrock


  • The first great comeback: Dallapé, the dance band that dictated music life in the 1930s, has a reunion concert.
  • Schlager film boom, e.g. Iskelmäkaruselli pyörii (Schlager Carousel Keeps Swinging).
  • Levyraati, the domestic version of Juke Box Jury, begins in television.


  • Music journal Musiikkiviesti becomes more pop-oriented Suosikki which remains the biggest music paper in Finland to date.
  • Finland joins the Eurovision Song Contest: Laila Kinnunen’s “Valoa ikkunassa” (Light in the Window) takes the tenth place and beats Sweden’s Alice ”Lill Babs” Svensson.


  • Finnish Slot Machine Association distributes jukeboxes over the country. (RAY was established in 1938 “to raise funds through gaming operations to support Finnish health and welfare organizations”.)


  • Pirate stations broadcast new pop music. Taking the challenge, Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE launches its own pop programme Sävelradio.
  • First Finnish rock classic? The Sounds release a highly successful instrumental surf/twist version of the old schlager song, ”Emma”.
  • First international success story in Finnish entertainment music: Rauno Lehtinen’s jenka tune ”Letkis” is published. Two years later it becomes known world-wide.
  • Tango fever hits the country.
  • First folk groups (e.g. Finntrio) are established.


  • Beatlemania’s peak hour


  • Schlager lyricist and performer Reino Helismaa dies.
  • Irwin Goodman’s second single ”Työmiehen lauantai” (Working Man’s Saturday) is censored by YLE for its explicit lyrics about alcohol.
  • Relatively unknown British beat group The Renegades create hysteria in Finland.
  • Eurovision Song Contest scandal: acting against people’s will, national jury chooses Viktor Klimenko’s gloomy ballad instead of Katri Helena’s cheery jenka. In Naples, Italy, Klimenko finishes last. Luxembourg’s jenka wins.


  • Protest songs become fashionable (Irwin Goodman’s debut album Irwinismi) and target of parody (Simo Salminen: “Rotestilaulu”).
  • Pop singer Danny does his first spectacular summer tour.
  • Pori Jazz festival is launched.
  • Singing extracts from sex education guides, multi-talented underground figure M.A. Numminen causes furor in Jyväskylä Kesä event.
  • Love Records label starts as an independent producer of alternative and commercially marginal music.


  • Guitar hero Jimi Hendrix plays in Helsinki.
  • Kirka, one of the most enduring pop and rock artists, has breakthrough with ”Hetki lyö” (orig. Beat the Clock).


  • Pop singer Kristian wins the first Syksyn Sävel competition, which in the 1970s and 1980s becomes a highly popular seasonal tv event.
  • Pekka Gronow and Seppo Bruun write a book about the century of popular music, Popmusiikin vuosisata.
  • Kaustinen Folk Music Festival is organized for the first time.


  • Finnish version of the Hair musical in Tampere becomes a landmark of new youth culture.
  • The Association for Pop Musicians, later shortened to Rock Musicians, is formed.
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Main styles: cover songs, light pop, art rock, hard rock, political songs, foxtrot/humppa, punk/new wave, Fifties rock, disco


  • First Finnish rock festival, Ruisrock, takes places in Turku.
  • First stadium rock concert in Finland: The Rolling Stones in Helsinki
  • Tavastia Club starts in Helsinki and soon becomes a major venue for Finnish and foreign rock acts.
  • Cossack sensation: Viktor Klimenko’s Russian-speaking folk pop debut Stenka Rasin is released (in Russian!), becoming the first Finnish platinum-seller.
  • For the first time since the gramophone fever of the late 1920s, more than one million copies of music recordings are sold in Finland.


  • Gathering more than 100.000 visitors, Ruisrock becomes gigantic.


  • Progressive rock group Tasavallan presidentti is the first Finnish band to tour in England.
  • Oulunkylä Pop and Jazz Conservatory starts in Helsinki.
  • The record shop Epe’s starts in Tampere. A few years later it is accompanied by Poko Rekords which will nurture countless domestic rock performers.
  • ”Sininen ja valkoinen” (Blue and White): pop singer Jukka Kuoppamäki wins the Rostock schlager festival in East Germany for second year in a row.
  • EMI becomes the first multinational company to establish a branch in Finland.


