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)
Web Site: www.sinikka.no
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.