Käärijä – or Jere Pöyhönen as he was born – is not just any Finnish music artist. He’s a rapper, a singer, a songwriter, and now, a Eurovision star. With his 2023 Eurovision Song Contest entry “Cha Cha Cha”, he won the public vote with 376 points, scoring the all-time second-highest televote points and finishing in second place overall with 526 points.
Born in 1993 in the Ruskeasanta neighbourhood of Vantaa, Greater Helsinki, Pöyhönen’s passion for music was apparent from an early age. He learned to play the drums and began producing music in 2014. His stage name, Käärijä, a nod to his gambling hobby, is derived from the Finnish phrase kääriä rahaa, translating to “to make a quick buck”. This unconventional journey into music became a defining characteristic of his brand.
Before his Eurovision success, Käärijä released music independently until 2017, when he was signed to Monsp Records, with his debut album, Fantastista, released in 2020.
Known for his bowl cut and yellow suit, Käärijä’s love of performing shirtless earned him the social media nickname “Paidaton Riehuja”, which translates to “shirtless rampager”. He’s also known for his Rammstein tattoo, an homage to one of his major musical influences.
But it was his performance of “Cha Cha Cha” in a green bolero at the Finnish national final – the UMK – that launched him into the premier league. His vibrant stage presence and unique music style were a winning formula that made him a fan favourite long before anyone arrived in Liverpool for the 2023 Contest.
Cha cha cha
In an interview with the BBC, Käärijä revealed the meaningful essence behind his Eurovision song. “Cha Cha Cha” is about freedom and the courage to express yourself without fear of judgment. He called the song a musical embodiment of the common human desire to escape from life’s problems, even if only for a weekend. “We all have problems… when the weekend comes, people want to forget all those sad things. And many times they drink a piña colada and get the courage to go to the dance floor… I don’t care what other people are thinking. Am I good dancer or not? It doesn’t matter! And I hope other people will think the same.”
“Cha Cha Cha” is a party anthem written with his friends in 30 minutes (no, seriously, it took that long) while watching ice hockey. Since Eurovision, the song has topped the charts in Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Sweden and reached the top ten in thirteen other countries, including the United Kingdom, becoming the first ever song in Finnish to reach the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart.
In the week following the contest, ‘Cha Cha Cha’ debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. and No. 27 on the Global 200, with 24.4 million streams and 4,000 downloads sold worldwide.
Reflecting on his Eurovision journey, Käärijä said, “Sometimes I feel like this is a dream, but it’s really not. I am so happy”. Käärijä not only put Finnish music back on the international map but also demonstrated that staying true to a unique style can be a recipe for success.
Despite his newfound fame, Käärijä remains grounded and focused on his music. As he puts it, “Käärijä is also this guy who wants to try something new. Something that nobody else ever did or is trying to. When he goes into the studio, he always wants to try crazy fusions. The music features elements of drums and bass, metal, pop, trap. There are no limitations.”
He is currently on a 40-date tour of Finland, with potential wider European dates expected to be announced in the future.