  • Hector (Herra Mirandos), Juice Leskinen (Juice Leskinen & Coitus Int.) and Dave Lindholm (Sirkus) mark the breakthrough of Finnish-speaking rock.
  • Marion’s ”Tom tom tom” reaches number six in Eurovision Song Contest. It will remain Finland’s highest entry until 2006.
  • Beginning of Finnish rock nostalgia: Rauli ”Badding” Somerjoki’s ”Fiilaten ja höyläten” (orig. Reelin’ and Rockin’) and Jussi & The Boys’ Mä tahdon rokata (I Wanna Rock) mark Fifties rock’n’roll revival.
  • Augusto Pinochet's takeover in Chile has a musical effect to Finland: leftist ”uusi laulu” (new song) movement is organized.
  • Markets expand: more than two million copies of recordings are sold.


  • Power trio Hurriganes release their classic hard rock album Roadrunner.


  • Cover song fever at its height: eleven songs out of sixteen in the best-selling Finnhits 2 collection are foreign by origin.
  • Rock magazine Soundi is launched.
  • Progressive rock group Wigwam releases Nuclear Nightclub for new British label Virgin after winning interest in the UK.
  • Jazzy folk group Piirpauke fuse traditional Karelian music, jazz and modern sounds: “Konevitsan kirkonkellot” (Church Bells of Konevitsa).
  • Hullujussi and Sleepy Sleepers take pop parody to its limit.
  • Ruusuja hopeamaljassa (Roses in Silver Vase), an album by schlager/humppa singer Erkki Junkkarinen, is the top-seller of the year.


  • An example of tourism and nostalgia: Taiska’s “Mombasa”.
  • CBS becomes the second multinational music company to open a branch in Finland.


  • Sleepy Sleepers’ Takaisin Karjalaan (Back to Karelia) is taken as statement against the Soviet Union.
  • An example of tourism and realism: Juha Vainio’s ”Votkaturistit” (Vodka Tourists)
  • Trad. schlager meets disco: Päivi Kautto-Niemi’s ”Liljankukka” (Lily Flower)
  • Media personality Heikki Hietamies organizes foxtrotish Humppafestivaalit in Lappeenranta.
  • First Finnish punk single, Briard’s ”I Really Hate Ya” is released. Antti Hulkko, later known as Andy McCoy of Hanoi Rocks, plays the guitar.
  • American punk sensation The Ramones visit Finland.
  • Vinyl format meets challenger: C-cassette has 48-per cent-share of recording sales.


  • Youth, music and subculture crazes: disco, rockabilly and punk divide the nation’s youth.
  • British punk sensation Sex Pistols are banned from playing in Finland because of rumours of their outrageous behaviour.
  • Pelle Miljoona & N.U.S. comment Finnish society in their punk single ”Olen työtön” (I’m Unemployed).
  • Associations for Live Music (ELMU) are established locally.


  • First Provinssirock festival in Seinäjoki.
  • Eppu Normaali’s punk classic Maximum Jee & Jee is released.
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Main styles: Suomirock (rock in Finnish), rock schlager, synth schlager, hard rock, ”confessional” schlager


  • Ismo Alanko, later a father figure of Suomirock, wins Finnish Rock Championship with his group Hassisen kone. Debut album Täältä tullaan Venäjä (Here We Come, Russia) causes debate.
  • Regular rock programme Rockradio starts in YLE.
  • Ruisrock incident: rock group Eppu Normaali refuses to play after a disagreement about scheduling and performing order with foreign acts.
  • It’s hard to be a man: Reijo Kallio’s ”Viikonloppuisä” (Weekend Father) and Ahti Lampi’s ”Elämän valttikortit” (Trump Cards of Life) mark the “confessional” schlager boom.


  • Major Suomirock figures, including Juice Leskinen and Eppu Normaali, do Tuuliajolla tour on Saimaa lake.


