Is branding of democratic communities evil?

There’s been an ongoing trend in Finland to brand things that clearly cannot or shouldn’t be branded. Branding seems to be a hip thing to do. That’s probably because all the cool kids are doing it.

Branding is often a completely undemocratic process of selecting what people should think about the object of the brand. The very concept of branding is to limit the outgoing communication to those things considered positive by a committee. It’s about turning the pretty side to the public but not showing the ugly parts. It often includes lying.

Kili's design for an Oulu brand ad

These trendy city/country brands that are often full of meaningless corporate buzzwords. The new Oulu brand is just the same. It’s just a plot scheme for a cell phone commercial. It’s an embarrassing dream of a juvenile capitalism hobbyist. And most of it isn’t true. There’s this ”Oulu, creativity and courage” thing that’s in the brand manual. I can’t think of many places that are as communality and cowardly unsupportive towards the local popular music subculture than our beloved home town. This ”spirit of doing, let’s make it happen” is happening only if there’s fast money promised. It’s not just the corporatists. Even the artists get shy of true creativity and project their energy to those ‘Bon Jovi cover band’ style projects. Oulu isn’t ever going to be a cultural metropolis but we could try.

The real problem about branding is that it doesn’t work. Branding cannot work if it’s a glued on sticker that has nothing to do with the ingredients. It’s based on an idea that reputation is a mental phenomenon and can be separated from the reality. Separation is further enhanced by the fact that brands are often designed by an external ad agency.  Brand is about an oldish idea that psychology is important and that you can brainwash people with pretty images. I think that what is actually happening around us and in the society is important. Trying to create a controlled image of a democratic community of thousands or millions of free people is just impossible and stupid.

The reputation goes much further than a pretty product and a facebook page. Nokia has a strong brand management and it still sucks. If product isn’t up to the task it cannot be helped by lying. On  the other side there’s the good strong companies that are based on a working product. Neumann comes to mind. It’s a German microphone company whose one of the most used product even today the u47 was introduced in 1950’s. Every recordist swears by Neumann forever. It cannot be touched because it always works and that’s rare.

“True Finns” (the party) think the public image of Finland should be based on that design by a committee in 1890. Branding isn’t a new thing. It’s just a new word for propaganda. Hitler was a master brander. We don’t need prejudice. We need to be able to read through the simplistic and populist bullshit and build and portray our own conception based on reality freely.

It’s just too easy to put money to a complicated thing that promises results that cannot be measured. I don’t want to know how much money was put to build that ”I face-palm Oulu” thing. The money should go to the people who are making things happen. Like us the musicians 🙂


Lucid in the sky

I had a great idea for this blog entry just the other night before falling asleep. There was a snazzy topic and some great but surprizing points, like in any good blog.
But then I actually started to write something down today.  Everything – even the topic – had been forgotten. Should have written it down when I still had it.

This happens alot.

I have written several great hit songs in my sleep, found a cure to some serious diseases and now made up a smashing blog entry. It’s a shame I can never remember my masterpieces when I wake up.

Since there seems to be so much potential, I think this nocturnal time of creativity should somehow be used and taken advantage of. Could you train yourself to memorize the things you come up with in
your sleep? Maybe you could.
At least some people imply to master the technique of lucid dreaming, or controlled dreaming. By that you supposedly could dream but at the same time control what you’re doing in that dream. You would be the
master of your own dreams. Now how cool is that? Surely if you could do that you could also make yoursef remember the dreams better when you woke up.

For me there’s just one problem. The only controlled dreaming I can do, is deciding NOT to wake up when the alarm starts to ring. I’m too lazy to get up just to write symphonies (or blog entries). Or maybe I’ve used all my creative energy while awake, thinking about new Bajo Cero songs to be written this spring. Some ideas are already on the way and I think it’s better to be awake for them so they don’t get away.


Don’t vote for idiots

 went teaching.

 I’ve studied that stuff for seven years so i have a vague idea of what teaching is about. But this was a different kind of a class – a preparing class for immigrants. To be more precise, a class for teenagers coming here mainly from countries at war. Or countries where the situation is just too far messed up to even call it war.

By the end of each day all the pupils left the classroom with a “thank you for the day, teacher!”. And the reason were not my well planned and nicely implemented lessons.

I’ve never seen such a motivated and school orientated bunch of teenagers.

Now i’m asking you for a few things for a few reasons. And for these people’s sake.

The elections are coming. Extreme right wing in Finland is stronger than in years and as a part-time bartender i’ve also seen some pretty horrifying racial violence on the streets, walking home from work. This is really happening, now.

Don’t vote for idiots. Please check what the politician you’re about to vote has to say about immigrant issues and all of the other difficult questions concerning personal ethics and attitudes.

There are two reasons i’m asking you for this. First one is pretty simple: i won’t be getting substitute jobs in these motivated classes if all the students get sent back to Africa as the extreme right wishes. (And it’ll be quite a mess if you send all the Afghan people “back” to Africa, anyway).

Secondly, this is an issue of global ethics. Racism kills. As a friend of mine put it: “All racist actions, even if they don’t concern your everyday life, should be taken as personal insults, or you’ll soon find yourself part of a minority on the Wanted -list”. Please act.


Aja hiljaa illalla, sillalla

I like rap music. There, I said it. People are going to laugh at me, tell me that it’s not music and pretty much consider me as a wannabe gangster from the Bronx. The word itself is ridiculous in Finnish. The way we pronounce the “RRRR” in rap makes the genre sound like breakfast cereal. It’s not much better with “hip-hop” when you have quite a big commercial chain of huge children’s playgrounds called “hop-lop”. I don’t care though, I still like it. I even like Finnish rap.

A friend of mind put the language issue quite cleverly: Some languages, like American English, fit singing music better than some others. He thought that the place in your vocal system where phonemes are formed is better suited for musical expression. This might be true if you consider that our language has been compared to dropping Legos on the floor.

My personal favourite in the Finnish rap scene are the Ceebrolistics. They make the impossible happen by totally creating a flow with the Helsinki dialogue. Another good artist from a slightly different genre is Raappana who, believe it or not, manages to sound Jamaican in Finnish. I also always thought that Ismo Alanko made words sound somehow different.

Why is it so that most people making rock and pop music in Finland prefer English as the chosen language of lyrical expression? Unless all these people are native speakers, the way they pronounce English, will in most cases still sound like Finnish phonetically speaking.

The problem in my opinion is that people are afraid of expressing themselves in Finnish. We’re known to have bad self esteem as a nation. Hell, our written language is only a few hundred years old! Another thing is that if you can’t sound Jamaican in Finnish or you can’t sing like Ismo, you might end up with “a rain of Legos”. However, if more people dared to do it, there would be more great music with richer lyrical content, and like it or not, more rap.

I’ve even done it myself once. The song is called “Uudet aivot” and is not published for a good reason. I won’t give up though. Maybe my next try will start this award winning sentence:
“Aja hiljaa illalla, sillalla.”

and my rap song:

Editorial comment:
Juhani has dealt with this language issue in a very creative way by joining a band doing world music in spanish. That certainly is thinking outside the box! -kili