Articles Interviews Misc

Drama Reloaded: Yerma. Interview with director Katariina Numminen

The Baltic Circle Theatre Festival brought to the Finnish capital a wide array of perfomances, Finnish and international, for all tastes.

One highlight was the introduction of Drama Reloaded: Yerma, a work that revisits the classic play by Spanish writer Federico García Lorca confronting the themes of drama and reality while in the perfomances were added comments from interviews with 12 people childless for different reasons.

The director of the play, the Finnish Katariina Numminen, kindly answered the questions of FREE! Magazine to explain more about this and some other of her current and future projects.

Drama Reloaded: Yerma

Hello Katariina and thanks for answering our questions. From where came the idea to adapt and revisit the classic “Yerma”? Were you very familiar with the original Lorca´s work?

I was impressed how very modern Yerma was, what it comes to characters emotions, and to their relationships with each others. I read the play years ago, and I went back to it now, when I wanted to this project about infertility etc. I have of course read Lorca’s work before, but this was the first time I directed his work to the stage.

“Yerma” dates back to 1934, a period in Spain when it was quite common that the roles of wife and husband were defined, with the man working and the woman as housekeeper. Do you think that it continues being a modern topic, even when young couples nowadays usually both work and often they do not even have time for raising or having children, though being fertile?

As I said at some point during the reherseals: I find that Lorca’s spanish village with all the strict rules and demands and honour and such, is not that different from the demands and set of expectations and rules each one of us carries in our heads. So, Lorca’s wiew is not valid what it comes to society, but somehow, strangely, it is very true psychologically. We tend to have terrible demands for ourselves.

In Drama Reloaded: Yerma, the drama basically faces reality and gets analyzed and dissected while taking place. But does the art do not lose in a way the “magic” touch to play with the mind and imagination of the audience when you confront it with reality?

Only if one is looking for an illusion sort of art, a coherent fiction to which to dive and escape from reality. I think fiction and reality do tend to “contaminate” each other on stage. Both change when contrasted. But this is exactly what I find interesting.

Disco Coconut

During an act of the play, I noticed that the actors basically represented the original text of Lorca in Spanish language. Was very challenging for them to learn the lines? Did they have previous knowledge of Spanish language? Why you decided to mix Finnish and Spanish languages in the play?

No, they are not Spanish speakers, so it was hard work for them to learn the lines. But we had a wonderful Spanish coach, who read the lines with us. I wanted to have a scene in Spanish, in a language strange to most of audience and to the actors, because I found that a crisis or a emotional shock can bring us to as state in which we don’t anymore know the language, the words we are speaking ourselves.

If I am not mistaken, you also had a project in Kiasma that is closing just this week, called “Coconut Disco”. What can you tell us about it?

Coconut Disco – Afrikan ääniä was shown last spring as a part of Ars 11 exhibition. It was a live radio play and live performance at the same time. Collaborating with me were musician Rodrigues Jose and sound desingner Kimmo Modig. It was about sounds. A try-out to make space African sounds and voices. The question was: do two people ever hear or see the world the same way.

You collaborate with the Vyborg Artistic Theatre in Russia. Do you spend long periods abroad, or do you live all the time in between Helsinki and Vyborg?

I live in Helsinki.Viipurin taiteellinen teatteri is a project which started in 2002, as a project where we, 6 Finnish Artists, disguised as Russian Viborg Artistic Theatre and made a performance called The Dybbuk. So we acted Russian actors acting that performance. We have made 5 performances since that.
We have a premiere coming, “Viipurin taiteellisen teatterin viimeinen esitys” (Vyborg Artistic Theatre: Last Performance) in Teatteri Takomo in Helsinki this New year’s Eve, and performances during January 2012.

What future plans do you have for the next months? Will Drama Reloaded: Yerma be played around in other theatres in Finland?

Drama Reloaded: Yerma is perhaps having more performances next March.

Articles Misc

Sexhibition: Helsinki´s sex party

Autumm is here. Helsinki is dark, getting colder and colder every day and people start to feel moody and cranky because they know that they will have to wait for a long time until spring is back. The summer parties and casual romances are over… So what to do? Easy, to assist to Sexhibition to feed the erotic flame that the citizens of the Finnish capital have deep (or not so deep) inside.

Sexhibition, the Helsinki Erotic Festival, is organized twice a year in Jäähalli, very near the city centre. For 2 days the assistants can enjoy top performers from all over the world, do shopping and assist to spontaneous displays of affection on the upper stage where the amateurs play an important role.


Actually, if you have never assisted to Sexhibition and you are expecting the venue to be full of old pervs hungry to take a look at some naked flesh, the reality is far from it. I had assisted for last time in 2007 while researching for material for a big cover story about sex business in Finland, so it was refreshing to be back there. The audience is mostly quite young, groups of boys and girls (many of them dressed in quite sexy outfits) who are warming up drinking, looking at the shows, shopping and having a good fun for continuing later the party in some nightclub or at the after party of the festival that was taking place at Millionaire´s Club. There were also many young couples who enjoy the exhibition together.