  • Glam rock group Hanoi Rocks leave Finland in order to take the world by the storm.
  • Feminist girl group Tavaramarkkinat is established.
  • Synth schlager breakthrough: Jori Sivonen produces and Kake Randelin sings ”Avaa hakas” (Open the Catch of Your Door).
  • Finland hits the bottom in the Eurovision Song Contest: Kojo’s ”Nuku pommiin” (Bomb out) reaches legendary “nul points”.


  • Rock magazine Rumba is established.
  • produces its debut album and starts the golden era of Pori rock scene.
  • Young Jonna (Tervomaa) wins Syksyn Sävel competition with cheery ”Minttu sekä Ville”.


  • Dingo, neo-romantic pop group from Pori, creates the biggest teenage hysteria ever in Finland.
  • Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle dies in a car accident in California.


  • YLE’s monopoly over radio waves is challenged as several local radio stations are established.
  • Hanoi Rocks break up.
  • Seinäjoki Tango Festival (Tangomarkkinat) is established.
  • Martti Syrjä of Eppu Normaali and actor Kari Väänänen sing ”Olen suomalainen/L’italiano” in an unforgettable scene of Mika Kaurismäki’s thriller Rosso.
  • First Finnish cd album: Riki Sorsa’s art schlager-ish Kellot ja peilit (Bells and Mirrors).


  • Leading rock figure Juice Leskinen is invited to president’s Independence Day party, televised annually to record audiences.
  • Dingo break up.
  • Peter von Bagh and Ilpo Hakasalo write the encyclopedic Iskelmän kultainen kirja (The Golden Book of Schlager).
  • Schlager meets rock: In Beat by Topi Sorsakoski and Agents is one of the top-sellers of the year.


  • Schlager/rock legend Rauli ”Badding” Somerjoki dies.
  • Beginning of speed metal boom: Stone’s debut Mechanic.


  • Music festivals go into the heart of the city: Down by the Laituri festival starts in Turku.


  • Michael Monroe is the first Finnish artist to reach U.S. Top 200 album chart. Not Fakin’ It scores #161.
  • The first wave of Finnish rap: Pääkköset from Turku perform ”Eläinrääkkäystä” (Cruelty to Animals).
  • Aki Sirkesalo’s rock group Giddyups tour the Soviet Union.
  • Spiky-haired cover band Leningrad Cowboys go America – in Aki Kaurismäki’s humorous film.
  • Hotel Hesperia in Helsinki starts the seasonal Winter Carnival on Cuban and other Latin music.
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Main styles: techno pop, pop schlager, Suomirock, nostalgia rock, neo punk, heavy/metal, English rock, ethno/folk etc.


  • The Finnish Jazz Archive, later the Finnish Jazz & Pop Archive, Music archive JAPA and Music Archive Finland, is established.
  • YLE creates new channels: rock and youth-oriented Radiomafia starts.
  • Ismo Alanko’s solo album Kun Suomi putos puusta (When Finland Fell from the Tree) traces the modernization of Finland.
  • The first wave of Finnish rap at its height: Raptori’s ”Oi beibi”.


  • Värttinä (The Spindle) conquers charts with traditional East Karelian folk songs.
  • Sepi Kumpulainen’s folksy ditty ”Armotonta menoa” (Merciless Run) becomes a humorous symbol of early 1990s recession.
  • First karaoke events are organized.


  • Katri Helena’s pop schlager “Anna mulle tähtitaivas” (Give Me a Star-Studded Sky) brings comfort to people struggling in national depression.
  • Acid house events and raves become more popular.
  • Format revolution: Cd wins over C-cassette and vinyl records.


  • Leningrad Cowboys have, together with Red Army Ensemble, their spectacular Total Balalaika Show in Helsinki.
  • Filmic schlager nostalgia: Markku Pölönen’s Onnen maa (Land of Happiness) takes audiences to 1950s rural dance halls.
  • Industry takeover: multinational Warner buys Fazer, the biggest recording company in Finland.


  • youth musical Hype breaks down barriers between culture and commercialism with multidimensional marketing and sponsoring concepts.
  • Leningrad Cowboys appear in MTV’s Video Music Award.


