Around the World in Finland
by Tove Djupsjöbacka :: 2011
Many of the world's musical cultures have their own fans in the Finland of the 2010s. The breakthrough of world music is visible in the instrumentation too: the kantele and the violin have been joined by the cajón, djembe and digeridoo. The number of immigrants is significantly smaller in Finland compared to other European countries. As the number gradually grows, the consequence is a livened up music scene.
Here there are many active musicians who want to uphold tradition, but also many who want to create new things by combining Finnish characteristics with the the many music cultures around the world. Piirpauke, founded in 1974, is a pioneer of world music, and it still continues to be active led by Sakari Kukko.
One of the most important institutions in the field is the Global Music Centre (Maailman musiikin keskus), which has annually organised the oldest world music festival, Etnosoi! since 1988. The Culture Cooperative Uulu (Kulttuuriosuuskunta Uulu) is a fairly young institution formed by ethnomusicologists; its operations include workshops involving various musical cultures. The Nordic Master of Global Music (GLOMAS) study programme started at the Sibelius Academy in 2010, and it aims to answer the needs of a global, multicultural world.
Strong African knowhow
Hasse Walli was the first to introduce Senegalese mbalax rhythms to Finland in the 1970s. His Asamaan band featured top Senegalese musicians, some of whom stayed in Finland and formed one of Europe's most professional African bands, Galaxy, in 1992. The band's musicians feature in many other bands too, such as Sakari Kukko's recent Hum'balax project, which combines Finnish humppa with Senegalese mbalax.
The Senegalese kora player Malang Cissokho became known in Finland through his vocals sung in mandingo in the huge hit Missä se Väinö on? (Where's that Väinö?) by J. Karjalainen Electric Sauna. The Tanzanian Arnold Chiwalala has taken to the Finnish national instrument, the kantele, which has earned him the nickname Black Väinämöinen in reference to the Finnish national poem Kalevala. He became a doctor of music from the folk music department of the Sibelius Academy in 2009, and plays in Pole Pole with guitarist Topi Korhonen as well as many other bands. In a band called Stilimba the lead figure is the charismatic player of the balafon and dancer Maarika Autio, a rarity in this part of the world.
From Cuba to India
Septeto Son, founded in 1982, is a pioneer of Latin American music, and its members have started several other groups focused on Cuban music such as Son Sabroson, Kuukumina and Quinteto Cubaché. Many have found their way to music through dance: salsa, samba and other dance styles have been very popular in Finland. In recent years more and more musicians have been excited about Brazilian choro, which can be heard in the music of bands such as Grupo Choramba and Nordic Choro.
The most original Indian-influenced music must be "Finnish bhangra", which was created by the group Shava, who perform Indian bhangra music in Finnish. One of the premiere experts of Arabic music is the lute player Leif Karlsson, who founded the Al Teslim band in 1988. A flagship band of Turkish music, meanwhile, is Nefes, active since 1990 and featuring Turkish and Finnish musicians.
Balkan, klezmer, flamenco
The most popular of all European genres is probably Irish music, which has a wide following around Finland. Another European genre, klezmer, has actively been made popular by Doina Klezmer, which started in 1996. The best-known Flamenco artist is the guitarist Raul Mannola and the original composer Roni Martin, who both have an extensive discography.
One of the main musicians focused on Balkan-influenced music is the accordionist Teija Niku and her Grupa Balkan band. There is also the eventful Orkestar Bordurka, who plays music from Borduria (a nation invented by themselves), as well as Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha, who manage to combine yearning schlager music from Lappland with Balkan styles. From the more song-oriented groups we should mention Slavonic Tractor and the Finnish-Bulgarian Finno-Balkan Voices.