1994 - 2001
Heikki Lunta goes to Jamaica and Back
In 1994, Heikki Lunta once again made the radio with a song by Marquette based band Conga Se Menne. Named by a play on the Finnish-American phrase, “Kuinka Se Menee?” [“How is it going?”], Conga Se Menne brought an entirely new dimension to the Heikki Lunta story. Known for “Finnish Reggae,” Conga Se Menne mixes tropical sounds with traditional Finnish-American music for a style unlike any other. In a 1997 Minnesota Public Radio interview, bandleader Derrell Syria said of the unique stylings: “I used to play my grandfather's 78s all the time and I got into the marches and schottisches and I don't know when I first started realizing that these two beats were running parallel, and I came up with the first song I wrote that was like a Finnish reggae tune was "Come-a Take-a Sauna," and from that moment on we were hooked as far as blending those two styles together.” Following this successful experiment, reggae became a central source of inspiration for their music, and their Heikki Lunta songs have been strong parts of this tradition.
“Guess Who’s Coming?” was a play on the famous Caribbean reggae song, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Natty Dreadlocks).” The chorus, “Guess Who’s Coming to Sauna: Heikki Lunta,” captured local attention, and soon radio stations across the Upper Peninsula were playing the hit. In Marquette County, it was even listed among the most requested songs of the year. Had it been released a few months earlier, it would certainly have made the top ten.
Following the success of the 1994 release, Conga Se Menne recorded “Look Who’s Sitting in the Sauna (Heikki Lunta)” in 1996. This song provides a look at Heikki Lunta’s summer home in Jamaica, tying Heikki’s summer disappearances to this migration, and providing a connection to Conga Se Menne’s musical stylings. The song tells of Heikki’s return to Upper Michigan each winter, and how he must “Throw away the coconut/ Eat the kalamojakka” [a Finnish-American fish stew]. In an accompanying music video, Heikki is shown in the sauna, and dancing in the snow in a bathrobe and snowshoes.
Band leader Derrell Syria pointed out in a 2005 interview that in the song’s music video, Heikki Lunta’s face is not shown. This contributes to the folkloric anyman quality that Heikki Lunta enthusiasts have promoted since he was created. By leaving a certain amount of mystery to Heikki’s exact identity, to his exact location, and to his goings on, others are free to create their own works about him. It perpetuates the story.
COPYRIGHT:© Hilary Virtanen 2006
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