Eurovision 1981: Finland’s Riki Sorsa in focus

When one thinks about Finland, reggae music is not usually the first thing that comes to people’s minds. However, that was Finland’s unusual choice for the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest. Riki Sorsa represented his country with a song inspired by this Caribbean music genre.

In 1981, the Finnish national broadcaster organized a national final to select their Eurovision representative. Eight acts competed to represent the Nordic country in Eurovision. A jury panel decided the winner on February 21, 1981. It was Riki Sorsa who won, with more than double the points of the runner-up.

Riki Sorsa represented Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981 held in Dublin, Ireland. Riki performed in 8th place during the night of the final. He was accompanied by a band consisting of three guitar players, a drummer and a piano/accordion player.

Reggae OK was composed by Jim Pembroke and Olli Ojala. In his song, the singer talks about how much he likes reggae music and that he will make his audience enjoy themselves with this sound until they die because it sounds like a bomb. Reggae OK finished in 16th place with only 27 points.

Reggae OK – opinions from fans

In order to find out what Eurovision fans today think of this Finnish entry from 1981, we asked our Eurovision Fan Panel. It includes team members as well as fans from all over the world.

🇨🇿 Josef S. – I have to admit that this song is quite catchy and not so old-fashioned as other Eurovision entries from the same period. And choosing reggae for Finland is definitely something original. For once, the song is good, but I am not sure if I would like to listen to it more often on my Eurovision playlists.

🇪🇸 Quique B. – One year again Finland tried to do something different, and sent this song showing how they understand what is a reggae song fused with an harlequin. The result obviously was a disaster. Nothing more to say about this entry.

🇩🇰 Liza P. – Fun fact: When I was a young girl – 8 or 9 years old, I recorded the English version of Reggae OK on a cassette tape. And for many years (this is true) I thought the song was sung by Rod Stewart! Well, I’m older and wiser today 😊 I’ve always liked the song in a kitsch way. Finland has always been good at sending different styles, some better than other. This is one of the better, though I think that a 16th place is fair for the song. It’s not really a hit, but I think that it fits the period good.

🇬🇧 Michael O. – Oh yes this simply is dreadful, the kind of entry that keeps Finland generally at the bottom of my pile for entries. No redeeming features whatsoever.

🇲🇹 Amira M. – I don’t like this entry from 1981 for so many reasons; they put too many instruments together, it sounds strange. The singer’s voice sounds like it is hiccuping and I don’t see reggae as a genre that makes sense in the Eurovision Song Contest.

🇨🇴 🇫🇮 Álvaro S. – When I first listened to this song I was confused that Finland would have sent this song. But after the second and third time I listened to it, I was like reggae o.k. Yay! I like when countries take risks and Finland singing reggae is a combination one would not expect. But it sounds good.

🇩🇰 Charlotte J. – Damn, this is a challenge. I don’t know if I should love it or hate it… it’s really different. After watching the entire video, I chose to go with that I slightly like it. It’s fun and enjoyable, but also one that really gets annoying if I am to listen to it too much.

🇹🇷 Günec N.- I love this one. Very beyond its time. I love Riki’s stage energy, 8/10.

🇬🇧 Paul G. – Not one of my favourites to be honest but I suppose in 1981 someone had to have a go at a reggae sound.

🇫🇮 Martti I. – Back then I must admit that I had another song to win, but Reggae Ok is a good entry in the Finnish Eurovision library. It’s a song that juries disliked, but across Europe became quite a hit and one of Riki’s biggest hits. Not my cup of tea, but lately I am more pleased that we chose this one. Finns have tried various styles during the years and yep last places are too familiar. Good rhythm …come on guys.

Enjoy Riki Sorsa’s performance from the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest in the embedded video. Below the video, you can read more about him.

Riki Sorsa – a mini biography

Riki Sorsa was born in Helsinki, Finland in 1952. He was a singer. Riki started his music career as part of the bands The Zoo and Jig-Saw. He became a solo singer in the 70s. Riki Sorsa represented Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest 1981 with his song Reggae OK which came in 16th place. Nevertheless, his song became a hit in Finland and sold more than 100.000 copies in Europe. In an interview, Sorsa said he thought his Eurovision song would have performed better if it was allowed back in the time to sing in English.

Riki Sorsa started his career singing in English. He released his first album in Finnish in 1984. In 1987, he married. He had two sons with his wife. Sadly, Riki Sorsa was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and pancreatitis in 2011. He released his last studio album in 2013. Riki Sorsa passed away in 2016 at the age of 63.

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