What I noticed is that maybe the tone of the festival in general is a bit more “softcore” than in previous years, and it is indeed greatly aimed at attracting a female audience, with more performers to delight the ladies like Satisfaction Show and Julio Gonzalez. Not so much explicit sex on the main stage, but more “artistic” perfomances. The queen of the current edition was undoubtedly Tali De ´Mar. You can notice her experience on stage, how comfortable she feels and how she connects with the audience with her erotic-burlesque show.

Charlie Sheen doll

If one can put a “but”, is that most of the shows turn to be quite short, lasting only a few minutes. Also the peep show cabins were a bit dissappointing, paying 2e for just a few seconds of a show, although if you follow the yellow press, you have an extra motivation to hang around to see Saana Parviainen working as a host there (her husband Jussi Parviainen was also present there, I wonder if he wanted to take a closer look at her to check if she would perform live sex with Mr. Lothat on stage or not, like it happened in the previous edition of the festival…).

For making up the pauses between shows, once again the female audience has the better part of the cake when wandering around, with many products on sale for them: lingerie, outfits, all kind of sex toys like an amazing array of dildos, vibrators, etc. No wonder that around 50% of the assistants were women, a number that is probably much more higher than in other Erotic Festivals around Europe, like for example the ones held in my native country Spain.

But also the male audience had many possibilities for doing some good shopping around: quality leather belts for just 10 euro, 2 pack of nice boxers also for 10e, leather jackets with great discounts… Clothes, sex toys and complements to fullfill everybody´s requirements!


If you wanted some more explicit action, at the upper floor there was another small stage where Finnish professional stripper and porn actor Mr. Lothar was hosting the show. There amateurs were welcome to show their erotic and sexual skills to the masses, although in the end it was Mr. Lothar who was stealing the show; One has to recognize that he is a charismatic showman, able to perform live sex in front of hundreds of eyes while cracking jokes, and always followed by a good haren of sexy female fans and collaborators. Among the activities shown there, you could see the semi-finals for the Finnish National Championship of giving blowjobs and licking pussy. I wonder why they never write about those competitions at the tourist office when they comment others in Finland like throwing mobile phones or carrying wives…

All in all, Sexhibition is quite a fun event to visit with friends, a couple, or of course alone if you have the curiosity to see what is going on there. The next edition will change location, being organized at Kaapelitehdas in 2012, so let´s see how the change of the venue affects the general atmosphere of the event. Meanwhile folks, make love, not war!

Photos: Saara Suominen

Cover story Misc

Baltic Circle Festival 2011 – Theatre for everybody!!!

The programme of the Baltic Circle Festival 2011 has been published and tickets are for sale. In addition to international guest performances, the festival features international co-productions and performances produced by Baltic Circle. These performances bring on stage the emerging artists and new trends of performance art at the moment. At this year’s festival, we will see five premieres, which are produced or internationally co-produced by Baltic Circle. The festival takes place in Helsinki from 16th to 20th November.

Baltic Circle

This time it’s personal

The festival presents a new international generation of theatre artists as well as several rising talents of the Finnish performance art. Baltic Circle Festival includes a number of performances, which get their inspiration from personal experiences, comment on the role of art and take part in social issues through art. As Festival Director Eva Neklyaeva puts it “This time it’s about reclaiming the stage. This time it’s personal.”

Read more about the entire programme:

See the hot trailer:


WED 16.11. 17:00, THU 17.11. 17:30, FRI 18.11. 20:00, SUN 20.11. 16:00 & 19:00
Puoli-Q, Tunturikatu 16
20 / 15 €

WED 16.11. 17:30 & THU 17.11. 17:30
Hurjaruuth, Kaapelitehdas, Tallberginkatu 1 A / 117
Includes the Doris Uhlich performance more than enough.
20 / 15 €

WED 16.11. 18:00 & THU 17.11. 18:00
Hurjaruuth, Kaapelitehdas, Tallberginkatu 1 A / 117
20 / 15 €

Andrei Andrianov & Oleg Soulimenko (AUT / RUS): MADE IN RUSSIA
WED 16.11. 18:00
Korjaamo, Vaunusali, Töölönkatu 51
20 / 15 €

Ojanen & Iivanainen (FIN): FAT BASTARDS
WED 16.11. 20:00, THUR 17.11. 20:00, FRI 18.11. 17:30 & SAT 19.11. 17:00
Suvilahti, Tiivistämö, Kaasutehtaankatu 1
20 / 15 €

