My Country Diss of Thee
Singing about their country’s drawbacks creates cheerful solidarity amongst volunteer choristers.
The Complaint Choirs of Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore are not only a showcase of song-writing talent, they provide a close look at three very different societies, from the repressed to the outspoken. Topics tackled range from the trivial (air-conditioning being too cold) to the stridently political.
Complaints Choirs were the brainchild of two Finn artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen. They wanted to transform the energy people put into complaining into something powerful. In the Finnish language the expression "Valituskuoro" means "Complaints Choir" and it describes situations where many people are complaining simultaneously. The Finn artists thought it would be exciting to take this expression literally and organise a real Complaints Choir.
As complaining is a universal phenomenon the project could be organised in any city around the world. The Finns offered the concept to different events where they were invited as artists – but it was only after an institute in Birmingham got excited about the idea that the First Complaints Choir became a reality. This was back in 2005.
The participants – found through flyers and small posters – understood the concept instinctively. A local musician turned the complaints into an easy-to-learn song. Within two weeks the song was rehearsed to perfection by the committed participants and it was a hit.
After the Complaints Choir of Birmingham became a surprise success the Finns were invited to initiate Complaints Choirs all around the globe. They consequently facilitated Complaints Choir workshops in Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg, Chicago, Singapore, Copenhagen and Tokyo. They documented all the performances and they are presenting the videos as a video installation in art exhibitions as well as on their website.