Tag Archives: Finnish music

Elegant and Fascinating Kulku

SANS – Kulku (Cloud Valley Music, 2018)

If I had to guess you didn’t wake up this morning thinking about how your life was lacking some lovely Finnish singing. Likewise, you probably didn’t wonder why there wasn’t more kantele, the traditional Finnish and Karelian zither, in your daily routine, or how to incorporate a Scottish Gaelic song or Spanish dulzaina into the mix or how an Armenian duduk would mesh into the whole lot. I’ll bet that none of those things crossed your mind. But that’s where music, that fantastical audio magic carpet ride, wraps up all those needs into a neat, tidy package and in this case the first studio recording from SANS entitled Kulku set for release on September 1st on the Cloud Valley Music label.

First appearing together on the CD The Unbroken Surface of Snow, and later live as a quartet at the 2011 Kaustinen festival in Finland, vocalist and kantele player Sanna Kurki-Suonio, multi-instrumentalist and zither player Andrew Cronshaw, multi-instrumentalist reed player Ian Blake and Armenian duduk master Tigran Aleksanyan released their first live recording in 2014 entitled SANS Live.

For Kulku, the group holed up in a converted oak barn along with Ms. Kurki-Suonio’s vocalist and kantele player daughter Erika Hammarberg and Scottish musician, composer and leader of La Banda Europa Jim Sutherland to serve as the Kulku’s producer, and to provide the occasional handclaps, play the barn floor and provide the needed ting (not making this up, it’s in the liner notes).

Kulku is treasure trove of delights. Interspersing tight, neat vocals of the group into expanses of more crystalline vocals wrapped in zither and clarinet, opening track “Pursi – The Rowing Song” transports listeners to a musical landscape that’s exotically thrilling.

Equally delicious is “Tuudittele Tuuli – Cradle, O Wind,” a duduk and clarinet laced lullaby. “Rauta – Iron” utilizes melody from a Spanish dulzaina with Finnish lyrics to conjure up a masterful track that comes across as fresh while tugging at ancient traditions.

Instrumental “The Edge of Autumn/Hayreniki Karot” is the epitome of elegance with the shimmer of zither and the lazy swirl of duduk. Fans get a dose of quirky with the catchy romp “Kulkija – The Walking Song.”

Additionally there is the vocally extravagant “Astele Oro – Step Careful, Stallion,” the delicate grace of the traditional Scots Gaelic tune of “The Recollection of That Day: O Chiadain An Lo/Lusabatz Ararati Vra” framed by lines of Mr. Aleksanyan’s duduk and the achingly lovely “Kazvatti – Four Sorrows” with traditional Karelian lyrics.

Kulku closes with the lush and fascinating “Kaik Mia Ilot Unohin – I Forgot All Joy, Stopped Singing the Songs” composed by trio Mr. Aleksanyan, Mr. Blake and Mr. Cronshaw with song melody by Ms. Kurki-Suonio.

While you might have gotten up not have known you needed a little Finnish singing in your life or that the kantele has the ability to float you in the air or firmly root you to the music of the earth or that duduk lines could float above a music composition like a soaring bird, there’s Kulku to take to a place you didn’t even know you wanted to go.

The album is available from andrewcronshaw.bandcamp.com

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Briliant Accordion Work by Matti Kallio

Matti Kallio – Waltz for Better Times (Matti Kallio, 2018)

Waltz for Better Times is the first solo album from accordionist, composer, arranger and music producer Matti Kallio. It’s a set of delightful contemporary instrumental pieces inspired by Finnish folk music.

Matti Kallio is a superb instrumentalist who extracts a wide-range of expressions from the accordion, from dazzling speed to delicate slow tempo performances. Throughout the album he’s joined by equally talented musicians on various string instruments who contribute finely crafted solos and interplay with the accordion.

The last track on the album features one of the finest accordion players from Finland, Maria Kalaniemi who engages with Matti Kallio in an exciting dual accordion interaction.

The lineup includes Matti Kallio on accordion; Petri Hakala on mandolin, guitar, and mandocello; Hannu Rantanen on double bass. Special guest: Maria Kalaniemi on accordion.

 

Get Waltz for Better Times from badcamp

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Inventive Sami Music from the European Tundra

Solju – Odda Áigodat (Bafe’s Factory, 2018)

Solju is an innovative Sami music project led Ulla Pirttijärvi and her daughter Hildá Länsman. The two women have developed a captivating mix of northern Sámi traditions with contemporary, cutting edge music. Solju uses the Sami traditional chant called yoik.

