Who is Käärijä, Finland’s Eurovision Song Contest 2023 entry?

Green bolero-wearing, party metal rapper Käärijä has been winning audiences over with his charisma and catchy trance song Cha Cha Cha – so much so that the Finnish entry is now the bookies’ second favourite act to win Eurovision on Saturday.

“It’s great to be seen as a winner, but it’s so crazy,” he said to Eurovision World. “I can’t believe that people think I will win. Like what? Sometimes I feel like this is a dream, but it’s really not. I am so happy.”

So if you too are intrigued by the fluorescent singer, here’s everything there is to know about him.

What’s Käärijä’s background?

29-year-old Käärijä, whose real name is Jere Pöyhönen, grew up in Vantaa, a city nearby Helsinki.

He loved music from a young age: “I loved the drums. I’d make my own out of pots and pans and kettles and hit them with a spoon,” he said to the BBC.

He also played hockey for years, and was, fascinatingly, a semi-professional gambler too. “The first song I released in Finland told the story of my gambling,” he said.

What does Käärijä mean?

In Finnish Käärijä means something close to “moneymaker”, which can be seen as a reference to his experience as a gambler. It also draws on the verb ‘kääriä’, which means to wrap. So the name conjures up a visual of wrapping oneself in money, while also playing with the idea that Käärijä is a rapper.

He released his debut album Fantastista in 2020

Käärijä released his first single in 2016, and released several other singles independently before signing up to the record label Monsp Records in 2017.

He subsequently released an extended play, titled Peliä, in 2018. Then his first and only studio album, Fantastista, came out in 2020.

What do we know about his song Cha Cha Cha?

Cha Cha Cha was released as a single on January 18, 2023. It wasn’t written with Eurovision in mind, but Käärijä told the BBC that when he and his producers listened to the song, “We thought, ‘Okay, this is crazy, man. Maybe we have to try to go to Eurovision.’ And now I’m here!”

The song has something for everyone: there’s backing vocals from Finnish musician Aija Puurtinen from Honey & The T-Bones, a metal first half and a more dance/trance second half. It’s about as high energy as the songs this year come. A mix between metal chords and gabber beats, his music video, where he’s falling about in a boxing ring seems fitting.

According to Käärijä, Cha Cha Cha is about freedom, having fun and putting problems to the side and having a good time – if only for a little while. It has been partly inspired by the German band Rammstein – Käärijä is reportedly a big fan and has a tattoo of their logo on his chest.

“It’s a party song. We all have demons in our everyday lives, and during the week people are generally so tired of having to go to work and of waking up early. But once the weekend comes, things change,” he said to Eurovision World. “When the song’s register changes, it represents the moment the character of the song gets a bit drunk after some piña coladas.

“At that point, he is free and wants to go to the dancefloor because he cares about nothing else and isn’t afraid of anything. Whereas when the song starts, he sounds a bit upset.”

His now-famous sleeves are inspired by a Finnish sex store

Käärijä’s green bolero statement sleeves, which have become a key component of his performance, have apparently been nicknamed ‘Kaalimato’, Finnish for “cabbage worm”, by the singer.

“Yeah, Kaalimato. It’s a sex metaphor! We have [an adult] store called Kaalimato in Finland. They have some crazy things there,” he said to the BBC. “I don’t want to tell more!”

Speaking with Eurovision fansite Wiwibloggs about his costume and inspirations, he said, “I want the people to feel freedom, and that I hope people love their own body. All can do that.”

Cha Cha Cha’s dance moves have now gone viral

While performing Cha Cha Cha, Käärijä and his dancers swing their arms side to side in a sort of pirate or sailor-style dance move. The move has now gone viral: videos related to the word Käärijä have 166.74 million views, and hundreds of people have been recreating the dance move in their own videos.

“Yeah, it’s iconic now. Many people do that dance, the sailor move! We don’t want to change that,” the Finnish singer said to the BBC.

What happened with the BBC mix-up?

On the evening of the first semi-final, the BBC interviewed a fan who was dressed as Käärijä, and mistakenly believed it was Käärijä himself.

The subsequent interview was pretty hilarious: “And we even managed to catch up with the main man himself,” said the voice-over. “How do you think Liverpool’s done out there?” asked the presenter. “Incredible. In comparison with the other countries that I’ve been... this is the better organised... everything is walking distances... and it’s so friendly,” said the fan dressed as Käärijä.

The BBC was quick to correct itself, with its Eurovision reporter saying, “What a 24 hours. I’ve gone viral for all the wrong reasons... I saw this guy sprint out of the arena, with what looked like to be a minder, with his big green arms, and there were people there waiting to take photos with him and he was signing autographs. I was like, are you the Cha Cha Cha guy, are you Finland? And he was like, ‘Yeah I am’.”

What have Eurovision fans said about Käärijä?

Eurovision fans have been loving Käärijä – it’s why he’s currently a favourite to win. And apparently, in Finland some public spaces have even been turned green in a move to show support for their Finnish representative: Helsinki’s Central Station’s lantern carrier statues, for example, have been dressed with green boleros.

Eurovision’s final will take place on May 13, 8pm