Nya Rampen (FIN): WORSHIP!
WED 16.11. 20:00, FRI 18.11. 20:00, SAT 19.11. 20:00 & SU 20.11. 17:00
Mediakeskus Lume, Hämeentie 135
20 / 15 €

Verk Produksjoner (NOR): BUILD ME A MOUNTAIN!
THUR 17.11. 20:00, FRI 18.11. 18:00, SAT 19.11. 14:00 & SUN 20.11. 14:00
Q-teatteri, Tunturikatu 16
20 / 15 €

THUR 17.11. 20:30 & FRI 18.11. 20:30
Korjaamo, Kulmasali, Töölönkatu 51
20 / 15 €

Johanna Lecklin (FIN): TUNNUSTUKSIA
SAT 19.11. & SUN 20.11. 12:00-15:00
Spectators are admitted in one by one, in order of arrival. The duration depends on the length of the confession.
Puoli-Q, Tunturikatu 16
Free entrance

Baltic Circle

Universum, Perämiehenkatu 13

Amund Sjølie Sveen (NOR): SOUND OF FREEDOM
WED 16.11. 22:00

Kviss Búmm Bang (ISL): SAFARI
THUR 17.11. 22:00

FRI 18.11. 22:00

QueeNNaive (EST)
SAT 19.11. 22:00

Teatteri Venus & Co: KUDOSKLUBI (FIN)
SUN 20.11. 22:00

16.11.–20.11. 21-02

Festival Brunch

19.11. & 20.11. 12:00-14:00
Q-teatteri, Tunturikatu 16
Food tickets can be purchased in advance from Q-teatteri or Lippupalvelu (Ticket Service Finland).

Tel. +358 9 4542 1333 (Tue-Fri 11:00-15:00)
Ticket Service Finland
Tel. +358 (0) 600 10 800 (1,96€/min + local network charge)

Baltic Circle


The clothes of the BALTIC RE-CIRCLE fashion collection can now be purchased at the design and art store Myymälä2 in the center of Helsinki and also in November at the Baltic Circle Festival.

Milja Nevalainen and Hannele Äijälä from School of Art and Design have designed the re-design clothing collection of the Baltic Circle Festival. Tsto Agency has designed a BALTIC RE-CIRCLE label that can be seen in the clothes inspired by the colorful days of Twin Peaks, black coffee, cherry pie – jazz and the darkness of the night.
Shop till you drop!

Uudenmaankatu 23, 00100 Helsinki
Opening Times:
(Mon & Tue closed)
Wed-Sat 12-18
Sun 12-17


Baltic Circle Festival offers free bus transport to Festival Lounge from Suvilahti, Media Centre Lume and Cabel Factory after the last performances of the day. Please see departure times from the links below.

Wed 16.11.
Fat Bastards / Suvilahti, Tiivistämö
Worship! / Media Centre Lume
Thu 17.11.
Fat Bastards / Suvilahti, Tiivistämö
Fri 18.11.
Worship! / Media Centre Lume
Sat 19.11.
Two in Your House / Cabel Factory, Hurjaruuth
Worship! / Media Centre Lume

Jack Balance
Dieter Hartwig
Zachary Oberzan

Antonio's blog Articles Blogs Misc

Vincent Chase vs. Hank Moody

Well, obviously in the last couple of years, TV series have gained a lot of quality, popularity and budget (thanks in great part to the appearance of HBO channel). While when I was a child, the humor on the TV series was more related to theatrical situations, nowadays it is raw, sexy and closer to a Hollywood movie than any other thing.

Relationships and sex have a key role in some of the most successful series of the last years. Is there any young woman who does not list Sex and the City among her favorite TV series in any social network lately? Women and series for women have gained more and more space in the schedule of the big major channels, with the major companies wisely realizing that they are probably the most powerful sector at home (who controls the remote controller, controls the world indoors).

Adrian Grenier

However, because I cannot deny I am a man, I prefer to watch more “masculine” series (not meaning that those series are just for men and women, but certainly they have different target audiences in the producer’s minds). The ones that lately have caught my attention are Californication and Entourage.
I am not going to explain here the plot of every one of those, if you don´t know them, because you can easily check them out in Internet. But among other things, both series share a couple of features: they are full of beautiful women, and they both have characters that seem to get more pussy than George Clooney and Brad Pitt together: Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and Hank Moody (David Duchovny).

Honestly, although I do not complain about the abundant beautiful female presence in both series, it is not one of the main reasons I like them (although obviously I neither complain). I like series with good script, humor and a lot of winks and references to music and cinema; some things that the scriptwriters there had been able to create wonderfully, apart from choosing a great cast. Some of the secondary actors in Entourage like Kevin Dillon or Jeremy Piven are just awesome.

