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(en) Finnish anarchist MC imprisoned for total objection

Date Sun, 23 Apr 2006 16:27:19 +0300


Finnish anarchist MC Henrik "Iso H" Rosenberg began his 195 day
prison sentence for total objecting 20th of March. Iso H is not the first
Finnish anarchist MC to go down for total objecting - both Jus Aname
representing Järvenpää and Tapani Ganja representing Turku did their prison
sentences in 2002. But differently from Jus Aname and Tapani Ganja who are
strictly underground, Iso H is a commercially successful hip hop artist with
a celebrity status.
Finnish conscription system proposes 13 months of "alternative
service" for those who do not want to serve 6-12 months in army for moral
reasons, although motivations are not investigated. Annually alternative
service is chosen by 2000 people in average, that is some 5% of the
conscripts (another 9% is liberated for health reasons). During last couple
of years, in average 70 people have refused from both alternative and
military service - this means a prison sentence of half of the remaining
time of ones alternative service, up to 197 days. This is the most logical
choice for a principal anti-militarist, as alternative service in essence is
underpaid work for the state, length of which is almost twice as much as
army service in average. Sentence of Iso H is two days short of maximum,
since two visits of him to garrisons, later of which for passing his written
refusal, were counted for him.

Most of the total objectors are doing their prison sentences in
"open prisons", which means that in case you are enrolled to an university
or have a regular job, you are free to visit these during weekdays. Iso H is
also doing time in open prison, but as his job is far from your regular 9 to
5, I guess he will have hard time acquiring a right to leave. Without this
right, open prison is not much different from a closed one, in some sense it
is even worse since screws have much more control over your life, since they
threat to send you to "rock house" for the smallest violation.

Good prison conditions of total objectors are not by any means
benevolence of the state, but a result of decades of resistance, most
importantly total objector hunger strikes and alternative service worker
strikes of the early nineties. After these campaigns, more than 90% of the
of the total objectors could do their time in open prisons for a decade. But
now this achievement is gradually diminishing, as more and more total
objectors are again sent to rock houses - currently this amounts to 20-30%
of them all. Currently Finnish prisons have overcrowding rates of up to 70%,
for example despotic drug tests provide means of freeing much needed places
in open prisons - total objectors have been sent to rock houses for
remaining prison time just for a failure to piss a full bucket in a surprise
test. It is possible that state is testing grounds for a more repressive
approach on total objecting in general.

Total objecting is getting more and more mainstream, and
currently vast majority of objectors come from outside activist circles. For
example of 25 persons doing time 1st of march for "alternative service
crime" according to state statistics, vast majority of whom are political,
only 6 had contacted Union of Conscientious Objectors in order to get to
their prisoner list. Flipside of this popularity is that I have a feeling
that total objectors are getting less and less individual support beyond
circle of close friends and family members - whereas I think this support
would be necessary for at least for those sent to rock houses. Check list of
currently jailed total objectors in Finland in end of this message.

Artist career of Iso H

Whereas hip hop has been made in Finland at least since 1986,
until late nineties there were few serious attempts - some ridiculous jokes
did gained commercial success, I remember one of them had to leave stage
after a rain of bottles in Erik B. and Rakim concert in Helsinki in early
nineties.

When 19 year old Iso H and 17 year old Elastinen formed
Fintelligens in 1997, their goal from the very first day was to make serious
hip hop in Finnish language - until then, most of artists in Finland were
rapping in English. In January 1998 their first self financed vinyl came out
from the press, and very soon they were proposed a record deal by Sony.
Their first single Voittamaton made it to top 10 in 1999, and third
Stockholm-Helsinki (featuring Petter and Peewee from Sweden) was leading
single charts for three weeks in year 2000. They renamed their first album
Renesanssi, self-confidently claiming rebirth of hip hop in Finland - and it
is little doubt that Fintelligens took Finnish hip hop to a completely new
level. Some perhaps do not relate to their lyrics or commercial sound, but
their success has gained Finnish hip hop a completely new level of
attention, which has opened new possibilities to most different artists and
encouraged everybody to set their goals higher.

