The latest edition of Arctic Paradise, a compilation series focusing on Finnish contemporary world and folk music, is out now! The 15 featured artists showcase the wide and exciting array of Finnish folk music scene, ranging from Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble’s afrobeat funk to Pekko Käppi’s raw archaic punk folk and Kimmo Pohjonen’s experimental accordion soundscapes.
How many musicians does it take to create and ensemble that sounds like this? Well, close to fifty. FBB, aka Sibelius Academy Folk Big Band’s line-up includes instruments such as fiddles, kanteles, accordions, guitars, winds and harmoniums, as well as groups of singers and vocal soloists.
Violinist Piia Kleemola spent the best part of 2005–2009 digging deep at various Southern Ostrobothnian archives. Her research resulted in an artistic doctorate and the discovery of a whole bunch of pelimanni tunes which dated back hundreds of years and deserved to be resurrected. Her album Pirun ja papin polska features Kleemola’s own versions of these tiny gems of their time.
Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L
The output of contemporary runo singer and jouhikko player Pekko Käppi draws a beautiful arch, beginning at the ancient storytellers, travelling through Finnish pop icons from a few decades back and finishing at the present day. Käppi’s voice and jouhikko groove together with an instrumental array of cigar box guitars, synthesizers, percussion, bass and voice, provided by Tommi Laine and Nuutti Vapaavuori.
Joonas Widenius Trio
Guitarist Joonas Widenius grew up in Northern Finland, and while his musical language is firmly based on flamenco, it also embraces influences from jazz and folk traditions around the world. His current trio was established through the 2014 album Guitarra – Utopia – Musica, and the line-up includes bass player Hannu Rantanen and percussionist Karo Sampela.
In 2012, three Finnish musicians travelled to Cotonou, Benin, discovered a shared musical language with local players and voilá: the critically acclaimed and dancefloor grooving ensemble was born. ”Weather Report meets Fela”, a reviewer from fRoots described Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble’s debut album Beaucoup de Piment (2013), hitting the nail on the head: jazz, funk, and afrobeat are the main ingredients in the band’s ferocious groove.
One of the biggest success stories of the 21st century Finnish folk music is harmonica ensemble Sväng. The group’s five albums feature new arrangements of traditional tunes as well as their own compositions, including tangos, polskas and musical fireworks in the spirit of fiddler music and Balkan traditions.
The two women from the music, dance and theatre ensemble Puhti make their audiences roar with laughter through their self-deprecating and tradition-conscous approach, but they also have the knack of providing moving musical experiences. The more serious side of Puhti can be heard on the duo’s latest album Pahan laulu, whose songs tell stories of tragic destinies.
Antti Paalanen is a master of diatonic accordions. The third album of this true one-man orchestra – performing solo even on stage – is titled Meluta (2014), roughly translating as ”to make noise”. The reference to noise as a musical genre is not that far-fetched. At times the banging noise that accompanies Paalanen’s accordion playing sounds downright industrial.
Tango-Orkesteri Unto was named after one of Finland's most significant tango composers, Unto Mononen (1930–1968). The group plays tango gems from decades ago plus new tangos composed by the members of the orchestra and guest composers (including Anna-Mari Kähärä and Jussi Tuurna).
Tuomas Logrén is an experienced musician and a dazzling multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, mandolin, and dobro, among others) who began his musical career as a ten-year-old in the group Värttinä and has toured the world with the ensemble Frigg, among others. His strengths include compositions which combine bluegrass with Nordic influences, as well as stylistic arrangements and inventive soloist choices.
The sensitive musical world of Kardemimmit is created through the bright vocals of Maija Pokela, Jutta Rahmel, Anna Wegelius and Leeni Wegelius, as well as 15- and 38-string kanteles played by all members of the group. Their compositions have absorbed influences from different parts of Finland and from multiple layers of singing styles throughout time.
JPP released their eleventh studio album Skywire – Taivaankansi in 2015 to mark their 33rd anniversary. Actively touring the world, the ensemble has a rich sound world which is a combination of the Kaustinen traditions, influences from Swedish folk music and a bright violin sound balanced by the base layer of harmonies.
One of Finland’s most famous accordion players, Kimmo Pohjonen’s stage presence is a complete artwork consisting of the accordion, human voice and movement. His latest album features a group of guest artists, including the Kronos Quartet, Timo Kämäräinen (guitar) and Pohjonen’s own daughters Saana and Inka Pohjonen (vocals).
Susan Aho (voice and accordion) and Karoliina Kantelinen (voice, kantele, melodica) make up two thirds of Värttinä’s singers, and have recently formed a duo titled Tipsy Gipsy, drawing deep from gypsy music.
Ilkka Heinonen Trio
Ilkka Heinonen Trio was established in 2012, and well before their 2015 debut album Savu, the ensemble performed at the official WOMEX 2014 Showcase, creating a lot of positive buzz. Their intriguing music leads their listeners from one time and place to another, introducing different elements such as archaic jouhikko melodies and influences from jazz, Tanzanian music and art music.