The arrangements feature delightful contemporary classical strings, delightful synth layers, electronic beats, shamanic drums, a wide-range of acoustic percussion and innovative instruments like the hang drum and throat singing.

The lineup on Odda Áigodat includes Hildá Länsman on vocals, yoik; Ulla Pirttijärvi on vocals, yoik; Teho Majamäki on percussion; Janne Puurtinen on keyboards. Guests featured: Czech National Symphony Orchestra strings, Paavo Lötjönen on cello, Mikko Neuvonen on throat singing and Janne Puurtinen on synth bass and synthesizer.

Odda Áigodat is a mesmerizing, groundbreaking album rooted in Sami traditions.

Buy Odda Áigodat

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Artist Profiles: Wimme

Wimme

Wimme Saari, better known as Wimme, was born in 1959 in Kelottijärvi, Enontekiö. Wimme is a modern interpreter of the Sami yoik, combining colorful grittiness of traditional yoiking elements with original improvisations. In the last few decades yoik in general has undergone some changes; in fact Wimme’s yoiking could be called free yoik. In his yoik, he constructs intense, clear melodic arches and stretches his voice from a sweet falsetto to a grave baritone. But the old yoik is still there: Wimme has recaptured the essence of the ancient yoik, and even the clever voice technique of the animal yoiks.

My yoiking has some elements of the old style yoiking, such as the voice technique and the throat technique. I can also do some traditional yoiks, but accompaniment doesn’t quite suit them. When I yoik and the boys play I have to do something new. Colors and patterns are emerging in my mind I have to let them guide me. In my home area people say that I have created a new style. Young people, of course, like it most, but even people in their 50s have come to me to thank me.”

The art of yoiking has traditionally been transferred through generations of oral tradition, but Wimme learned the tradition in a more modern way. “I started working at the Finnish Broadcasting Company in ’86. There I found some tapes including tapes of my uncle’s yoiking. With the help of those tapes I learned some of the old tradition. Although my mother comes from an old yoiking family, the direct connection from one generation to another had already been broken. Due to religious fundamentalism there was no yoiking at home. In border areas like ours, where there are a lot of people other than Sami folks, yoiking has had a tendency to vanish, but in Sami areas like Kautokeino, naturally it has been able to survive better.”

In addition to his solo work, Wimme has contributed his unique voice to albums by artists like Hector Zazou (Songs from the Cold Seas), Hedningarna (Trä and Hippjokk), Nits, RinneRadio and the BMG-released compilation Finnish-Ambient Techno Chant. Wimme Saari also collaborated in Italian composer Aldo Brizzi’s international project Endless Trails.

Discography:

Wimme (1995)
Gierran (1997)
Cugu (2000)
Bárru (2003)
Gapmu – Instinct (2003)
Mun (2009)

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Artist Profiles: Piirpauke

Piirpauke in the 1980s

Piirpauke, led by Sakari Kukko, has been a pioneer of world music for many years. Sakari Kukko is a visionary, world traveler and multi-instrumentalist from Finland. When he formed the first line-up of Piirpauke he was immediately awarded with a hit. Since that first success with a poignant Karelian folk tune, Sakari has guided his ever-improving line-ups on musical journeys through the Balkans, Turkey, Africa, Latin America and points in between.

Since attaining accolades as one Finland’s top jazz saxophone players in the early seventies, Sakari has steadily added to his array of flutes and woodwinds on his world travels – and he’s also an accomplished keyboardist. The countries he has roamed for exotic musical inspiration are too numerous to mention, but he has resided both in Colombia and Spain.

While taking a temporary leave of absence from Piirpauke and playing with an another international line-up in Spain a few years ago, Sakari was enthralled by the rare beauty of Andalusian vocalist Cinta Hermo. She was spirited to Finland just in time to be featured on some tracks of Piirpauke’s Algazara album and with her soulful voice blending perfectly with the eclectic melodies, it was decided that she should become a permanent addition. With Cinta’s vocals as another focal point, Piirpauke added new dimensions to its many-faceted forms of instrumental fusion. A notable but natural change also occurred in Spanish having become the band’s main language both in song and in communication between the current members, as the fiery Senegalese percussionist and singer Ismaila Sane, who joined Piirpauke in 1989, had been living in Spain long enough to become a Spanish citizen and Sakari speaks it fluently, of course.

After the release of the 1991 album Tuku Tuku, Piirpauke operated as a trio consisting of Sakari, Cinta and Ismaila with occasional guest appearances from people like Turkish percussionist Okay Temiz. They felt that the trio format gave all of them a lot of possibilities to showcase their amazing talents and virtuosity.

