Global Hit – Complaints Choirs

The World

For our global hit today, we’re checking in on a phenomenon that we first told you about a year ago�complaints choirs. As you may recall, these were choirs formed to give voice to the complaints of a community.

Here are 90 complainers from the Finnish capital Helsinki. They’re griping about ready-to-assemble furniture, boring dreams and sauna etiquette among many MANY other things.

As well as Finland, complaints choirs formed in England, Germany and Russia. That was the situation a year ago. Now, as The World’s Patrick Cox reports, the choirs have gone global.

It’s rarely pleasant to listen to someone complaining.

But if a person’s complaints are artfully edited, the dull ones cast aside�and then if it’s all put to music, well, hearing them isn’t so bad after all. It can even be…uplifting.

And it seems to be really fun if you’re one of the communal complainers. That might explain why there are now complaints choirs from Chicago to Budapest, from Jerusalem to tiny Gabriola Island in British Columbia.

This Canadian effort is one of the second generation of complaints choirs�choirs that essentially organize themselves. The people behind the first choirs � and the whole idea of kvetching to music � are a Helsinki-based wife-and-husband team. Tellervo Kalleinen, says the idea is to bring people together.

�you can create community though this kind of negative togetherness, You hate something so much, and complaining is one way of creating a community.�

Kalleinen says there’s a method to creating a successful complaints choir � a painstaking 9-step method. So it was a bit of a shock when she came across this:

Host: complaints choir. Complaints choir. There’s no such thing as a complaints choir.

Choir (singing) Yes, there is, there is there is, there is!

This is a BBC TV variety show watched by millions in Britain. The choir is professional. They sing complaints suggested by viewers.

Now, this TV show implied its complaint choir was an original concept. And that didn’t sit well with the people who really came up with the idea.

�We contacted them through official complaints website of BBC.�

Tellervo Kalleinen and her husband asked the BBC to credit them. But it seems that there was a problem with the BBC’s complaints website.

�We wrote there twice and nobody answered because in this complaints website of BBC you can make a mark if you want them to come back to you, and we said that yes we want you to come back to us, but then nobody did/ which is a very ironical kind of situation.�

Eventually, there was a response, and the BBC’s website now includes a link to Kalleinen’s organization.

Kalleinen has been working on a new project that also tries to get people to voice their dark thoughts. She’s making a series of short films in which people talk about their workplace�specifically what they would like to say to difficult bosses or impossible co-workers�if only they could.

�People have so many reasons not to speak out but when you don’t speak out the effect is that you have these long sleepless nights when you are so angry that you can’t sleep and you are creating these huge fantasies inside your head what you � next day you go and you say that. And anyway, you probably don’t do that in reality.�

But they do do it in Kalleinen’s films.

She’s also forming a new complaints choir. She couldn’t resist � it’s in Singapore, hardly a place that abides too many complaints. Before they travelled to Singapore, Kalleinen and her husband received an email from the government containing some guidelines. Guidelines for complaining: no promotion of non-mainstream lifestyle, whatever that is. And no complaining about �generally accepted community standards� � whatever they are.

�I don’t know, we had quite much fun reading this email and we just had to answer them that �sorry but if you invite complaints choir project to Singapore, then you just have to live with the project and live with the principles.�

And so far, so good. The couple have assembled a choir who have offered up plenty of complaints. Among them, �I hate foreigners who think Singapore is part of China�I get rashes from MSG�and then more controversially:

�Whatever is not expressly permitted is prohibited.� The complaints choir of Singapore is currently awaiting a performing licence from the government.

For The World, I’m Patrick Cox.

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