All three albums of Fintelligens (Renesanssi was followed by Tän
tahtiin in year 2001, and Kokemusten summa in 2002) have sold gold (limit in
Finland was 20 000 copies until 2001, 15 000 since), and with more than 60
000 sold records Fintelligens may be the most commercially successful hip
hop project in Finland ever. Iso H and Elastinen have concentrated to their
solo careers since 2002, Elastinen released his solo album Elaksis Kivi in
2004, but it seems release of Iso H's first solo album has been seriously
delayed due to court process - he has announced plans to finish his album
during his prison time. Both Iso H and Elastinen have produced a number of
other Finnish hip hop releases, both Fintelligens MC's are multi-talented -
Elastinen even used to be b-boying in Savage Feet, crew you may remember
from early Bomfunk MC's videos. Rähinä crew of Fintelligens and number of
other Finnish hip hop artists was organised as a company in 2002, and it is
currently expanding from music to movies and clothing.

Although Fintelligens lyrics included social commentary since
the first day, for example in song Kelaa sitä in their first album, band is
more known of their party anthems and was generally overlooked by the
radical scene in Finland. Many were also put down by a single Heruuks? from
their second album, considered sexist, and indeed it is reproducing usual
"madonna/whore" division of women. In this context, decision of Iso H to
come out publicly as an anarchist and to take a principled anti-militarist
stance and to go to jail for it was a surprise to many - and a lesson that
one should not make a strict elitist division between "mainstream" and
"underground".

In first album of Fintelligens, Iso H was rapping rather
honestly "if hip hop would not bring me money, I would be scrubbing floors",
and I would add that one must work very hard if attempting to live from hip
hop in a small country like Finland, and I may only support such an effort.
And whatever, in any case I would never diss anybody representing my
neighborhood, 80 (Herttoniemi) area in Helsinki east side!

11th of November 2005 Iso H was performing in a successful joint
benefit concert for Union of Conscientious Objectors and Anarchist Black
Cross, over stage there was a big banner in support of American anarchist
political prisoner Jeffrey "Free" Luers. Paid audience was more than 500.

You may subscribe a War Resisters International petition for Iso
H in http://wri-irg.org/co/alerts/20060325a.html

Currently Rähinä records page only features Iso H in Finnish
language: http://www.rahina.com/artists.php?artist=isoh

Fintelligens discography

Albums:

2000 Renesanssi
2001 Tän tahtiin
2002 Kokemusten summa
2003 Nää vuodet 1997-2003 (compilation)

Singles:

1999 Voittamaton
2000 Kellareiden kasvatit
2000 Stockholm - Helsinki
2000 Kelaa sitä
2001 Pää pystyyn
2001 Heruuks?
2002 Kaks jannuu
2002 Sori
2003 Kaikki peliin

Some other Finnish hip hop artists worth of checking out

Asa released his first record as Avain in 2001, all-out
anti-capitalist Punainen Tiili took much influence from demonstrations in
Gothenburg and Genoa earlier the same year, both to black bloc outlook of
the album and its contents (album is dedicated to "those who were taken
their voices at latest in Genoa"). Album also includes tributes to Food Not
Bombs (on a beat made by Iso H) and to first Finnish total objector Arndt
Pekurinen shot in 1941, and even a reggae remake of 1978 punk classic Mä
hajotan tän maailman (I'll destroy this world) with original author Pelle
Miljoona. Album was also a commercial success, it sold 14 000 copies and hit
single Yhdes Iltaan was taken to MTV Nordic rotation, something almost
impossible for a song in Finnish language to reach.

After Punainen Tiili, Asa successfully sued his record company
Warner Music and managed to get out from his crap deal - with a condition of
not recording with the name Avain again. From now on, he was known as Asa.
After a long period of silence, Asa came back with album Leijonaa Metsästän
released by independent Fried Records in 2005. Commercial sound with heavy
sampling of live instruments was replaced with a slightly more experimental,
even more instrumental sound with plenty of dub and reggae influences -
title song samples Romanian Roma orchestra Fanfare Ciocarlia. But politics
is still there, in a very intertextual, subliminal way - internet forums are
having pages of discussions attempting to figure out countless references to
literature, music and politics. Asa's lyrics are perhaps most demanding in
Finnish hip hop.