In 1994 Piirpauke celebrated the band’s 20th Anniversary with a major tour that also featured old members Hasse Walli on guitar and Antti Hytti on bass. In January 1995 Piirpauke was the first Finnish band ever to play a MIDEM concert in Cannes, France. This led to a licensing deal with Spanish label Horus for a compilation CD called Cinta Hermo y Piirpauke: “Arbole”, which was released in Spain in May 1995.

In 2003 Piirpauke featured Sakari Kukko on sax, Ismaila Sane on percussion, Ville Herrala on bass and Joonas Ahonen on piano. A new album, Laulu Laineilla was released on January 2003.

Piirpauke 30th Anniversary album Ikiliikkuja – Perpetuum Mobile, a compilation of past years, was released on October 2004. The band’s 30th Anniversary concert was hold on 8th October at Savoy-Theater Helsinki and was a big success.

Discography

Piirpauke (Love Records, 1975)
Piirpauke 2 (Love Records, 1976)
Piirpauke Live (Love Records, 1978)
Yö Kyöpelinvuorella (Ponsi, 1980)
Birgi Bühtüi (Kerberos, 1981)
Kirkastus (Kerberos, 1981)
Live in Europe (Kerberos, 1983)
Ilahu Illalla (Kerberos, 1984)
The Wild East (Jaro Medien, 1986)
Algazara (Jaro Medien, 1987)
Zerenade (Jaro Medien, 1989)
Tuku Tuku (Jaro Medien, 1991)
Terra Nova (Rockadillo Records, 1993)
Metamorphosis Live 1977-1995 (Rockadillo Records, 1995)
Ave Maria (Rockadillo Records, 1996)
Laula sinäkin (Rockadillo Records, 1998)
Kalevala Spirit (Rockadillo Records, 2000)
Sillat (Rockadillo Records, 2002)
Laulu laineilla (Rockadillo Records, 2003)
Kalabalik (2006)
Koli (Rockadillo Records, 2010)
Ilo (Rockadillo Records, 2012)

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Artist Profiles: Ville Ojanen

Ville Ojanen

Ville Ojanen is a crossover violinist andcomposer from Finland who uses the folk tradition to create new sounds and ideas. Ojanen is a musician who could be characterized as a chameleon in the field of Finnish folk music. During last twenty years he has led his music into several new directions.

In this musical soundscape traditional acoustic instruments are in interaction with modern technology of our time. Together they create a contrasting tension which very well characterizes the nature of Villes’ music.

Ville Ojanen was born in 1972 in Kaustinen. He started to play violin in 1979 with Juha Kangas as his first teacher. “Besides classical music I studied folk music right from the beginning.”

In 1981 he continued violin studies with Mauno Järvelä as his teacher. Throughout the 1980s he played in various bands: Troka, Folkkarit, and Ottoset. Troka won a competition for Finnish folk bands in 1993. That same year, Trokas’ debut album rose to seventh place in European folk music chart.

In 2003, Ville received a grant to compose material for his first solo album. The debut album titled Rautavaara wass released in 2005.

Discography:

Rautavaara (Seita Music, 2005)
Hero (Seita Music, 2008)
Kekkonen (Seita Music, 2012

Finland Europe

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Artist Profiles: Ville Kangas

Ville Kangas

Ville Kangas: “The intention is always to find whether it is via odd combinations of instruments or sounds, through an unexpected choice of style, or by experimenting with these combinations a new angle naturally.”

Fiddler Ville Kangas was born Jaakko Wiljami in 1977. He is a well respected musician and composer in Kaustinen, Finland. His second solo album, released in summer 2005, made Ville Kangas a sought-after musician on the Finnish music scene.

Ville is a descendant of musical families in Kaustinen through both his parents, and famous ancestors – Wiljami Niittykoski, Aaro Kentala, Markun Joonas – reveal strong “pelimanni” roots. The family includes both the popular folk music group Kankaan pelimannit from the 1970s and the Kangas brothers on the classical music scene. It was with classical music that Ville, too, started his musical career, from which he took his first sabbatical at the age of five. With his godfather Mauno Jarvela, Ville went on his first domestic as well as international tours while he was still a little rascal, and he successfully absorbed all the teachings from older folk musicians.

While he was studying in Kaustinen College of Music, Ville’s future values started to dawn on him and he developed an interest in practical musicianship rather than in his studies. Still officially a student at the Sibelius Academy, Ville was carried away by work, there was no more time to study. Pushed forward by his philosophies of life fostering versatility and avoiding boredom, Ville has traveled from one pursuit to another. JPP and Luna Nova are familiar names to the friends of folk music, and to Ville, significant band experiences.

