The lonely princess learns to tango

Kukka Rajalin specialises in South American music.
Kukka Rajalin specialises in South American music. / SUR
  • Kukka Rajalin is a singer, pianist and vocal tutor

The Costa del Sol is home to hundreds of competent expat musicians and entertainers, although few of them can claim to have performed in a remake of a classic Walt Disney movie.

Kukka Rajalin is a Finnish jazz singer born in Helsinki in 1976 who, among her many achievements, performed the musical score for a Finnish remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Kukka graduated as a singer/songwriter from the Helsinki University of Applied Sciences in 2005 and went on to work as a singing tutor in city's renowned Sibelius Academy.

Kukka, who came to live in Benalmádena Costa in 2015, specialises in South American music. She has toured extensively as a soloist, appearing in Sweden, Norway, Belgium, France, America, Chile and Argentina. She has also accompanied some of the most celebrated performers of the Argentinian tango.

The 40-year-old vocalist, who holds a Bachelor's degree in music pedagogy, specializes in Brazilian tango and Argentinean-Finnish tango. Finnish tango music is an established variation of the Argentinian tango, but whose rhythm follows the ballroom tango.

However, Kukka does not come from a long line of musicians. Her grandfather was a violinist, but following the Second World War, he found religion and turned his back on music, alcohol and any other vices he had previously enjoyed.

Kukka's father grew up without music, other than the Christian songs he was forced to sing in church every Sunday, and this made him determined that his own daughter would not be deprived of music. In fact, he openly encouraged her to study it.

Kukka would listen to the radio when she was just two years of age, trying to imitate the sounds that she heard. One of her aunts had a good friend who was a music teacher in Helsinki and she saw potential in the youngster.

The door really opened when she was just six years old, because a piano teacher moved into the house next door to her family home, and she began to receive regular tuition.

Kukka began studying music at Helsinki University and as part of her course work, she had to focus on a world music. She chose the Argentinian tango and, as Kukka astutely points out, “the rest is history”.

Brazilian Jazz

Her love of jazz came from the Brazilian music. Kukka became attracted to Brazilian music when she was 16 and in 1993 she made her first trip to the country. At that time, she had a Brazilian boyfriend who introduced her to the music, and after that, she fell in love with Brazil and returned many times to study Brazilian Rhythms.

“The rhythm is the most important thing in Brazilian music, and as a vocalist, you are also a percussionist. There is a large interest in Latin American music in Finland and so it was natural for me to appreciate this genre, Kukka told SUR in English.”

Kukka's career really took off in 1994, when she was chosen to perform songs in the Finnish version of the Walt Disney film, Snow White. She was seventeen at the time and overjoyed to be chosen for the film, singing classics like Someday My Prince Will Come.

“There were hundreds of applicants and I heard they sent the ten best voices to Hollywood. One day, I received a phone call to tell me my voice had been chosen. Apparently I had a similar voice to the American voice actress, Adriana Caselotti, who performed the original score in 1937. I was over the moon,” Kukka explains.

She formed Las Chicas del Tango, a piano, violin and vocal trio that has now been going for 17 years and she still occasionally performs in the line-up.

She came to live on the Costa del Sol with her husband in 2015. Her husband's parents have lived on the coast for 25 years, and because they are getting on in life, Kukka's husband decided to come to Spain to be closer to them. They were also fed up with the weather in Finland, so the move proved to be beneficial for all, although Kukka admits that she misses Finland.

“I quit my job at the university and I had many sleepless nights wondering if I had done the right thing. I especially miss my students,” she says with a hint of nostalgia.

Kukka has now been singing and teaching for more than 25 years and she hopes to continue teaching on the Costa del Sol.

“I feel I am a better singer because I teach and this gives me much pleasure and fulfilment. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with so many professional vocal teachers in Finland and my life as a singer seems to have gone from strength to strength,” the singer explains in her softly spoken manner.

Finnish Independence Day

Currently gigging in venues along the Costa del Sol, Kukka will be taking part in Finland's 100th Anniversary of Finnish Independence, with a project in which she will put to music the poetry of famed Finnish poet, Edith Södergran, considered to have been one of the greatest modern Swedish-language poets.

She will also be performing with renowned Spanish jazz guitarist, Ricky Vivar, in the Frame Gallery Bar in Fuengirola on Tuesday October 24.