However, although both main characters, Chase and Moody, are always surrounded by beautiful women, there are quite a few differences between both of them. I feel like Moody could be like an older brother or a young cousin that you know it will be fun to go out with to a crazy trip, party or holiday. Even if he naturally attracts women, he is intelligent enough to make everybody have a good time, and apart from the good looks, he always has a witty comment and sarcasm. He does not need to get laid, but basically that makes him get laid.

David Duchovny

However, Chase is the typical pretty boy who has not read more than 10 books in his life, but has been favored by the gods having great looks and a puppy gaze that uses to “seduce”. Well, he basically does not need to seduce, women just throw themselves at him, and he just needs not to fuck the situation up keeping quiet. It is true that he is caring with his friends and not always shelfish, but he has those strange changes of moods proper of stars that sometimes do not live in the real world. While Moody would become a great experienced partner to hang around, Chase would be the typical case of the “pretty boy” of the gang of friends who would end up making out in the back door with the girl you had been dreaming about all night. But he is so charming that you would forgive him next morning.

Which one do you prefer as a comrade, partner in crime or potential lover, Moody or Chase?

Articles Misc

Finland Wold Champion 2011 In Ice Hockey

Believe me, there are not many sunday nights in Helsinki or any other Finnish city where you can hear people screaming all over the streets and cars honking. Tonight is one of those nights.

Finland has won the Ice Hockey World Cup 2011 a few minutes ago. And it has done it against their eternal rival and enemy: Sweden. The final score was an amazing 6-1 for the Finns!

There are not many things that Finns take totally serious, a country that is used to have their feet on the earth. Leaving the door of the sauna open is one. And Ice hockey, especially if it is a World Cup final against Sweden, is another.

Finland champion 2011

I put you an example, years ago I was in Madrid drinking with a group of Finnish friends, who invited a common friend, a player of the Finnish national team, Tommi Santala, who later went to play to USA and is nowadays playing in Switzerland. The evening went great until I mentioned the painful defeats of Finns agaisnt Sweden in ice hockey. A tense silence of 10 seconds took place, until my Finnish friend changed the topic of conversation and we made a brindis. Trust me, they were some of the longest 10 seconds of my life; you do not want to make angry a professional Finnish 120 kgs ice hockey player…

Although Russia is probably the most hated and feared country for the Finns for historical reasons, when it is about ice hockey, the public enemy is Sweden. Swedish are like those big brothers who dress better, get smarter grades at school and end up dating the girl you dream about. The exception to the rule was in 1995, when Finns were able to defeat the Swedes at home to be winners of the World Cup for first time in history… until now in 2011. 16 years in between with a long story of painful defeats against Sweden, to the point that most Finns had become totally fatalist when foreseeing a defeat against their Nordic neighbors.

This victory is a catharsis for the country. I know very well the feeling, last summer Spain experienced something similar being the winners of the football World Cup. I am sure that more than one worker is going to arrive late to the office tomorrow involved in deep celebrations at the local bars ;)

Congratulations Leijonat! You have finally showed that beating the Swedish at an ice hockey final is not just an exceptional event that happens once in the history!

Blogs Cover story FREE! Blog Misc

Helsinki Nightlife – Tips & Hints

When visiting a new city, apart from the offer of restaurants, museus or monuments that a new place can offer, the curiosity about the local nightlife scene is undoubtedly one of the most searched items in the net and forums. New bars and clubs to explore are double exciting to discover when the light of the day deems and let the night evolve us, although in Helsinki on summer, you can still feel pretty much daylight in your eyes due to their geographical location.

This is not of course an exhaustive tourist guide with all possibilities to explore in such a big city as Helsinki is, but more a collection of personal observation and hints about my favorite and not so favorite places after having lived, studied and worked for several years in the Finnish capital.

Party girls

The first important thing to take into account is that Finns drink a lot when going out. So do not be surprised if your perception of Helsinki and its habitants change drastically from daylight to nighttime. What during the day is a mass of quiet and shy people turn into a perfect machine of drinking when the party times of the night comes closer. Due to the price of alcoholic drinks being quite high all over the city (a pint of beer will cost between 5 -7.5 euro depending on the place you hang around), it is a normal tradition to gather with some friends in a house for a warming up drinking session before hitting the clubs and bars downtown.

Although most of the people go out reverently on Friday and Saturday nights, as in most big cities of Europe, actually Wednesdays and especially Thursdays are also days where you can find the bars pretty crowded. Remember that Helsinki is a University City, so during the scholar year, it is normal that many parties for University students take place on Thursday, because on Friday they come back to their hometowns for the weekend.

It is also recommended not to leave very late towards the nightclubs, partially because the neighbors can feel annoyed because of the noise, and partially because the unpleasant tradition of the queues in most of the popular Finnish nightclubs and bars. Even when the place can be half empty inside, for many Finnish clubs seem cool to make people wait outside in endless queues. This can be sometimes a good chance to make acquaintances and new friends while waiting, but believe me, on winter time, it is not so nice to wait half an hour queue with minus 25 degrees and a snowstorm over your heads.

