What started as a one-off concert has taken a Finnish
a capella group around the world. Rajaton are well loved in their homeland but when they were asked to do a show of ABBA songs with a symphony, it opened up the world up to their voices.
Rajaton's Jussi Chydenius says the Swedish pop group's material offers so much positivity and good energy, it's hard not to love it. While the 40-year-old father says he grew up as a Beatles and Elvis fan, he enjoys performing ABBA because of the natural joy in the music.
He says Finns are naturally more melancholy than their Scandinavian neighbours and he reckons ABBA's break-up and divorce songs always seem to have a light at the end of the tunnel.
"If they were Finnish, the songs would all end miserably," Chydenius says with a laugh. "We have a tendency to be more depressed than the Swedes, even if the climate is the same. We see them as being more positive and up. Melancholy is big in Finland. They love songs in minor keys and even the happy songs are in minor keys."
Formed in Helsinki, Rajaton - whose name means "boundless" - came together in 1997 and went professional in 2003. They decided that they would make their career in their homeland so they didn't have to travel so much and be away from their families.
Now they have a two-week limit when they are touring away from home but are making an exception to return to Australia and make their maiden trip to Perth.
The band has released a dozen albums and in Perth they'll perform a selection of enduring ABBA hits, such as Gimme, Gimme, Gimme; Dancing Queen; Mamma Mia; Fernando, and Waterloo with the WA Symphony Orchestra.
"The very first ABBA show was a one-off and then we got invited to perform the show in the US, and then we kept getting invitations from around the world," Chydenius says. "It became bigger than we ever expected, though it's still not a big part of what we do, but we usually do a couple every year. Now we can't escape ABBA. Three years ago we did a show at Carnegie Hall in New York and on this Australian tour we'll play an opera house."
The singer and former rock drummer says ABBA really gets Rajaton to places it wouldn't otherwise be able to go, especially since songs in Finnish aren't of huge interest to many international audiences, though he admits a couple of songs in an evening probably sound quite exotic to foreign ears. That said, the group's regular a capella shows are about half English and half Finnish.
"We do want people to know we are from Finland because there are not a lot of Finnish groups touring the world."
The majority of those Finnish musicians known outside their home country are hard rock and death-metal bands, with the most well known being glam metal band Hanoi Rocks, who inspired LA's hair metal scene, most notably Guns N' Roses.
The son of a composer and a director and whose brother is a music producer, Chydenius says he grew up around these industries and was naturally drawn there.
Because most of his friends work in the arts, he has also worked as an actor on televisions shows.
That was more about knowing the right people rather than him seeking acting work and the singer definitely doesn't consider himself an actor.
While there seems to be less and less time outside the group, each member has also pursued varying degrees of solo work and other projects, which Chydenius believes brings greater creativity back to Rajaton.
"It's very healthy to work with other people," Chydenius says. "That's one of the reasons why we like working with orchestras because it's an opportunity for us to do something different and share musicality with new people."
Rajaton and the WASO perform Symphonic ABBA at the Perth Concert Hall at 7.30pm on September 7 and 2pm and 7.30pm on September 8.