Which is not the case with Steen1, whose name is a tribute to a
famous Danish bank robber who shot 2 cops in Helsinki in 1994. His debut
album Salaliittoteoria, released in turn of 2004 is perhaps the hardcorest
hip hop album ever released in Finland - simple and angry lyrics, no love
for cops from Helsinki East Side. Second album "Varasta Pomolta" (Steal from
your boss) was released in autumn of 2005, this time beats are more mellow
but lyrics hardly less angry, you may download song "Unionin sotilas" (Union
's soldier, a commentary against militarization of EU and EU's rapid
reaction forces) from
http://www.steen1.com/musiikki/steen1_unionin_sotilas_varastapomolta280905.m
p3 Album starts with a cooperation Mun fanit on typeriä sikoja with a
longstanding Finnish hardcore punk band Hero Dishonest, and some other songs
are crossover as well. Album also features guest appearances of both Asa and
Mariska.

Mariska is the most known female hip hop artist in Finland. In
1990's she was female vocal in crustcore band Oheisvasara, 1998 she moved to
London where she was playing keyboards in "punk all stars" band Stratford
Mercenaries. Eventually, according to her own words, she got "an overdose"
from punk and moved to hip hop, in 2001 she moved back to Finland and next
year she released her debut hip hop album Toisin Sanoen, which has sold more
than 10 000 copies. Following albums Memento mori 2004 and Suden hetki 2005
have not been as commercially successful, but have still reached much radio
and video play. Mariska's politics is more of personal kind, for example her
guest appearance song Ikkunaprinsessa in Steen1's second album is an attack
against mental health institutions. She is increasingly moving from hip hop
to pop music, but her albums are worth of listening for their lyrics only -
it is little doubt that she is one of the best lyricists in Finnish hip hop.
Her lyrical skills have also gained wider recognition, and she has been
invited to write lyrics for artists of completely different genres. She
likes to cross lines, I am sure that many fans of her were surprised for hit
song "Hellä ori" in 2005, a rather slack cooperation with Finnish ragamuffin
pioneer Lord Est. Mariska has a homepage in Http://www.mariska.fi, but this
far it only has information in Finnish.

Only Finnish political hip hop artist recording in English who
has reached mainstream success is Paleface. Paleface is also an unusual hip
hop artist since besides rapping he also knows how to sing, and unlike other
political hip hop artists, he has a background in periphery of the activist
scene himself. However his albums The Pale Ontologist 2001 and Quarter Past
in 2003 were not too successful outside Finland. He has supported political
causes during his artistic career as well, for example after murder of Carlo
Giuliani in Genoa in 2001 he let activists hang a big banner on stage of his
performance in Koneisto - festival. Just as Mariska, Paleface is touring
with a big live band.

Last but not least, whereas Bomfunk MC's is hardly famous for
their revolutionary lines, their current DJ Riku Pentti aka Infekto (in band
since 2002) has always been there for Reclaim the Streets in Finland,
performing in numerous parties, including the very first RTS outside UK in
Helsinki in May of 1997.

Antti Rautiainen

Total objectors doing time in Finland (Iso H is not yet in the
list). Note that Karl Finnberg is in a closed prison.

Johannes Aalto (25.1.-12.8.2006)
Jouni Ruuth (21.11.2005-7.6.2006)
Kimmo Hokkanen (27.2.-13.9.2006)
Helsingin työsiirtola
PL 36
01531 Vantaa Finland

Karl Finnberg (3.11.2005-18.5.2006)
Keravan vankila
PL 133
04201 Kerava

Isto Pyykkönen (27.11.2005-14.6.2006)
Satakunnan vankila
PL 59
32701 Huittinen

Tero Isokääntä (18.1.-4.8.2006)
Naarajärven vankila
PL 1
76851 Naarajärvi
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