On the other hand, dress code is usually pretty relaxed in most of the clubs in Finland. Just wearing jeans and sport shoes will allow you entrance with no problems, although of course for some more nose up luxury places, like Tiikkeri club, it is recommended to dress up accordingly

In basically all or most of the clubs and bars in Helsinki, you will have to pay for a service fee, using or not using the wardrobe, that is around 2.5 euro, and it is paid separately from the entrance fee. If you live your jacket, you will receive a ticket with the number, so try not to lose it, because getting your jacket back can turn into an odyssey if the bouncers and personnel are not friendly to trust on you.

Party Girls

Some of the easiest options for the visitors are located just in the heart of the city, like in Mannerheinmintie, the main avenue. There for example you can visit Apollo Live Club that seems pretty popular among Finns lately, but honestly, when I visited a couple of times, I got disappointed. The best part is that a count with live bands, but it is usually too crowded and customers are not the friendliest in Helsinki. Better options, also located close in Mannerheinmintie, is Cuba, a bar-club that counts with free entrance, and where it mixes a heterogeneous crowd of Finns who love Latino music and expatriates.

At this point, many of the readers will wonder how easy or difficult is to score and have some romantic fun with a Finn (let´s be honest, is that not the main reason why the single people go out ;) ).

Certain specific rules have to be followed in Finland that differ from other countries for example, it is normal that at the beginning of the night, the girls are the first ones “breaking the ice” on the dance floor. So it would not be uncommon in a club that you could go to the dance floor, and you would be surrounded by 40 women. But do not get mistaken, that does not necessarily mean that they are single. A bit later at night you will see how many of their boyfriends “pop out” magically out of nowhere. In Finland, the behavior of the people is much more independent than in other European countries, so a couple can be perfectly by their own with their common friends inside the same nightclub without having to be all the time sticked to each other´s back. So be sure that your target is single, if you do not want any unpleasant surprise when making your move.

All in all, mentality of Finnish people is quite open minded and relaxed about having some random fun and romance during the night. Although Finnish men are a bit shy by nature, alcohol makes them more open and friendly, although watch out, because sometimes, when they go off the hook, they can turn into a bit annoying or even agressive if a couple of too many vodka drinks were consumed.

As previously stated, Finnish ladies are quite independent and strong, so do not be surprised if some of them just make the first move on you. Nevertheless, this is the country of equality! Also, in some circumstances, small talk is not so needed like in other countries. It is normal that in the dance floor people start to rub and dance with each other quite flirtatiously without having exchanged a word, but once again, you have to read the signals correctly if you do not want to get anybody angry for miscalculating your attack…

Although gay scene is not as big as in other European capitals, there are also a couple of reference places to go. DTM (Don´t Tell Mamma) in Iso Roobertinkatu in Punavuori district is one of the most popular ones, but be ready to pay 8 euro entrance at weekends. Close to it there is the free entrance Lost & Found, which in later years has become more and more hetero friendly. Legend said that Ville Valo, the charismatic leader of the love metal band H.I.M. used to hang around there, but honestly, I have never seen him, and I have visited the place quite often, being very popular among students in Helsinki too.


Being Finland the country of heavy metal music, if you dig it, you cannot skip visiting the most legendary metal club in town, Tavastia, located in Kamppi district, where basically all the most famous bands play or have played at some point of their careers. It is not unusual that local artists hang around there, and the list of concerts through the year is pretty good. Not far from it, also in Kamppi, are located Bäkkäri and Heavy Corner, two good options for metalheads if you want to continue the party after watching a gig. If you prefer a bit more classic rock and alternative pop atmosphere, Bar Loose is your choice. The changed to a bigger venue a couple of years ago, and they offer also a great selection of live gigs at their down floor, while upstairs is always nice to have some beers or a coffee with friends. One of my favorites in town.

If you like Irish pubs and a very international atmosphere, your best choice is Molly Malone´s, near the Railway Station Square, that offers live concerts every night, and that recently had been enlarged, with a new dance floor. It is packed with the foreign community of Finland, but also the more international oriented Finns go there. If you like an atmosphere more 100% Finnish, try the very popular Kaarle XII nightclub, known commonly by natives as “Kalle”. In its 2 floors you can find very different atmospheres and kind of music, and a bunch of Finnish animal parties ready to give their best. The entrance is free on Thursday, a very good day to visit because many locals start their long weekend there.

All in all, Helsinki is a vibrant city with many more great venues offered to enjoy the night. Just go out, explore it, and probably after warming up your body with a couple of drinks, you will have a better view of an important side of Finnish culture. Or maybe you will find some Scandinavian romance and love…!



