Bike tours and minority initiatives

Versatile Finnish folk musicians encountering global and local threats

Two fascinating Finnish projects are presented at the first WOMEX to be held in Finland, 23th to 27th of October 2019. Duo Emilia Lajunen & Suvi Oskala plays in the official showcase series and is looking forward to broadening their bike tour activities, while four musicians from the Swedish-speaking minority combine forces to highlight this minority culture, not so well-known even in its own country.

Duo Emilia Lajunen & Suvi Oskala is well-known for its chamber folk music performed on two five string violins, but also for its zero carbon tours on bicycles. This summer they did two bike tours in Southern Finland, 15 concerts altogether, and next year they are hoping to cycle through parts of Europe with their music.

Duo Emilia Lajunen & Suvi Oskala play both own arrangements of Finnish archive treasures and compositions tailor-made especially for them.

For us, WOMEX is an important possibility to make our voice better heard, both in Finland and in the whole world. The ecological point of view is important in all we do. When performing live music, the players has to travel to their audience, but we should aim at travelling light, with less strain on nature.

The ensemble also collaborates with the Finnish company Tauko design, which makes their costumes of recycle fabrics.

An acoustic duo like this is rich in sound colours and arrangement possibilities, but also an ensemble which easily moves around. The fifth string on our violins makes our sound more full-bodied, but does not add any extra weight to our instrument cases!

If you are at Womex please come and listen the day showcase of Emilia and Suvi Fri 25th Oct at 1 PM. You can meet the artists after the concert or during the expo at Finnish stand.

Duo Emilia Lajunen & Suvi Oskala

One country, two languages

On the South & West Coasts of Finland lives a minority speaking Swedish as their mother tongue, roughly 5 % of the Finnish population. Culturally they share a lot with the other Nordic countries as well as with Finnish-speaking Finland, but they have developed a unique cultural mix of their own, embracing musical styles from medieval ballads to fiery fiddling. Every region has its own treasures, but one very famous is the minuet, which has survived on the West coast since the 18th century.

This Autumn four versatile musicians have joined forces under the title Seaside Sounds from Finland, striving towards greater knowledge of this minority tradition, internationally as well as in their home country and in the Nordic countries. One of the musicians is Maria Kalaniemi, one of Finland’s internationally best-known folk musicians. She was raised in a bilingual family and performs a lot of repertoire from the Finnish-Swedish tradition.

Being bilingual is an important part of my musicianship, tells Kalaniemi. The both languages live parallel lives within me. When I perform on international stages I use them both – the composition or the song itself decides the language. Being Finnish-Swedish is something very inspiring and nourishing for me. My mother tongue is Swedish, while my father spoke a dialect from the Savo region (in Central-Eastern Finland) – both have influenced and enriched my identity.

All four musicians within the project Seaside Sounds from Finland have their own profiles, but are also working closely together in different combinations. Apart from Kalaniemi the musicians include Marianne Maans, who has spent a life time working with the Finnish-Swedish tradition, Juulia Salonen, combining music and story telling and Désirée Saarela, a singer-songwriter with strong folk music colors.

Choosing to make music in a minority language, it is not so easy to get attention even in your own country. In world music circles though, small languages aren’t usually considered a problem.

Within the world music field, people don’t usually see singing in your mother tongue as a problem. I love listening to Cesaria Evora for instance – even if I don’t understand a word I can feel the emotion in her music. The music and culture of the Swedish-speaking minority deserves much more attention both in our own country and abroad, says Désirée Saarela, who came up with the original idea for this project.

Seaside Sounds from Finland is funded by the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland and coordinated by the Central Committee of Folk music and Folk dance.

If you are at Womex come and meet the Seaside Sound’s artists at their stand 3.26