  • Technopop groups boom: Aikakone and Movetron.
  • Pop show Jyrki starts in television.
  • Eläkeläiset (Senior Citizens), a humour group performing humppa versions of rock classics, gathers attraction abroad.
  • Miisa is marketed in the US as new dance pop queen. Her club circuit popularity is brief.
  • A decade of Seinäjoki’s Tango festival: Jari Sillanpää and Marita Taavitsainen win awards of best male and female singers.


  • Modern leftist pop: Ultra Bra release acclaimed debut album Vapaaherran elämää (Life of Baron).
  • Jari Sillanpää’s eponymous debut album of modern schlager is released. It remains the best-selling album ever in Finland (more than 268,000 copies sold in a country of five million people).
  • Children’s favourite: The first Finnish Smurff album Smurffit Vol. 1 is released. It remains EMI’s greatest success in Finland.
  • Electro/soul eccentric Jimi Tenor appears in British pop and fashion magazines.
  • Neljä ruusua (Four Roses) transform from Finnish-language modern rock combo into English-flattering 4R in attempt to win goreign markets with Mood.


  • Rock group Eppu Normaali has now sold more than one million records.


  • Former child star Jonna Tervomaa, now a rock performer, releases her first adult-age album.
  • 4R releases their second “export album” Not for Sale and receive harsh criticism from Finnish pop media.


  • Mestarit lavalla (Maestros on the Stage): four senior male musicians, Hector, Kirka, Pave Maijanen and Pepe Willberg prove that Finnish pop and rock performers can sell out Helsinki Olympic Stadion.
  • 150th anniversary of national epic Kalevala: rock and pop musicians give their versions in Väinönlieskat event at Helsinki Ice Hall.
  • Female rock breakthrough: Maija Vilkkumaa’s ”Satumaa-tango” (Tango of Fairytale Land).
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Main styles: heavy/metal, hip hop, Finnish rap, Suomirock, children’s pop/rock, etc. etc.


  • Hip hop duo Bomfunk Mc’s (“Freestyler”), techno wizard Darude (“Sandstorm”) and love metal group HIM (“Join Me”, Razorblade Romance) become first Finnish chart-toppers in international markets.
  • Second wave of Finnish rap/hiphop. Fintelligens: Renesanssi, Seremoniamestari: ”Kappale kauneinta suomiriimiä” (A Piece of the Most Beautiful Finnish Rhyme), and Petri Nygård: ”Vitun suomirokki” (Fucking Fennorock).
  • Leidit lavalla (Ladies on the Stage): established singers Katri Helena, Paula Koivuniemi, Lea Laven and Marion Rung tour Finland.


  • Market value of Finnish pop export is five times bigger than in 1999.
  • EMI buys Poko Rekords.
  • Seasonal tv event and competition Syksyn sävel closes. Janne Tulkki is the last winner.


  • Music Export Finland is established to facilitate marketing abroad.
  • Television and pop converge: girl group Gimmel wins Finnish Popstars competition.
  • Boom for metal in Finnish: Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus go big with their Rajaportti (Boundary Port).


  • Gösta Sundqvist, the master of tragicomic schlager pop/rock and leader of Leevi & The Leavings, dies of heart attack.
  • Hiphop goes gigantic: teenage star Pikku G (Little G) is the biggest selling Finnish name of the year.
  • The Rasmus release their fifth album, pop-metal-ish Dead Letters, which becomes a world-wide million-seller.
  • Idols, domestic version of the Pop Idol competition, hits Finland in December.


  • Former truck driver, Ms. Hanna Pakarinen is the first winner of Finnish Idols which is one of the most watched television programmes of the year.
  • To celebrate the end of the eleven years gap in the recording career of popular rock group Eppu Normaali, Poko Rekords buys the front cover advertisement in nation’s biggest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.
  • Smurffit Vol. 12 is released and routinely goes to the top of the charts.
  • Hiphop for children: Ella’s and Aleksi’s Lenni Lokinpoikanen (Lenni the Son of Seagull) is a Christmas-time hit album.