Articles Misc

Looks matter in Scandinavia too!

Text by Sasha Raduntceva

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening”, – has Coco Chanel once said. And maybe that’s why fashionable clothes and accessories are always urgent. Actually vogue is something like a merry-go-round of life. But we always add to trousers from 70’s earrings from 80’s and so on. That’s why the social network, where fellows and ladies from all over the world have an opportunity to post their own looks, has great success.

If you open this site, you’ll see that the most popular partakers of it are Scandinavian youth because of their unique style with a bit snowy notes, cold charisma and smell of cinnamon. Three of them consent to talk about them, fashion and of course

1) Explain your motivation posting on
2) Describe your style.
3) What’s your profession?
4) Why fashion is always fashionable?


Gustav Marklund from Piteå (Sweden).

1) I think that lookbook is a fun and inspiring webpage. I love to see all the looks and I also like being a part of it.

2) I don’t really have a specific style. Sometimes I wear all black, boots and chains, but in some cases I wear a lot of color. I dress in the style I feel like. It also depends if it’s spring, summer, fall or winter. In winter I rarely wear color, but in summer I love wearing color.

3) I’m a student. I study economics and I’m also an aspiring stylist.

4) I don’t believe that fashion is always fashionable. You shouldn’t always count on the new trends. Find your own style but get inspiration from fashion.


Amanda Brohman from Umeå (Sweden).

1) Because it’s such an inspiring site for fashion bloggers like me, it’s almost like a working community for us. You can showcase your own looks and promote your own style as well as get inspired by other people; there are so many stylish girls and boys out there!

2) My style consists of a lot of vintage and layers. I guess it’s a combination of big city street style and Scandinavian nature.

3) I’m a high school student, in my freshman year. Right now I’m majoring in subjects such as drama, costume design and social sciences.

4) Because fashion always changes, it’s never the same and it’s endless. Fashion will always be and has always been a big part of our lives, because it’s something you wear. And fashion is not, at least not for me, just about the latest trends – I see fashion as art, the best kind of art because we it’s the only art form we can actually wear.


Jacob Julian Antonsson from Stockholm (Sweden).

1) Lookbook is a great way to make an expression through a picture showing a sense of style on an individual you actually perhaps never met, to make an impression and inspire, to get inspired and to get feedback of course. Clothing and style are more than just fabrics and hairdos, It says a lot about the human being as an individual.

2) My style’s spontaneous and quite personal, as I only dress up in options – that’s me.

A mix of expensive designer clothing and vintage stuff to get a fun balance between individuality and trends.

3) I work as a store manager on a well known multibrand store in Stockholm, photographer and model.

4) Fashion is always fashionable because it gets old and unfashionable in just a matter of weeks, months or hours. There will always be a chase for the latest item, fabric or color and that’s why it never tends to get boring,

Interviews Misc

Interview with Jani Penttinen – CEO and co-founder of XIHA Life

Jani Penttinen: the Finnish who knows how to make friends!

Jani Penttinen is clearly not the kind of man who likes sitting all the evening at home watching TV and killing time. His mind seems to be always looking for new challenges and possibilities to explore, both in his private and working life. This has led him to live in 3 different foreign countries through the past years, work for some of the most acclaimed videogame developers in the world and create from scratch his own social network online, XIHA Life, together with his Chinese wife Wen. A project that continues growing day after day with new members that share common features: their passion in making new friends from all over the world, traveling and getting to know new cultures and languages. Let’s discover a bit more about this young Finnish entrepreneur who seems to disregard the word “impossible” from his vocabulary…

Jani Penttinen

Thanks a lot for attending our questions Jani! Please tell us more in detail what exactly XIHA Life is and how the idea came up for its creation.

Short and sweet, XIHA Life ( is a multilingual lifestyle community for anyone interested in other cultures or languages. It’s a relaxed community where people make friends and learn about life in other places of the world, or just have fun and play some games.

How many members does XIHA have nowadays and which are the countries with biggest representation?

As of this moment we have 525 796 members and over 1000 new members sign up every day. It’s not easy to say which country is number one, because the distribution is very flat and the top countries change almost daily, however Thailand, Turkey, Brazil, Poland, China and France are the countries usually at the top.

One of the strongest points of XIHA is being so multicultural. In how many languages is translated? Are you planning to add more?

The user interface has been translated to 42 languages and we currently support 56 languages for the content. Unfortunately many of the translations are a little out of date now as the whole year we’ve been busy adding new features and changing things around. We’re planning to soon get all the languages updated and then add some more. I think in the end we’ll have more than 100 languages, as we really want to offer the service in native language to almost everyone in the world. In fact, nothing really stops us from having much more than that, if we just find some people to do the translations for us!

Before that, you were working in USA as programmer, among other companies with the famous Electronic Arts. How was the experience there, and what did you learn to apply it in your future projects?

