Accordion Wrestling / Haitaripainia

13.5.2010, Kaapelitehdas, Helsinki, Finland

“Accordion wrestling”, in Finnish Haitaripainia, is perhaps a nice description of what the first lesson for playing this instrument feels like…
Yet this is not quite what Kimmo Pohjonen, an artist known for his unusual projects, presents here. Haitaripainia / Accordion Wrestling premiered in early April in Turku, the European Capital of Culture of 2011, a month later in Helsinki. And to claim it right away, this one might be his finest work, as it achieves a breathtaking combination of (live) music, theater, dance, sports contest, history and multimedia show – and still being so much fun to watch.

Now some more details:
As introduction to the event a tale, just like a story from the Kalevala, is linking the mythical origins of wrestling and the creation of the accordion; and even if you don´t speak Finnish you can follow the narration, as an English translation of the spoken text is projected onto a circular screen. This multimedia aspect remains an integral part of the show, revealing historical facts (through interviews with wrestlers and musicians) – for example that having accordion players at Finnish wrestling events has a long tradition, mainly for the plain reason to cover up the sportlers´ flatulences…

Here, however, the live accordion music is not serving this purpose (only). And for those who don´t know Kimmo Pohjonen, I have to point out that his music has no longer much to do with “accordion music” anyway…
Just like in a sports event, the male and female wrestlers from Helsinki Nelson sports team, enter the arena first, performing moves of classic Roman wrestling style as present in the Olympic games (not o be confused with this other genre of wrestling that already combines sports, theater, comedy… ya know…)

Still, those moves become more and more like dance, their struggle more and more theatrical/dramatic (in a positive sense), and then Kimmo Pohjonen joins them, as “Master of Ceremony”, but his function is constantly changing. He is (almost constantly) not only playing/singing live in his familiar particular style, he also impersonates various roles, e.g. the coach/trainer, the (unfair) referee – dividing the team in allies and enemies, scenes that also provide some of the funniest moments in the show. Stunning light/multimedia effects support the overall impression of a coherent “human drama”; distinctions between fight/sport/dance, competition/acting, dance/comedy (e.g. the mock “Viking funeral”) begin to fade, the “commenting” musician becomes an actor, in a literal sense, even a wrestler, taking the title of the show to a quite literal, physically demanding climax …

photos: K. Weber

And no more to say, as such a brilliant, moving and entertaining performance is equally difficult to describe and to define. The Helsinki Nelson team showed such convincing dance/acting skills, a friend of mine truly believed that they were “theater professionals”, not “real” sports people. Kimmo Pohjonen, responsible for concept and compositions, has indeed done a lot of research, obvious in all those lovingly placed details (and some are surely missed because of the action in the arena). He was aided by director Ari Numminen, the visuals were contributed by Mikki Kunttu.

Klaudia Weber

Klaudia Weber

reckless and merciless dictator, so KNEEL! In other words, editor-in-chief, translator, website and ad admin, "Jane of all trades" - - - addicted to books (everything between Lord Of The Rings & quantum physics) and music, mainly Metal made in Finland. Furthermore, there's painting, drawing, movies, theater... so you can expect some variety on this website too.