Ville believes it is this cross-breeding of classical and folk as well as popular music that explains his style of composition that is based strongly on melody. Natural combining of elements is premeditated and intentional. His precious folk band Prusikoukku already crossed the borders in the 90s. Another project was called Velho, with former Hedningarna singers Tellu Turkka and Liisa Matveinen, that blended Kalevala-style rune singing and rock.

In the Finnish popular music circles, Ville is known as a flexible professional with the ability to adapt. He has been working not only as a musician but also as a producer. T

The album Yöaika, dashed into the world of instrumental music. On the album Ville and his electric violin are joined by Tomi Havinen (drums), Osmo Ikonen (keybords and vocals), Vesa Laasanen (guitar and Irish bouzouki) and Juha-Matti Rautiainen (bass).

This is how Ville ponders upon the theme of the CD and the origin of his music : “…Yöaika (translates ‘night time’) refers to the familiar feeling one has in the night that time seems to slow down or stop. Your mind wanders around randomly, at times standing still, at times running wildly here and there. The best time to make music is night time.”

Original biography by Antti Huntus, translated by Hilkka Rauhala.

Discography:

Suuri erehdys (2001)
Yöaika (2005)
Qwenland (2013)
Plastic Fiddle Band (2017)

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Artist Profiles: Vilddas

Vilddas was founded in 1997. The band combines pop tunes, traditional Sami chanting, called yoik, Middle Eastern instruments and ambient sounds.

The multitalented vocalist, Annukka Hirvasvuopio, is also known as an actress in Northern Finland. She lives in Utsjoki, the northernmost village of Finland. The rest of the band members are versatile musicians from Southern Finland.

The debut album, Vilddas, was released in November 2000 in Finland, Sweden and Norway. It contains modern Sami pop, unplugged material and a couple examples of the traditional Sami yoik. The indigenous Sami population of 80,000 people lives in the northern areas of Finland and Scandinavia.

The first single from the Vilddas album, Biegga, was a small hit in the northern radio stations of Finland. The song is also featured on the Finnish world music compilation Arctic Paradise, published by The Finnish Music Information Centre.

Discography

Vilddas (2002)
Háliidan (2003)

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Artist Profiles: Susan Aho

Susan Aho joined Värttinä in 1997, she hails from Espoo and has been playing accordion since the age of 13. She has been involved with the Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department and with the folk music group Metsänväki. She’s also worked with accordionist Minna Luoma, in the duo called Rotunaiset, performing Finnish gypsy songs.

Discography:

Vihma (Wicklow, 1998)
Ilmatar (Wicklow, 2000)
6.12. ( BMG Finland, 2001)
Iki ( BMG Finland, 2003)
Miero (Real World Records, 2006)
Utu (Rockadillo Records, 2012)
Viena (Suomen Musiikki, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Pekka Lehti

Pekka Lehti

Pekka Lehti was born in 1965 in Joensuu, Karelia. He first entered the world of music by beginning to play the bass in a punk rock band.

Kicking off his professional career at the age of 17, the brave bass player plunged into a dizzying array of settings from backing up singer-songwriters to sweating the night away with jazz combos to producing a concert based on the music of Nino Rota and beyond. Many exciting projects aside, Pekka’s most widely recognized working environment, since 1992, has been the modernist folklore ensemble Varttina.

As an arranger, co-leader and composer, Lehti is a valuable team player in the ranks of this leading world music collective, which had performed live all over Europe, Asia, Latin America and North America. The bassist can be heard on ‘Aitara’ (1994), ‘Kokko’ (1996), ‘Vihma’ (1998) and ‘Ilmatar’ (2000).

Pekka Lehti steps to the foreground with ‘Outo Voima’. The CD presents a collection of duets with vocalists and instrumentalists with whom Pekka has crossed paths with during his long and winding career in music.

With the goal of capturing the strong Nordic inspiration at its purest, most of the album was recorded “on location” – either in Lehti’s living room or the collaborators’ homes. Therefore ‘Outo Voima’ seems possessed by an irresistible timeless magic. These meditative tunes are not only the first statement of a mature solo artist, but also a poignant cry out for peace and quiet. They are impressions from the outside looking inward. The Suomenlinna spirit.

Pekka Lehti produced Varttina’s live album ‘6.12.’ and also produced Värttinä’s accordionist Markku Lepistö’s solo CD.

Discography

Outo voima (2000)
Sohjo (Aito Records, 2003)
Helsinki (2008)
Radio Moskova (2011)

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