It was a fantastic experience! I very much recommend everyone spend some time living and working in another country at some point of their life. For many it may sound scary to go abroad but it’s not that difficult. Life in the US is not that different from life in Finland; you eat, you sleep and you work! However, the big difference is in the attitude and the way of life. I think it was in the US when my entrepreneurial spirit fully took off. While technically I was working for a large corporation, EA, I was actually working at a small company called Westwood Studios in Las Vegas, which EA had acquired couple years earlier. The founders running the company had the kind of enthusiasm I’d never seen before. It was a great inspiration to work with them.

Jani Penttinen

What was the motivation to move from there to China?

I left EA after they closed the studio in Las Vegas and asked me to move to Los Angeles. Vegas was a nice small city where everything was shiny new and I could afford living in a big house. Moving to LA would have meant paying more to live in a small apartment, in a crowded city, doing the same job I’d been doing for the past several years already. I’d already worked with some of the most legendary game developers on huge game titles, so I felt it was time for change. It was a crazy plan actually – I had never been to anywhere in Asia and I didn’t speak any Chinese. In fact, I knew absolutely nothing about China. I probably thought I knew something, but in the end it turned out how little we in the west know about the Asian countries… Anyway, off I went. In about three months I had a company up and running in Shenzhen with the first few employees hired!

Did you have in mind to create something like XIHA in the past years, or the inspiration came after meeting your wife Wen in China?

Yeah, definitely it was because of her, actually XIHA was her idea. In fact I never intended to stay in China. I had thought of starting up a satellite company in China or India and controlling the operations from Las Vegas. But meeting her changed everything – within just a few weeks I had already put my house for sale in the US and was preparing to move to China for good.
She’s from an entrepreneur family so she knew everything there is to know about running a business in China. It was because of her that starting the mobile business went so smoothly. Unfortunately though, running a software sweatshop in China was not what I had imagined and pretty soon I was looking for a change – again. It was at that point when we decided we would implement her idea of the XIHA Life community. It was meant to be just something fun we do together, but here we are, 3 years later, both running it as the full time job!

“I see XIHA becoming a well-known brand around the world”

How is to work together with your wife? Is the relation cool, or sometimes it is difficult to mix family and business?

Sometimes it’s pretty cool, but in the end it’s actually quite difficult. It’s hard to escape work when you have your own company, and it gets practically impossible when you’re running the company together with your wife. This is sometimes quite a strain on the relationship. Having a family business obviously has a lot of advantages too and I really like the fact I can build my schedule so that I work from home as much as possible. When your business partner is a family member, you have way less conflicts of interest when making decisions.

Do you have any fixed office for XIHA, or basically your work using the computers and Internet?

XIHA is has a virtual office – everyone works from their home or anywhere else they see fit. All our team members are professionals who love their job, so this works very well. Rather than checking the clock on how many hours everyone puts in, we care about what gets done. Quite naturally it fits my lifestyle – during the life span of XIHA I have already lived in three different countries. This arrangement also gives me more freedom to not just move around the globe but also work while traveling. In the summer we sometimes like to cruise on a boat across Lake Zurich. There are small towns around the lake, so the 3G coverage is excellent. I can basically stay online and work all time.


What are the main features that make XIHA different from other social networks such as Facebook or MySpace?

The biggest difference is that we’re an open community where you make new friendships, often from the other side of the world. So while you probably have all your existing friends in Facebook, that won’t help you much if you want to talk to locals at your next travel destination, or if you want to learn a new language. If you just want to check out what your old buddies are up to, probably XIHA won’t be very interesting to you. But on the other hand, you probably would not contribute much useful stuff to XIHA either, so it’d be a mutual mismatch. What we’re trying to build is not the biggest community in the world, but instead the best hangout for like-minded people.

What are the main sources of profit for XIHA? Are the games the most important part to sustain the network economically? Do you develop your own games, or are made by third party companies?

Games are an important part of our revenue model. Part of the reason is my background in games industry, but in general the types of casual games we offer are a very good fit to our audience. Most of the XIHA users are girls or women, from 25 to 50 years old, and this group just happens to love playing games on the internet. We don’t develop games, we’re basically a reseller. What makes our offering special compared to many others is that our users can pay for the games in their local currency and local payment systems. For example in Finland you can buy a game from us and pay for it through your own online bank, and get the game instantly. With this idea we’re taking the localization one step further – it’s not enough to translate the text, we also want to localize the entire user experience.

Is XIHA profitable? Are you thinking to implement new ideas profit-oriented?

Nope, it’s not profitable yet. In fact, we haven’t really focused on monetizing yet. We could run the service itself at profit but we are investing into development of the service. Our number one goal has been to build an excellent network where people have fun and want to keep coming back. Without that there’s not much point in thinking of how to make money, really. We’re in a good shape though, things are progressing as planned.

