Arja Koriseva

Arja Koriseva

Arja Sinikka Koriseva (21 April, 1965 in Toivakka, near Jyväskylä, Finland) is an award-winning Finnish singer. She first came to fame as a tango singer; now her repertoire includes evergreens, Finnish pop, musical theatre, and sacred music.

Arja says of the village school she attended:

“The school was very small and homey. My class had just three pupils. We were good in different subjects and we learned a lot from each other. Because we were so few, the classes were joined so that the first and second were together, the third and forth similarly, and so on. During the breaks we went swimming; on Shrove Tuesday we tobogganed. The cook baked pulla buns and brought them to us with juice as a snack. In fine weather we had lessons outside and when it was raining we did sums in class. Once a storm blew down a birch tree in the school yard. We made firewood from it and carried it inside.” (Nyman, p.51)

Arja comes from a musical family: her parents were both active in the church choir, and the harmonikka player Erkki Friman is Arja’s maternal uncle (The Finnish harmonikka is not a mouth organ. It is a kind of accordion, with symmetrically arranged buttons instead of piano keys. It is not the same instrument as a bandoneon).

Arja and her sister Eija (born 31 October 1963, and a very popular singer in her own right) sang with the Peräkylä Boys band in youth hostels, holiday camps, restaurants and various other places in central Finland from 1978. When the Peräkylä Boys broke up to continue their studies, Eija and Arja got a new band, Kastanja (“Chestnut”).

Note that Arja's sister Eija is not the same Eija Koriseva who is professor of mathematics at the University of Helsinki.

In 1983 Arja was admitted to the Central Finland Conservatory to study singing.

In the summer of 1984 Arja was a Lions Club scholarship student in Wilmar near Minneapolis in the USA. She returned after three years for a summer with the same family. She says of this time:

“The family was quite wonderful and treated me like their own daughter. The father acted as teacher in the agricultural school and farmed maize. On the second visit I already had a driving licence and got the use of an old pick-up. I woke up early in the morning, put on a long-sleeved shirt and drove to the edge of the field to gather corncobs. In the field I prepared and packed them in dozens in cartons, then I had a shower and drove the corncobs to the shops. I could keep the money from the sales.” (Nyman, p 54)

This is a very appropriate job for a future tango star, as the classic tango El Choclo, written by Angel Villaldo in 1903, means "the corncob". Meanwhile Kastanja became the backing group for Marjo-Riitta Nieminen, who sings under the stage name Marjorie.

In 1985 Arja enrolled in the Hämeenlinna teacher training college and qualified in 1989, specialising in Finnish language and PE.

In the spring of 1989, with the encouragement of her mother, Arja entered for the Tangomarkkinat tango singing competition. She engaged a new orchestra, Fortuna, and began to rehearse the tangos "Kultaiset korvarenkaat" and "Vie meidät rakkauteen". These are not in fact Finnish tangos: the first is "Golden Earrings", composed by Victor Young and the theme song of the film of the same name, the second is "Tango d´Amour", by Leo Leandros.

After passing the preliminary heats, she did not apply for a permanent teaching post, but did apply for a temporary post in case she was not successful at the Tangomarkkinat finals.

But, dressed in a stage gown made by her sister Eija, she became Tango Queen at her first attempt and turned the Tangomarkkinat from a local festival to an event of national importance. The Tangomarkkinat organisers tried to get her to adopt the stage name Arja Karen, as "koriseva" means "wheezing" in Finnish.

Since then she has recorded 15 albums (up to September 2007), and appeared in concerts and at dance halls all over Finland, as well as Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Jordan, and the UK. She has sung sacred music in church concerts, and appeared with Belgian superstar Helmut Lotti. She appears frequently on Finnish TV: she has guested on the musical game show Bumtsibum several times; she and Joel Hallikainen presented the musical game show Jos sais kerran in 2002-2003; and she was the heroine in the children's programme Hilarius and Loru-Liisa, with a giant mouse. She was the Finnish voice of Pocahontas in the animated film and TV series of that name. She has appeared in the soap opera Prince of Pop and in Ready Steady Cook. She has returned to the Tangomarkkinat several times as judge, and presented it in 1991, 1994, and 2004. The spectacular Eyes of an Angel concert of 1999 was broadcast on national TV. She has attempted four times to represent Finland at the Eurovision Song Contest (1991, 1992, 1993, 2004), but has never been selected.

She has also appeared on stage: she was Liza in "My Fair Lady" and Maria in "Sound of Music". The run of the latter had to be cut short because Arja was 8 months pregnant: it made no difference to the story.


Arja met her future husband Juha-Pekka Karmala in 1985, when they were both studying at Hämeenlinna college. At the time they were both going out with other people, and they did not get together until Juha-Pekka moved to Jyväskylä to study special needs teaching. They were engaged in 1993 and married on 20 July 1996. Their children are: Patrik (born 5 August 1995), Karla Sol Angel (born 20 July 2001 in Colombia, adopted), and Verna Luna Gunilla (born 8 November 2006). The pair are very protective of their children's privacy, and never talk about them to the papers or allow their photographs to be published.


