Zäpämmät: Äiti Maa

Women, Water and Song

Listening Post 260. Global and local are like yin and yang for the duo Zäpämmät. Though partners Marjo Smolander and Pauliina Kauppila are both deeply rooted in Finnish folk tradition and have degrees from Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy, Smolander also calls herself a kantele-griot, combining the iconic Finnish zither she plays and the West African musician-storytellers she emulates; percussionist Kauppila is likewise steeped in flamenco and Afro-Cuban music. Their passion for other cultures nurtures their artistic personalities and on Äiti Maa (Mother Earth), their debut album, the balances in attitude (demure-assertive) and mood (joyful-melancholy) complement their geographic blending. The unifying threads of the nine-track collection are their innovative, often pace-shifting, soundscapes and giving voice to the experience of women and girls. Several songs honor feminine wisdom, like the graceful Mummoni (Granny, video 1), inspired by a road trip through Eastern Europe where they observed the tranquil presence of elderly women sitting in front of their village homes; and Sukuni sorjat siirit (The Wise Women of My Family, video 2), Kauppila’s tribute to the “Knowledge, skills, emotion/Spells and magic you perform” present in her own lineage. Smolander was studying in Mali when she wrote Minun maa (My Land), an ode to Finnish summers (video 3). The album is also a reservoir of water symbolism: A river as one of the places to pour out the blues in Heitän suruni (I’ll Throw Away My Sorrows, video 4) and as the healing elixir of life in Vesi (Water, video 5), based on Senegalese tradition and sung in Finnish and Wolof. Äiti Maa is a dazzling, border-erasing album, but in an age when passing through the front door is akin to a perilous leap into the unknown it is also like a dream of past-future, of enthusiastically heading toward the horizon to drink from other wells and make holistic sense of our global and local instincts. (IMU-Inkoon musiikki)

Zäpämmät: Äiti Maa / Mother Earth
Marjo Smolander: Vocals, kantele
Pauliina Kauppila: Vocals, percussions

Note. Freely translated, Zäpämmät means “jazzy ladies,” and is a Finnish play on Zap Mama, the groundbreaking Belgian Afro-pop band.

 

Mummoni / Granny
Lyrics & Music: Marjo Smolander

(From the Finnish lyrics)
To your hands, to your hands, I will carry the most beautiful, the most fragrant the sauna rod
On your face, on your face, I will draw the long field of the yard, the deepest sorrows of a mother for eternity.

My Granny, my granny, my babuska, my babuska…

In your lap, in  your lap, I will draw the long field of the yard, the deepest sorrows of a mother for eternity.

My Granny, my granny, my babuska, my babuska…

 

Sukuni sorjat siirit / The Wise Women of My Family
Lyrics & Music: Pauliina Kauppila

To feel the vigor of my family’s past generations/To know how the strength of my family rose
To know the source of my primal force/I rejoice in feeling and sensing it

The wise women of my family, the strong women of my family
Surely you are intense and strong, we have the power
The wise women of all  families, the strong women of all peoples, beautiful and strong, we have and share the power

Knowledge, skills and emotions/Spells and magic that you perform
From generation to generation you transmit them
Knowledge, skill and emotion/Spells and magic that you perform
You share a deep source of knowledge with others

The great secrets, even acute issues and essential tips we share with each other
When I feel insecure or furious, I receive comfort and peace from my sisters
You share my worries and comfort me

 

Minun maa / My Land
Lyrics & Music: Marjo Smolander

I am from Finland, I am from Finland/It’s my land, where all my dear ones dwell
I have grown up, I have grown up/Like a birch by the lake

Yaa di yaa, yaa di yaa, yaa di yaa, yaa di yaa, yaa di yaa yaa…

To the sweet Finnish summer, to the sweet Finnish summer, I want to go!
To my own lands of sweet berries, to my own forest of sweet berries, I want to go!

Yaa di yaa, yaa di yaa, yaa di yaa, yaa di yaa, yaa di yaa yaa…

 

Heitän suruni / I’ll Throw Away My Sorrows
Lyrics: Traditional and Marjo Smolander/ Music: Marjo Smolander

I throw my sorrow into the hay, into the white water/Into a birch leaf ear, a swallow’s nest

I let it go, I let my sorrow go!
I let it go.
Let me go!

In my own country, I walk through the fields/I step down the stairs, and stand next to the wall

I cast off my sorrows, I cast off my sorrows
I cast off my sorrows, I cast off my sorrows

 

Vesi / Water
Lyrics: Marjo Smolander and Traditional from Senegal/Music: Marjo Smolander

(From the lyrics in Finnish and Wolof)
It rains in my mind, it rains, it rains
It rains in my mind, it rains, it rains

Water is the oldest ointment, it heals me, water is the oldest ointment
Water is the oldest ointment, it heals me, water is the oldest ointment

Lightning strikes and opens my mind

Mother Earth, give us water/Mother Earth, give us water
Mother Earth, give us water, Mother Earth
Mother Earth, give us water

Mother Earth, give us water/When I die I will pay you back
Mother Earth, give us water/When I die I will pay you back

 


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