The same contest that helped boost the careers of ABBA and Celine Dion could be set to fire one special Finnish punk band to global recognition. Four-piece punk band, Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (PKN), aims to conquer the 60-year-old European Song Contest and at the same time demonstrate that learning “disabled” is sort of a misnomer. These four guys, all with Down Syndrome, and some who also have autism, certainly have abilities.
The punk group is no stranger to the limelight, having already released a 2009 documentary called the Punk Syndrome which gave an intimate view of their daily challenges and accomplishments. Originally formed in a charity workshop for adults with intellectual disabilities the four members, Pertii Kurikka, Sami Helle, Kari Aalto and Toni Valitalo say their central mission has been to raise awareness of their cause. The band will perform “Aina Mun Pitaa” at Eurovision, which translates to “I Always Have To“.
If PKN can pull off the win, it will be the second year in a row that an artist has not only gained acclaim, but also brought attention to an often stigmatized group in society. Last year’s winner was a bearded drag queen from Austria, Conchita Wurst.
While most North Americans may be largely unfamiliar with the European Song Contest, in Europe it is a serious affair which sends Europeans into nationalistic fervor with contestants vying for viewer votes to not only claim the winner’s crown for themselves, but also the country they have gone to represent. If PKN is to reach the top of Europe, it must first win the votes of Finnish TV viewers in their national contest where they are pitted against 17 other artists.
The semi-final round of Eurovision will be held on May 19 and 20 with the finals slated for May 23.