Finnish a cappella act Rajaton still soaring after two decades

They’ve taken a cappella to new heights.

Finnish group Rajaton, which fittingly translates to “boundless,” have spent the past two decades raising their voices to levels unimagined.

The Helsinki sextet, which is made up of Essi Wuorela, Virpi Moskari, Soila Sariola, Hannu Lepola, Ahti Paunu and Jussi Chydenius, have released 16 albums of original and cover material (including a pair of albums recorded with Lahti Symphony Orchestra featuring ABBA and Queen songs), and conquered their homeland with eight gold records, three platinum and one double platinum.

But it hasn’t been limited to Finland, as they’ve sold more than 400,000 copies around the world and have toured extensively, drawing music lovers wherever they go.

Prior to their local performance this Thursday night at the Bella Concert Hall, Rajaton member Wuorela spoke with theYYSCENE.

Q: I’m not sure if you’re as known in Canada as you are at home, but it seems like in Finland you’re considered superstars.

A: Well, it depends which music field you are in. If you’re at all in the choral or vocal field I think many people know who we are, but if you go into the mainstream pop then I don’t know. We have been around for 20 years so they have to be really very not interested in it to not know anything about us. (Laughs)

Q: How did the group start and how did you get involved?

A: I used to sing in the same chamber choir as some members of the group … But then I had my own solo thing going (Wuorela has released five solo albums) and I had to leave the choir, which broke my heart, because it was my dearest hobby. I couldn’t make it to the rehearsal every Thursday so I had to leave. That’s a problem for a choir, that everybody has to be actually at rehearsal otherwise it won’t work. (Laughs) 

So I quit but we all had other small ensembles that we were singing with every now and then. And then we were admiring other small groups — The King’s Singers from Great Britain and a Swedish group, The Real Group, and of course Take 6. And I think the Swedish group was the point for us where we thought, “Maybe we should check out what we could do.” And then Jussi asked me if I wanted to start a group that would rehearse more than once a week. At that time I was studying music … so I was available. So that’s what we did, we started this group. We had the idea that we would want to do original music, but in the beginning we only had two original songs, so we sang choral pieces in the beginning. I think that you can still hear that in the way we are singing, and the aesthetics that we have come from that direction from, for instance, American college choirs where there is plenty of choreography and entertainment features.

Q: What were you expectations when you started it? Did you think it could become what it is now?

A: I think none of us could really imagine this group could go this well and this far, but I think we all were very serious about the context itself. We were wanting to give it all and see how far we could go, but I don’t think we could really imagine. We had not seen Canadian audiences, we didn’t know that there are actually people who are really interested in our kind of group and our kind of music. The thing is that I don’t know if we can plan such things because it’s a creative process and I think our music has developed a lot during the years, when someone has asked — for instance Swedish conductor Osmo Vänskä (from the Lahti Symphony Orchestra) wanted to do a symphony concert with us as a solo group. At first we were like, “Uhhh, but we’re an a cappella group, we don’t want to sing with musicians because that’s going to be confusing for some people.” But he was like, “No, no, no — it’s ABBA, so it’s fine.” (Laughs) So that’s what we did. Our programs have developed because nice people have asked us to cooperate on something with them. We have a wider repertoire than we would have had without those invitations …

It such a fun thing to do because in every concert we have also a cappella numbers and then people who don’t know that we’re an a cappella group they are often very surprised. For us it’s not such a big deal because we do much more of that normally. It’s a nice way to make people aware of us, that we’re an a cappella group first of all.

Q: I see that coming up in Finland you have an ABBA concert, a Beatles concert, a Queen concert with the orchestra — those must be fun.

A: Yeah, slightly crazy I have to say. There is plenty to sing in those, so it’s going to very rock ’n’ roll when when we get to the Queen set. And this year is our 20th anniversary year, so we’re pushing a little bit. We’re celebrating by singing as much as we can and we’re working to do all of the different repertoires that we have, so there is plenty of music that we’ve gathered during the years. It’s lovely that we get to sing them also in Finland because it’s true that we don’t actually do so many concerts in Finland nowadays, we’re actually travelling half of the time all around the world. So then now it’s a treat for Finns doing all three concerts, so crazy fans can come.

Q: What will Calgarians see when you come here? I know it’s an a cappella concert and not with a band or orchestra, but what can people expect?

A: Well, people can expect first of all kind of a nordic singing style. The program will be a mixed program with our old songs from the beginning of our career to the new latest album (2016’s Salaisuus). It will be mostly original music, some is also going to be in Finnish, so people who are interested in such things (laughs) are going to get some of that.

Rajaton perform Thursday at the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at Mount Royal University. For tickets please click here.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for, and the co-host of the show Saved By the Bell, which airs Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at He likes beer. Buy him one.