  • HIM, Rasmus, Nightwish and other star performers give benefit concert in Helsinki for victims of tsunami in Asia.
  • HIM album Dark Light reaches #18 in the U.S. charts.
  • Symphonic metal group Nightwish finish their world tour in Helsinki. After the concert, the group fires their celebrated singer Tarja Turunen.
  • Eighties pop phenomenon Dingo make third comeback.
  • Second season of Idols is generally regarded as a disappointment.


  • New copyright laws create debates on music piracy and free downloads.
  • Cello metal group Apocalyptica, pop rock combo Crash and other domestic names perform as Finland hosts Opening Night Party for Midem International Music Market in Cannes.
  • Business and trade paper Talouselämä ranks Scene Nation Ltd, the production company behind Nightwish, at #8 in the listing of best Finnish companies.
  • Rauno Lehtinen, the man behind “Letkis” (i.e. Finnjenka) and other hits, dies at 74.
  • Curing the national trauma: monster heavy metal group Lordi wins Eurovision Song Contest with “Hard Rock Hallelujah” and gather more than 90,000 people in a semi-improvised homecoming party.
  • Long-ailing godfather of Suomirock Juice Leskinen dies at 56.


  • Pop and rock singer Kirka dies unexpectedly at 56.
  • Idols competition is back with new power: the winner of the third season, Ari Koivunen, refuses to sing anything else but heavy rock during the contest.
  • No great criticism emerges when Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE hosts Eurovision Song Contest final in Helsinki.
  • New Nightwish vocalist, Anette Olzon from Sweden, is selected from among 2,000 contenders.
  • Big from Japan: J-pop and J-rock bands receive notable following in Finland.
  • Cd sales go down but concerts don't: Finnish summer is filled with sold out rock festivals and international stars with stadium-sized spectacles.
  • With “Hevi-Ari” and his debut at the top, domestic names occupy the first fifteen places on the best selling charts.
  • HIM album Venus Doom reaches #12 in the U.S. album charts.


  • Jyrki Hämäläinen, “the man who brought popular culture to Finland” and was editor of pop magazine Suosikki in 1968–2003, dies at 65.
  • Melodeath group Children of Bodom reaches #22 in the U.S. album charts with Blooddrunk.
  • Bass wizard and composer Pekka Pohjola dies at 56.


  • The best selling album of the year is Strike by The Baseballs. After the German rockers, the next eight places are occupied by Finnish artists, lead by Lauri Tähkä & Elonkerjuu.
  • Madonna, the Queen of Pop, performs for the first time in Finland, gathering the audience of 85 000 at Jätkäsaari in Helsinki.


  • Kari Tapio, a famous schlager singer, dies of a heart attack at the age of 65.
  • The album Seili by Jenni Vartiainen sells 95 394 copies. Children’s music band Hevisaurus occupies the second place of the album chart with 36 106 sold copies.
  • X Factor, the follower of the singing contest Idols, gathers fewer viewers as expected.


  • Topi Sorsakoski, a legend of the Finnish popschlager, dies of lung cancer at the age of 58.
  • Nightwish and Chisu dominate the album charts.
  • Jukka Poika raises the popularity of Finnish reggae with his hit tune Silkkii.
  • The return of pop singing contests: the most popular are the final of the Eurovision Song Contest (1 323 000 viewers, the Finnish representative Paradise Oskar at the 21st place), Idols, interrupting the three-year break (1 176 000, Martti Turunen as the winner), and The Voice of Finland, the newcomer of the Year (819 000, Mikko Sipola)
  • Finland wins the Ice Hockey World Championship which produces hit records: Poika (saunoo) by Poju, and Taivas varjele by Finnish Hockey Mafia feat. Antero Mertaranta.


  • Teen star Robin stirs up with his hit Frontside Ollie that reaches over one million viewers in Youtube in just a few days. During the year two Robin albums and Robin The Movie are released.
  • Diandra Flores wins the sitxth Idols song contest with a clear margin.
  • Suosikki, the most known and long-lived youth magazine in Finland, ceased publication.

© Janne Mäkelä, 2008