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The rapper doesn’t sing alone on stage – now his secret weapon speaks

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Aija Purtinen, a 63-year-old music lecturer at the Sibelius Academy, went to Liverpool to be Karija’s backing vocalist when asked.

11.5. 16:43

According to Eurovision rules, a maximum of six members can participate in the contest.

Karija has five performers under her belt: the soloist Jere Pohonen himself and the “piggy train” – four dancers in fuchsia.

There is also a sixth member. He just hides behind the scenes. Like the silent hero Michael Kenny, who played keyboards from backstage at heavy metal band Iron Maiden’s concerts for years.

The secret weapon of Karija’s group is Aija Purtinen, 63, a longtime composer, bassist and music lecturer at the Sibelius Academy, also known from the bands Honey-B and T-Bones. He is the playback singer of the team.

– I have been involved in the process since last autumn, says Purtinen, who was contacted by Liverpool Humes, by phone.

He has served as a vocal coach for the New Music Competition.

In the UMK performance, Karija’s backing vocals were sung by Heinni Ikonen.

– I asked Henny because he has the experience and the right voice for this song. At that time of course we didn’t know who would win. And we didn’t know whether Heini would make it to the top.

Aija Purtinen is a legend of house music.  He rose to prominence in the early 1980s as the bassist for the blues band Honey Bee and the T-Bones.

Aija Purtinen is a legend of house music. He rose to prominence in the early 1980s as the bassist for the blues band Honey Bee and the T-Bones. Photo: Antti Hämälainen / IS

Could not make it. Purtinen went to do some digging.

– Henny would have to fly back and forth. It is not ecological or sensible. I said if you want I can take care of it. It was concluded that we work here in the same way as UMK in general, that is, five people on stage and one background singer.

There isn’t much noise about playback singers in songs, says Purtinen, even though many countries use them.

– I sing in such a small booth with a curtain behind the stage. There are five microphones, so some countries may have more backing vocalists.

– Maybe not everyone wants to reveal it. But we checked with the Yale team that there’s nothing here that can’t be explained, he says.

Some songs also have strings added to the background tape. However, Purtinen believes that using another live song not only brings safety, but also added value to the performance.

– It brings more heat. It’s a good help, and it doesn’t take away from the artist.

The rapper and his piggy bank are only five-sixths of Finland's witty spectacle.

The rapper and his piggy bank are only five-sixths of Finland’s witty spectacle. Photo: Vesa Moilainen / Lehtikuva

A distinctive feature of Eurovision is that unprocessed songs are interpreted during its live broadcasts. Autotune is restricted as an effect as well.

This has generated some excitement among the audience as well as the soloists. In Tuesday’s first semi-final, varying levels of vocal performances were heard, and even Karija is a little worried about her singing skills.

Visut is a difficult place even for an advanced singer, says Purtinen.

– In a live TV broadcast, singing over a background tape is one of the most demanding and revealing things a singer can do – to some extent even a little unfair.

Purtinen trusts Kariya because he knows his strengths and weaknesses.

Purtinen trusts Kariya because he knows his strengths and weaknesses. Photo: Vesa Moilainen / Lehtikuva

According to the lecturer, routine comes from hard training. Although five-piece singers are allowed to belt out their competition songs at various side events, they do not actually practice situations such as live TV broadcasts.

– It would be good if the singer could practice more. Each soloist must already have similar performances in their home country. This will bring certainty and security in performance. Now we train three times in the cold before the semi-finals and the final.

According to Purtinen, the reason for the wavering of the live vibe is not so much a lack of experience as a lack of singing skill.

During their careers, some artists end up headlining a huge arena with a thousand people and a Europe-wide live broadcast followed by more than 160 million TV viewers.

Not to mention young names.

For example, 20-year-old Norwegian Alessandra’s song Queen of Kings is her first single. Purtinen also mentions Tussen, who represented Sweden for the second year, as being pulled on the podium at the age of 19.

Alessandra, 20, will represent Norway with her first single at Eurovision.  Aija Purtinen believes that it is a difficult place to survive with a lot of respect, especially for young and inexperienced singers.

Alessandra, 20, will represent Norway with her first single at Eurovision. Aija Purtinen believes that it is a difficult place to survive with a lot of respect, especially for young and inexperienced singers. Photo: Cover Image / Zuma

– Competitions include singers who have won singing contests in their home country, who are good, but who may not have had as much experience of live performance or the stress of competition. This has a negative effect on the voice and stage presence: adrenaline becomes unnecessarily high, and this can lead to an overloaded interpretation.

However, in Purtinen’s opinion, it is good if the songs are sung live.

– I myself do a lot with genres where the vocals are of high quality. Like jazz or folk music. In that sense, of course, I appreciate that the lyrics come naturally in the verses as well.

– But at the same time, the Eurovision Song Contest should think about the future, will they follow the trends and opportunities of the music business even more? However, all instruments are permitted, both recorded and live.

Aija Purtinen is a longtime vocal instructor and music professional.

Aija Purtinen is a longtime vocal instructor and music professional. Photo: Antti Hämälainen / IS

However, Carrijaan Purtinen has strong credentials.

– He knows what he knows and acts accordingly.

So we’re totally going to have a Saturday morning together.

– After all, we have such a unique cast and show. And none of us could have imagined how popular all this has been. All you can do here is give your best.

Helsingin Sanomat was the first to report about Aija Purtiinen’s role in Karija’s Eurovision performance.

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