Arja is a modern made-up Finnish name. It first appears in Eino Leino´s poem Arja and Selinä of 1916; but the Arja in the poem is a boy. The Finns soon decided that Arja was more suitable as a girl's name. The -a ending is of no significance: the Finnish language has no genders, not even for people. There is a Russian name, variously transliterated as Arija, Arja, and Ara, which is a variant of Ariadne. Arja was most popular as a girl's name between 1940 and 1965. Other famous Arjas from this period are Arja Saijonmaa (b. 1944), Arja Havakka (b. 1944), and Arja Sipola (b. 1956).

Arja Koriseva's records issued up to September 2007:


Clicking on the links will take you to a description of the album on Finnish Wikipedia

* 1989 Tangokuningatar (with Risto Nevala) (vinyl)
* 1990 Arja Koriseva (vinyl and CD) []
* 1991 Me kaksi vain (vinyl and CD) []
* 1991 Saa joulu aikaan sen (Christmas) []
* 1992 Kun ilta saapuu kaupunkiin []
* 1992 Naisten tie []
* 1995 Rakastunut nainen []
* 1996 Tango Illusion (all tangos) []
* 1997 Mieli maailmoja juoksee []
* 1997 Yö on hellä (with Tapani Kansa) [ö_on_hellä]
* 1998 Pieni kultainen avain []
* 2001 Kuuntelitko sydäntäs [äntäs]
* 2002 Joulu joka päivä (Christmas) [äivä]
* 2003 Nauran ja rakastan []
* 2007 Kun aika on []

Guest appearance

*2001 Helmut Lotti Goes Classic III (Arja sings a duet with Hemut Lotti on one track - All My Life:Näkemiin. This duet only appears on the version of Helmut Lotti Goes Classic III sold in Finland: versions sold in other countries have other tracks in its place)


* 1993 Parhaat
* 1995 Hymyhuulet []
* 1996 Enkelin silmin 1990–1995 []
* 1998 Kuningaskobra []
* 1999 Kymmenen ensimmäistä vuotta []
* 2006 Tähtisarja – 30 suosikkia []
* 2006 40 unohtumatonta laulua []

Vinyl singles

* 1990 Kuningaskobra/Sua ilman rakkain
* 1990 Rakkauden värit/Kun tunteet kuljettaa
* 1991 Taakse taivaanrannan/Lähde pois
* 1992 Kun ilta saapuu kaupunkiin/Meitä on nyt kaksi
* 1992 Anna kaikkien kukkien kukkia (From the album "Toivo Kärki muistoissamme". Other side has Ressu Redford: "Jos vielä oot vapaa")

CD singles

*1992 Mr Tango (dedicated to Reijo Pitkäkoski)
*1993 Vain taivas yksin tietää, Huomiseen/Hymy vain
*1994 Kai virheen tein/Rakkaus saa mut muuttumaan
*1994 Naisen tie/Taittuu multakin Rock´n Roll
*1994 Et saa mua unohtaa
*1995 Rakastunut nainen
*1995 Kattojen Primadonna/Anna kätesi
*1996 Tuulen värit/Jokin sisälläni
*1996 Tähtien katse
*1996 Yksin/Tango Illusion
*1997 Suunnaton kaipaus
*1997 Mieli maailmoja juoksee
*1997 Kauas tuuli kuljettaa
*1997 Onnenkyyneleet
*1998 Rakkaus on ikuinen
*1998 Kun tyttö rakastuu
*1998 Valloitan koko maailman
*1999 Hääsunnuntai
*1999 Olet kastetta maan
*2001 Sun armoillas oonTänä yönä, Kuuntelitko sydäntäs
*2001 All My Life:Näkemiin (with Helmut Lotti)
*2002 Kengän kopinaa
*2003 Nauran ja Rakastan
*2003 Voitko vain unohtaa


*2003 Uudet tähdet
*2005 Niin
*2005 Avaruus


*1997 - 1998 "Singing Raindrops", Lahti City Theatre
*2000 "My Fair Lady", Turku Summer Theatre
*2005 - 2006 "Sound of Music", Seinäjoki City Theatre
*2007 "Sound of Music", Imatra City Theatre


* Tango Queen (1989)
* White Rose "Female solo artist of the year" (1991)
* Emma "Female solo artist of the year" (1991)
* Dean Martin Boozing Society "Entertainer of the year" (1991)
* World Music Awards Monte-Carlo "Best selling artist of the year" (1992)
* Kullervo Foundation (2004)
* Tango Finlandia (2006)


* Marja Nyman, Tangokuninkaalliset, Revontuli 2002, ISBN 952-5170-27-6
* Tony Latva and Petri Tuunainen, Iskelmän tähtitaivas, WSOY 2004, ISBN 951-0-27817-3
* Kutsaa Vilkuna, Etunimet, Otava 1976, ISBN 951-1-18892-5

External links

* [ Tangomarkkinat]
* [ Official fansite]

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