Life of the Week: Band comprised of men with Down syndrome headed to Eurovision finals

This year, for the first time ever, a punk rock band will be featured on stage at Europe’s Eurovision, a hugely popular song competition celebrating its 60th year. But that’s not the only first. The members of this band, PKN, have Down syndrome and autism, making them the first band of their kind to make it to the semi-finals of this contest.

The band uses their music to raise awareness for Down syndrome, as well as other mental disabilities. After beating out the competition in the Finland semi-finals, they’ll be taking their message to an even larger audience. First they’ll participate in the European semi-finals May 19 to 21, and are favored to make it to the finale set for May 23.

“Every person with a disability ought to be braver,” singer Kari Aalto told Finnish broadcaster YLE. “He or she should themselves say what they want and do not want.”

It’s a message they want the world to hear, and one which they shared in the 2013 documentary, “The Punk Syndrome.” Bassist Sami Helle told The Guardian that they don’t want people to vote for their band out of pity. But with 5 to 1 odds, PKN shouldn’t have to worry about anyone voting for them on sympathy. They are the third favorite to win with their song, “I Always Have To” about the mundane tasks of everyday life.

PKN traveling on a bus.

PKN traveling on a bus.

But while this band is up on stage having fun, they’re also confronting and defying long-held prejudices about people with Down syndrome.

“We are rebelling against society in different ways…” Helle told The Guardian. “We are changing attitudes somewhat, a lot of people are coming to our gigs and we have a lot of fans.”

And they’re likely to have even more fans after they make their Eurovision debut. If you can’t make it to Eurovision, check out PKN in the trailer for The Punk Syndrome, where you can watch them celebrate their first record.

Editor’s Note: To check out previous Life of the Week articles, go here:

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