Abbreviated version of Marjo Smolander’s biography: Born in the smallest village in Finland’s North Karelia region, she made the Sahara her second home and had to pull strings to get where she is today. Expanded story: It was in her fortunate village, Rääkkylä, that Värttinä, Finland’s most important folk band, formed in 1983; in the local music boom that ensued, young Marjo studied voice and … More Marjo Smolander: Cosmologies
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 a 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 … More Emmi Kujanpää: Nani
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 … More Zäpämmät: Äiti Maa
Based in Avignon, the women of La Mòssa are polyphonic and polyglot; they have varied music backgrounds (jazz, folk, rock, roots), they tell stories old and recent, true-to-life, fanciful and surreal, describing marriage and courtship, evoking wars, witches and mermaids. There’s an elegant coherence to it all, as if they carry a world of lore in a small purse—labeled “roads women have traveled” and closed with a clasp of attitude. What binds all the facets … More La Mòssa: a moss’!
Tuuletar’s debut album introduced vocal folk hop, a performance style of a cappella harmony, beatboxing, gesture and movement that filtered the natural world through Finnish mythology. Listening to Rajatila (Borderline), the group’s second album, is—for want of a better analogy—akin to reading Ulysses: It’s experimental, challenging, brilliant, but instead of the tranquil … More Tuuletar: Rajatila/Borderline
Step away from the urgent world and into the dazzling universe of Gryningsland (Daybreak), by the Swedish-Finnish trio Folk’Avant. Anna Wikenius, Maija Kauhanen and Anna Rubinsztein—who met at Stockholm’s Royal College of Music—call their self-composed songs “experimental Nordic folk,” and they produce a sound that’s both tight (three voices, two instruments) and spacious. Drift on leisurely opening movements that merge into symphonic soundscapes, relish the strings and savor the … More Folk’Avant: Gryningsland
Nature plays music for those who listen. In addition to the unique performance style that has earned them well deserved laurels, the women of the a cappella quartet Tuuletar listen carefully—to the earth, to the modern urban soundscape and to their own inner voices, all of which contribute their “vocal folk hop,” based on Finnish mythology but skipping across musical borders. The group’s name comes from the goddess of wind and … More Tuuletar: Tules maas vedes taivaal
The range of human emotion stays largely the same, even in physical landscapes that are poles apart. So perhaps the mystery of Finnish tango lies less in how it flourishes in subarctic ground than in the eternal shadow of passion. One indicator of how rooted the century-old Argentine import is in Finnish culture is the exquisite sound of Tango-Orkesteri Unto—six virtuoso musicians with parallel careers in folk, jazz, classical and theater music … More Tango-Orkesteri Unto: Dark Wings of the Night