Maija Kauhanen wins the 2023 Nordic Council Music Prize

Folk musician, singer-songwriter, and kantele artist Maija Kauhanen has won the 2023 Nordic Council Music Prize. According to the adjudication committee Kauhanen is "a strong and versatile musician who has carved an impressive international career".

Kauhanen was awarded the prize at an awards ceremony at the Norwegian Opera & Ballet in Oslo on Tuesday evening. Sami musician Kajsa Balto awarded the prize. The monetary recognition of the award is DKK 300,000 (approximately 40 200 euros).

A versatile and skilled one-woman orchestra

The adjudication committee’s rationale stated that “folk musician, singer-songwriter, and kantele player Maija Kauhanen is an explosively strong, versatile one-woman orchestra who has carved out an impressive international career in a short space of time.”

“Kauhanen is best known as a multi-instrumentalist in her live performances as a one-woman orchestra. On stage, you can simultaneously hear wild kantele playing, powerful expressions of song, and a percussion arsenal consisting of dozens of instruments, from cymbals to bells, bowls, and various vessels. Kauhanen shows mastery of everything at once and consistently varies and improvises the whole with incredible skill. The result of this fusion of different eras, techniques, and styles is a powerful spectacle that enchants audiences everywhere.”

The committee also writes that “the singers’ stories and words, in which the theme is often the fate of women in different ages, play an important role in Kauhanen’s powerful interpretation. Old folk songs are also skilfully placed in the present. Although the often feminist texts depict challenges in human relationships, domestic violence, and fear, there is also room for joy, comfort, and hope.”

Read our spotlight on Maija Kauhanen from last year.

Nordic Council Music Prize

The Nordic Council Music Prize was first awarded in 1965 and recognises the creation and performance of music of a high artistic standard. The prize is awarded on alternate years to a work by a living composer in one year and, as this year, to an ensemble or artist. A total of 13 artists, groups, and ensembles were nominated for this year’s music prize.

Previous Finnish Nordic Council Music Prize winners have been Joonas Kokkonen (1965), Aulis Sallinen (1978), Magnus Lindberg (1988), Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra (1993), Erik Bergman (1994), Leif Segerstam (1999), Kaija Saariaho (2000), Kari Kriikku (2009), Pekka Kuusisto (2013), Susanna Mälkki (2017) and Sampo Haapamäki (2020).

Watch the entire awards show from the window below: