Who the hell is Käärijä?

Käärijä, Finland's representative for Eurovision Song Contest 2023, is the name on pretty much everyone's lips right now. Here's everything you need to know about him in a nutshell!

Hockey fans all over the globe are already used to reading ridiculous number of Ä-letters on the backside of Finnish players’ jerseys. For example, Ossi Väänänen who was one of the trusted defensemen for Finnish national team for years and part of the Olympic bronze team of 2014 in the twilight of his career. That was the same year that another Vantaa-born-and-bred became interested in making music. And now he’s responsible for making sure the European pop music fans to learn how to pronounce the multiple Äs.


Käärijä, pronounced [kæ:ri/jæ], translates to “roller” or “wrapper”. Käärijä, or Jere Pöyhönen, as his parents call him, has stated that his stage name comes from the themes he used to write songs about: gambling and making money. In casino terms “high roller”, meaning a gambler who plays with big stakes, is probably not far from the truth.

Jere from Vantaa

A lot of Käärijä’s appeal comes from the boy next door image. His English is a bit broken, his comments are often somewhat indiscreet and his presence is a mix of being slightly out of place and a total goofball – in the most positive meaning of the words! He likes to underline that’s he’s just “Jere”, his birth name, “from Vantaa”, his hometown. Vantaa is the fourth biggest town in Finland, sharing its’ south border with the city of Helsinki and maybe mentally regarded as a suburb or little brother of Helsinki. And right now, at 29 years of age, this average Jere from Vantaa is having a time of his life.

Who the f*** is Käärijä?

That was a relevant question when the Finnish qualifiers for Eurovision Song Contest were announced. There was the slick r&b pop of Robin Packalen, a former child star making big moves to break internationally. Everyone in Finland knew Portion Boys for their goofy and nostalgic dance pop bangers. The token but Eurovision-y ballad was provided by the stunning Lxandra. And then there was this bare-stomached guy rocking a bowl cut and a green puffy bolero, who has almost a decade long career under his belt but not a single charted song.

The song

When Käärijä’s competing song Cha Cha Cha was released, jaws dropped. It was a bizarre hybrid of industrial rock (no coincidence that Käärijä has a large Rammstein tattoo across his chest) and cheesy EDM with lyrics about drinking and of course the massive singalong hook of the chorus. But Cha Cha Cha is not merely a one-dimensional drinking song. The various cocktails and beverages mentioned in the lyrics can be seen as metaphors for any kind of tools used to surpass different obstacles to obtain freedom. Whether it’s other people’s opinions or shame – or whatever is holding you down, Käärijä aims to transcend his listeners to a pure and euphoric dance bliss.

The hype is real

Käärijä’s walkover victory in the Finnish Eurovision qualifiers was reminiscent to Blind Channel’s triumph in 2021. Cha Cha Cha amassed 53 per cent of the public votes and started the Käärijä mania. From piña colada flavoured products to a signature Fortnite map, Käärijä was everywhere. Even the giant granite sculptures guarding Helsinki Central Station are dressed up wearing green boleros. Cha Cha Cha has already been covered by many artists – mostly metal bands – including the German Eurovision representatives Lord of the Lost.

The Competition

Anneli Saaristo’s 7th place with La Dolce Vita in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1989 is the best placement by a song sung in Finnish. So on Saturday May 13th 2023, Käärijä holds a true possibility of making Eurovision history. The bookmakers have predicted that Sweden’s Loreen will take the number one spot and ranked Käärijä right behind her. Right now it surely seems that we are about to witness an epic Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool – a true the battle between David and Goliath! The latter being of course the luminous and victorious Loreen.

“I love the role of the underdog”, Käärijä said in a recent interview.

Watch Käärijä's debut tv performance of Cha Cha Cha on UMK (Contest for New Music)

The Aftermath

(Added on May 22nd 2023) Well, the rest is history, as they say. Käärijä got a second place at the ESC, but his payoff was much bigger than the contest victory alone. Read more about it here.

Käärijä on Instagram
Käärijä on TikTok

While you're here...

Take a listen to some other great pop tunes from Finland on our New Pop from Finland playlist! Or if you're more into rock and metal, maybe check out this playlist?