SANS is an ensemble that combines contemporary folk music, jazz and chamber music elements. The group is led by the multi-faceted British multi-instrumentalist and writer Andrew Cronshaw, along with acclaimed Finnish singer Sanna Kurki-Suonio (former Hedningarna), multi-instrumental reeds player Ian Blake, and Armenian duduk maestro Tigran Aleksanyan.
Picture a form of chamber world music that would feel perfectly at home at ECM. It’s meditative, mesmerizing music where Finnish traditions, vocals and instruments join ancient Armenian sounds and English folklore.
Andrew Cronshaw plays electric zither, fujara, marovantele, kantele; Sanna Kurki-Suonio on vocals; Tigran Aleksanyan on duduk; and Ian Blake on bass clarinet, soprano sax.
SANS Live is a beautiful, spellbinding album, masterfully crafted by four world class musicians.
Born in 1961 to a Norwegian father and a Finnish mother from Karelia, Langeland was given a Finnish name, Sinikka, and felt the influence of two nationalities and cultures from the beginning. She lives in Finnskogen, 120 km north of Oslo, close to the border of Sweden. Finnskogen, the ‘Finnish forest,’ was first populated by Finns in the 17th century.
After an early education in classical music Sinikka started to look at contemporary folk music and the singer-songwriter genre, but this was soon displaced by an interest in older forms, intensifying as her research continued and underlined by a wish to “create an original music rooted in my own area, taking account of local possibilities and looking back into history to find out more.”
She highlights that her specific musical journey has “always been about searching. I love folksong but I’m not exclusively a traditional folk singer. There were always influences coming from other places, too.”
At 20 she changed from guitar to kantele, the Finnish table harp. She plays the 39-string concert kantele, with its five-octave range. “At first it was just an experiment – I thought it would be fun to have a Finnish instrument for one or two songs. But I became completely fascinated by it.” Meanwhile she was expanding her repertoire to include rune songs, incantations, ancient melodies from Finland and Karelia, as well as little known medieval ballads and religious folk songs.
Her work has flowed in several directions simultaneously. She gives, for instance, solo performances with voice and kantele, and she gives duo concerts in churches, together with organist Kare Nordstoga, in which old folk songs and Easter hymns are placed alongside with J.S. Bach’s transformations of the same sources. And, since the early 1990s, she has been working and recording with jazz musicians as part of her ensembles.
Swedish bassist Anders Jormin has been a regular colleague for more than a dozen years, joining her for the first time on the recording ‘Har du lyttet til elvene om natta’ (Grappa, 1995). Sinnika also played regularly with drummer Markku Ounaskari, a backbone of the Finnish jazz scene.
Sinikka’s songs often focus on the relationship between people and nature as it is expressed in traditional and modern poetry. Her CD Starflowers (ECM, 2007) includes her versions of the poems of Hans Borli (1918-89) and is performed with a remarkable ensemble that opens up the songs to improvisation. In its interweaving of folksong, literature, and Nordic jazz it may be considered a typical ECM production, but it is also a consistent extension of the work Sinikka has been developing over the last decades.
* Langt innpå skoga (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4074, 1994)
* Har du lyttet til elvene om natta? (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4107, 1995)
* Det syng, with Anne Marit Jacobsen, Halvor Håkanes, Eli Storbekken and Agnes Buen Garnås (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4123, 1997)
* Strengen var af røde guld (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4136, 1997)
* Lille Rosa (Grappa Musikkforlag HCD 7156, 1999)
* Starflowers (ECM, 2007)
* Maria’s Song (ECM 2127, 2009)
* The Land That Is Not (ECM, 2011)
* The Half-Finished Heaven (ECM Records, 2015)
* The Magical Forest (2016)
Hedningarna – Kult (Silence Records SRSCD-4771, 2016)
Throughout the years, Swedish band Hedningarna taped a lot of great material during recording sessions that never made it to an album. Kult is a collection of previously unreleased material, spanning two decades, 1992 and 2006. The 20 songs were mixed by producer Dag Lundqvist.
Hedningarna became a sensation in the 1990s with its fantastic mix of Nordic folk and beautiful Finnish female runic singing. The group attracted tens of thousands of followers beyond Scandinavia, including Spain, far to the south.
The Hedningarna lineup changed throughout the years and the CD booklet helps the listener figure out who was around at a given time. Two members remained as the essence of Hedningarna throughout all these years, multi-instrumentalists Anders Norudde and Hållbus Totte Mattsson.
On Kult you’ll listen to a wide-range of traditional acoustic instruments and vocals. The song mix is remarkable, featuring irresistible up-tempo pieces as well as mesmeric songs.
Hedningarna has influenced numerous folk musicians in Scandinavia and beyond and you can see why on Kult.
Nils-Aslak Valkepää, called Aillohas by his fellow Samis, was born on March 23, 1943 in Enontekiö, Finland. He was one of the trail-blazers of traditional and modern Sami music since the 1960s.
Aillohas was one of the first artists to present traditional Sami joik on stage. He performed and toured throughout the world, and encouraged other joikers to perform in public. In addition to his activities as a performer and musician, he composed new music, was an author and worked with the fine arts.
His multimedia productions were exhibited widely. He collaborated with Finnish jazz and folk music fusion musicians to make several innovative recordings, and some of his compositions have become classics of Sami music. His Bird Symphony (Goase Dusse) received the Prix Italia Radio Music Award in 1993, and was the only musical entry to receive an award that year.
He opened the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer by performing the Olympic Welcome Joik (Dalveleaikkat). He composed film and theatre music, and his music has been used extensively in television programs.
Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha – Näennäinen (Playground Music, 2016)
Jaakko Laitinen and his band Väärä Raha hail from Lapland in northern Finland and they have a fascination with nostalgic Roma and Balkan music, brass band music, and other musical traditions such as Finnish tango and humppa, as well as Russian and Greek love songs.
Most of the material performed by Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha is original, ranging from old fashioned love songs to progressively fast brass music.
The lineup includes Jaakko Laitinen on vocals; Marko Roininen on accordion; Jarkko Niemelä on trumpet, bouzouki and altohorn; Tuomo Kuure on double bass; and Janne Hast on drums.
Guests featured: Bjonko Stoisic on clarinet; Morgan Nickolay on balalaika; Matti Pitkänen on violin; Tuomas Timonen on percussion; Valtteri Bruun on guitar, mandolin, ukulele and synthesizer.
Frigg specializes in the rich folk heritage from Finland and Norway. The musicians combine elements of their respective folk traditions with touches of American Appalachian bluegrass and country & western music.
The seven-piece band contains three young Järvelä, two sons and a daughter of the most famous fiddle family in Finland, whose fathers and uncles founded JPP, and two Larsen brothers, members of a comparable Norwegian Hardanger fiddle clan. The traditional sounds are then boosted with innovative arrangements, and combined with mandola, cittern, double bass, guitar and dobro.
Frigg has been impressing festival audiences in Scandinavia and creating a phenomenal sensation among listeners and fellow musicians. Their debut CD, Frigg, was co-produced by Timo Alakotila.
With Oasis, the Finnish/Norwegian string band returned with a great new set of inventive tunes. Using traditional music as the starting point and their family ties to the great Finnish fiddle ensemble JPP, creating remarkable string music that incorporates elements of bluegrass and other American folk influences.
While a few compositions on their second CD, are given some expanded instrumentation, the highlight remains strong tunes, such as the hauntingly beautiful title track, and the crowd-pleasing “Fantomen,” that was very well received when the band appeared on the American public radio program “A Prairie Home Companion” on October 1, 2005.
Karuna features three talented contemporary folk music instrumentalists and composers from Finland. Tuulispää is Karuna’s second album and it brings together exquisite chamber music and lively and evocative Nordic folk music influences.
The music is inspired by events such as the drowning of the Syrian child Aylan in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as a beautiful sunrise and the observation of animals like deer and moths.
The lineup includes Teija Niku on accordion and melodeon; Juha Kujanpää (who also leads a progressive rock band) on piano and keyboards; and the multifaceted Esko Järvelä on nyckelharpa, violin, and guitar. Järvelä is involved in multiple folk, folk-rock and world music projects like Esko Järvelä Epic Male Band, Frigg, Baltic Crossing and Tsuumi Sound System.
Tuulispää’s musical pieces are beautifully crafted, delicate and rich in virtuosity. A delectable Finnish folk album.
Päre is a Finnish band that has recovered the Finnish bagpipe tradition. On the band’s album Hausjärvi Beat the bagpipe, called säkkipilli in Finnish, is used to perform a mix of traditional and modern Finnish folk music.
Piper Petri Prauda uses bagpipes made by Yrjänä Ermala. The Finnish bagpipe has a beautiful warm sound, closer to uilleann pipe than a Scottish highland pipe.
The ensemble includes Petri Prauda on säkkipilli (Finnish bagpipes); Piia Kleemola on fiddle, octave fiddle, 15-string kantele; Jarmo Romppanen, on 10-string mandola; Oskari Lehtonen on percussion; and Tapani Varis on folk clarinet, jew’s harp and overtone flute.
Hausjärvi Beat delivers mesmerizing bagpipe music inspire by ancient Nordic folk traditions.
Thirty years in the making, the Finnish folk group Varttina started out as a children’s music project in the village of Raakkyla in 1983. In those years the group has evolved in membership and endured the occasional change in musical direction, putting out such recordings as Varttina (1987), Musta Lindu (1989), Oi Dai (1991), Ilmatar (2000) and Miero (2006), performed live across the globe and collaborated with A.R. Rahman for the musical theatrical production of The Lord of the Rings performed in Toronto, Canada and London, England. Headed up by original Varttina singer, Mari Kaasinen, Varttina is back with thirteenth studio album Viena on the Westpark Music label.
Varttina’s tight, neat sound is crafted out of the talents of vocalist and kantele player Mari Kaasinen; vocalist and kantele player Karoliina Kantelinen; vocalist Susan Aho; accordionist, bansuri player and vocalist Matti Kallio; fiddler, nyckelharpist, bowed lyre player and vocalist Lassi Logren and guitarist mandocellist, bouzouki player, mandolinist and vocalist Matti Laitinen. Keeping to that sharply honed sound centered on the blending and the myriad of harmonies of its female vocalists, Viena is just as energetic, beguiling and edgily eccentric as ever and the result is contagiously joyful.
Drawing influence from a trip to Russia’s Viena Karelian folklore villages where the last of the “rune singers” and Kalevala folk tradition and poetry have eked out an existence for thousands of years, Viena is a tribute to the region’s untouched nature and the musical roots.
Opening with the lovely “Taivasranta” or “The Heavenly Shore,” fans get the full force of these elegantly entwined vocals surrounded by guitar, accordion and kantele (a Finnish plucked instrument belonging to the dulcimer and zither family).
Dipping into the traditional, Viena offers up the vocally sensational track “Raijan Joiku,” before giving over to the joyfully worked “Kanaset” and the delicately dreamy “Kelo.”
Working through stunners like “Ukonlammas,” the traditional “Kokko” and irrepressibly delightful “Kiri,” Viena exudes the richness of Finland’s musical traditions. Closing traditional track “Oi Dai” with its happy energy is reason enough to check out Viena.
By turns Viena is infectiously folksy and dramatically elegant and well worth the legacy of Varttina.