Emmi Kujanpää: Nani

September 15, 2020

Forest of Dreams

Listening Post 270. Nani is a dreamscape of overlapping civilizations, emotions, epochs and realms, merged into songs as delightful to hear as they are stimulating to map. Start with Emmi Kujanpää’s sterling voice, soothing kantele (Finnish zither), rich compositions and her accompanying artists, including the chorus from Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vocal Academy. Add the cultures: Kujanpää grew up on Finnish traditional music and the ways and sounds of Karelia, the Russian-border region regarded as the purest source of Finnish heritage; she also fell in love with Bulgarian folk music and found its veneration of nature deepened her appreciation of her own roots. The album bears the name of Mother Goddess, symbolic ruler of the fourth civilization at its heart: Womankind. Through mythology and stark reality, with songs in Finnish, Karelian and Bulgarian, Nani explores the strength, joy, beauty, nostalgia, sorrow and sometimes violence that frame feminine existence. Languages and voices merge seamlessly in the a cappella Ogrejalo slantse – Vuota vuota (The Sun Is Shining – Wait, Wait), a reflection on the proximity of felicity and despair (video 1). Milenka is an enchanting wedding waltz, floating on trumpet and harmonium—with an image of threat (video 2); while the title track offers women the right to question Mother Goddess for abandoning her daughters on a troubled landscape (video 3). Valkean yön joiku (Yoik of a White Night) opens with kantele as the Karelian forest mourns the passing of the artist’s grandmother (video 4). And the frenetic Sirkus Savonia evokes woodland and city with a Balkan-brass pulse. Kujanpää is a graduate of Helsinki’s renowned Sibelius Academy—where she now teaches—and veteran of an array of ensembles and album projects, but Nani is her first solo venture. With its moving facets, revolving traditions, alluring and aching chants, themes as old as time and as current as #MeToo, it is a kaleidoscopic masterpiece. (Nordic Notes)

Emmi Kujanpää: Nani
Emmi Kujanpää: Vocals, 11- and 40-string kantele, jewelry percussions 

Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vocal Academy: Dora Hristova (choir conducting, bells), Mirela Asenova, Violeta Marinova, Stanislava Bobeva, Elizabet Janeva, Lubomira Pavlova, Maria Krusteva, Polina Paunova, Boryana Vasileva, Maria Georga, Radostina Nikolova, Elichka Krastanova
Eero Grundström: Harmonium, vocals
Jarkko Niemelä: Trumpet, vocals
Sauli Heikkilä: Tuvan throat singing, morin khuur (Mongolian horsehead fiddle)


Ogrejalo slantse (Огреяло слънце) – Vuota vuota / The Sun Is Shining – Wait, Wait
Lyrics & music: Emmi Kujanpää
Album note: A young girl cries because she doesn’t have a groom. A bird asks why she is crying since she has a flower behind her ear, a sign that she is engaged.

(From the lyrics in Bulgarian and Finnish)
The sun is shining, a mother is picking herbs for her daughter

The young girl is sitting and cying to her mother: Why I don’t have a lover?

Wait, wait my sparrow, your love will arrive”

A bird is singing to the girl: A shephard is walking in the forest, amid the aroma of basilicul
Beautiful Jana, why are you sitting and crying, you already have a bouquet of flowers behind your ear.

“Wait, wait my sparrow, your love will arrive”

The sun is shining, a mother is picking herbs for her daughter
The young girl is sitting and cying to her mother: Why I don’t have a lover?


Lyrics & music: Emmi Kujanpää

(From the Finnish lyrics)
Milenka, maiden with a heart of gold, walks in the moonlight in her wedding dress
In the night sky, a dove declares, “Tomorrow you will wear a veil on your forehead”
She finds her groom in the ocean and he whisks the shining bride away into a dance
The waves sing an enchanting waltz: ”An amber necklace chokes your neck”
She comes back with reeds in her hair
Milenka, maiden with a heart of gold, snow-white bird on her wedding day.


Lyrics & music: Emmi Kujanpää

(From the lyrics in Bulgarian and Finnish)
Why are you crying?
What are you shouting?
What do you need?
What are you longing for?
Sweet girl, “Hear me Nani”
What are you singing?
What are you whispering?
Sweet girl: “Hear me Nani
“Why did you leave your beautiful ducks to freeze on the ice?”
Old mother, sweet mother
My heart is like a flame, Nani
Sweet girl, “Hear me, Nani”


Valkean yön joiku – Yoik of a White Night
Lyrics & music: Emmi Kujanpää
Album notes: The song is dedicated to the artist’s grandmother, who died in May 2016 when all was in bloom.

(From the Karelian lyrics)
The white maple trees and the birches were mourning on the night she died
Like a bird she flew over a white blooming forest
And the holy rowans and the bird cherry flowers guarded her way





  1. Randall Miller

    Ethereal with deep roots in the land
    Enchanting harmonies
    Bravissimo! Oikein hyvä !

    • atigay

      Kiitos, Randy! Glad you liked it.


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