Are you dedicated professionally full time to XIHA, or do you participate in other side jobs?

Both Wen and I are 100% focused on XIHA. In addition to us, we also have 3 full time developers working on the project and around 10 part-timers. Early on, when XIHA was just a hobby, I was still doing some gigs for EA, participating in development of some really cool games. Unfortunately I don’t have time for that anymore.

Jani Penttinen

How do you see the future of XIHA Life, and what are the main challenges to face?

I see XIHA Life becoming a well-known brand around the world for cross-cultural communication. It will be something people use in addition to other social networks, so no matter who is the leader and what the trends are, XIHA will have the staying power and will keep on thriving.

Anything you want to add for our readers?

I’d like to invite everyone to try out XIHA Life. It’s completely free to use and we have plenty of fun and friendly people around. Given that XIHA is targeted at expats and travelers, I think it would be a great fit for many of the readers!

For joining the XIHA experience and make friends from all over the world, you can visit:

Photos by Marianne Taylor

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Estonia’s soul singers

{mosimage}For a small country, it has a big voice – many thousands of them. While most nations measure their international prestige in sporting or economic terms, Estonia prides itself on its singing. 



he 25th Song Celebration (Laulupidu), titled “To breathe as one”, was held at Lauluväljak (Tallinn Song Festival Grounds) on 2-5 July and its importance to the Estonian psyche cannot be exaggerated. The last in 2004 attracted a crowd of over 200,000 plus 35,000 choral singers and 2,000 musicians raising their voices  in traditional and modern song. 

Fittingly, a statue of Gustav Ernesaks (1908-1993), 'the Father of the Festival', has looked down over the vast field since 2004 to the huge arched roof  under which the choirs perform. He was the event's head organiser and chief choirmaster for nearly 50 years as well as being a noted composer who put to music Mu isamaa on minu arm (My country is my love) the poem by Estonia’s pre-eminent female poet Lydia Koidula. 

“This song is very important for all Estonians, it’s the symbol of our freedom,” says Margot Holts, Lauluväljak’s Marketing Director. 

2009 marked the festival’s 140th anniversary and it has mushroomed in significance and size from its origins in the city of Tarttu, where a small  museum traces its history. Naturally, during Estonia's Russian and Soviet periods, it acted as a siren for the Estonian soul. So why was it allowed when Estonia was part of the Soviet Union from 1944 to1991? (The current TSFG was even built in 1959 although the then radical design was by Estonian architects Kotli and Sepmann

Blissful Ignorance

{mosimage}"The powers in  Moscow saw it as a cultural event only. They were so far removed that they didn’t realize it was so totemic for us,” explains Mall Oja of Tallinn’s Tourist Bureau.   

During occupation, it was held with red flag flying, while the throng defiantly sang for freedom. Before independence came in 1991, the last Soviet event attended by 300,000 in 1988 was dubbed ‘The singing revolution’. This and the subsequent one in 1992 exhaled pride and joy which was breathed in deeply by the entire nation.

Plucked young, matured carefully

Since 1934, the festival has been combined with the Dance Celebration (at nearby Kalev Stadium) that has now had its 18th edition. Over 50,000 choir and 20,000 dancing applications (from abroad too) were received, which were whittled down – only the best will do.  

Estonian choristry skims off the cream from an early age – mirroring the process of the sports world. Choristers from village to city join a major choir as young as five years old. The gifted are trialled, selected and trained at such elite bodies as the Estonian National Opera Boys’ Choir. 

{mosimage}Under the professional tutelage of ENOBC's Artistic Director Hirvo Surva and others, they are trained in breathing, singing and timing. Estonian choirs have received applause and awards abroad from the Llangollen Choir Competition and Hungary’s Cantemus Choral Festival among others. Singers and dancers this year came from North America, the Nordics, UK, Ukraine, Hungary and Russia. 

A typical participant was Feliks Mägus, Chairman of the Nordic Hotel s group who joined a choir aged 7 and then sang until he graduated, literally, to the Tarttu men's choir Akadeemiline Emajõgi. As he puts it “The Song Festival has always been a place to enjoy singing and to feel that all Estonians are as one nation.”   

But the sound and atmosphere created by 100,000 voices is unforgettable in the ten or so songs that are performed together en masse. “Our programme always includes difficult pieces which require balance and careful rehearsal,” comments Surva. “And we always start with Koit and finish with Mu isamaa on mu arm for the older generation.” 

Held every four years like the Olympics and other great sporting occasions, this mean that those who take part have an indelible experience. Although not everyone who wishes can attend in person, the volume and atmosphere produced by the ensemble when singing together means that their voices carry far beyond the sound limits and into the hearts and souls of absentees too. 

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