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Meet the Punk Rockers Raising Learning Disability Awareness in This Year’s Eurovision Contest

Rockers Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (“PKN”) are loud, fast, and in your face—all for a good cause.

image via (cc) flickr user pnuk

For most Americans, the annual Eurovision Song Contest is, at best, a moderately amusing blip on our typically domestically-focused radar. The contest—in which musical acts representing European countries (along with a few non-European ones) compete for personal fame and continent-wide glory—is something like a cross between the rah-rah nationalist fervor of the Olympics and the highbrow artistry of American Idol. Sure it’s entertaining, but the contest’s labyrinthine rules and complicated voting system make it a tough pill to swallow for those of us overseas. Occasionally a Eurovision winner does make it big enough to get noticed by American audiences (See: ABBA, Celine Dion, and GWAR-esque rockers Lordi) but more often than not they come and go without much ado outside their home country.

This year, though, I’m rooting for Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (“PKN”), a four-piece Finnish punk band that rocks incredibly hard. Punk artistry aside, PKN is entering the Eurovision with a wonderful aim: To raise awareness about, and support for, the Down Syndrome community, of which all four members are a part. As The Independent reports, the band was formed after its members met at a workshop for adults with Down Syndrome run by Finnish nonprofit Lyhty. PKN eventually rose to prominence following the 2012 release of The Punk Syndrome, a documentary profiling the band that highlighted their music, and gave viewers a sense of the everyday triumphs and indignities felt by those with Down Syndrome.

image via (cc) flickr user pnuk

PKN still needs to defeat 17 other local acts in order to represent their country at the Eurovision finals, to be held in Vienna this spring. While there has, according to Sputnik, been some controversy in the band’s native Finland over their participation in the contest, PKN is plowing ahead and rehearsing their Eurovision entry song “Aina Mun Pitää,” (“Whenever I Have To”).

As Sputnik points out, the past several decades have seen the nearly 60 year-old Eurovision contest move from simple international competition to become a platform for artists to promote tolerance and non-discrimination, with acts like transgender Israeli diva Dana International, and flamboyant Austrian drag performer Conchita Wurst taking home top honors in 1998 and 2014, respectively.

While PKN may have a long ways to go before making it onto the Eurovision stage, they’ve already accomplished much of what they set out to do: Raise awareness, play loud, and do it all in spite of naysayers. That sounds like true punk rock to me, and I’ll be cheering for them all the way to Vienna.

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