Finland is notorious for its genre-breaking accordionists and Antti Paalanen has been part of this tribe for over a decade. Coming from South Ostrobothnia, he has won traditional pelimanni competitions, but now thrusts his instrument into contemporary genres of dance music. He brings a trance-like intensity to his solo work which fascinates audiences. He plays a regular diatonic accordion, but exploits it in an irregular way to create a wall of sound with percussion and throat singing. Paalanen has recorded three solo albums, contributed to many more and been involved in theatrical productions. He’s performed in several European countries.
Finnish folk supergroup, Frigg have been wowing audiences with their sheer virtuosity and sense of fun since 2002. The tight interplay of four violins, two of them from the legendary Järvela family of Kaustinen, is thrilling to behold. The band have done countless European concerts, seven North American tours and played at WOMADelaide in Australia and Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak. “Friggin’ marvellous” was the Songlines verdict on their eighth and latest album Frost on Fiddles.
Musicians: Tommi Asplund (violin), Tero Hyväluoma (violin), Alina Järvelä (violin), Esko Järvelä (violin), Juho Kivivuori (bass), Petri Prauda (mandolin), Anssi Salminen (guitar).
Hilja Grönfors Trio
Finnish Roma performer, Hilja Grönfors, has been singing since childhood. Her great interest in Roma culture has led her to spend thousands of kilometres on the road collecting Roma songs from different regions of Finland. She has performed these songs with her band Latšo Džinta, not only in Finland, but elsewhere in Europe. Her debut recording Phurane mirits (Global Music Centre) received the Emma Award for the best Finnish folk album of 2008, with two further albums since. She was nominated Master Folk Singer at Kaustinen Festival in 2005,
Musicians: Hilja Grönfors (vocals), Valtteri Bruun (guitar, mandolin), Kiureli Sammallahti (accordion)
A talented guitarist and folk musician from Joensuu, J-P Piirainen brings a new twist not only to Nordic folk music, but also to the world of guitar music. His playing is accomplished and original. Piirainen has collaborated with kantele player Maija Kauhanen and guitarist Petteri Sariola (both on his debut full-length album Twined), beatboxer Venla Ilona Blom and pianist Timo Alakotila. Reviewing the album in Finnish Music Quarterly, Fiona Talkington wrote “I was struck by the directness of his sound as well as the way he captured the essence of traditional music alongside his own compositional voice”.
Kyllikki is a contemporary folk dance performance by the Oulu-based JoJo – Oulu Dance Centre and Dance Theater Hämy, led by Hanna Poikela. The piece is about Finnish tradition and the female body. “Kyllikki is a minor character in Kalevala like most of the roles for women, but the three dancers weave a message about having the confidence to be what you want to be,” she says. A short extract from Kyllikki will be presented in the Ethnogala with the whole hour-long performance given on the Folklandia cruise.
Artists: Elssa Antikainen (dancer), Riina Hosio (dancer), Lotta Kyllönen-Jämsä (dancer), Tapio Miettinen (composer and musician), Hanna Poikela (choreography), Essi Jylhä (design).
Maria Kalaniemi and Timo Alakotila
Accordionist Maria Kalaniemi has recently been awarded the Finnish State Prize for Music. She was one of the first graduates from the Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department, where she now teaches. Her roots are in folk and classical music, but her achievements as composer and improvisor go far beyond these styles. She’s recorded with international supergroup Accordion Tribe and released many other solo and ensemble albums. Timo Alakotila, founder member of JPP, is one of Finland’s most versatile musicians and joins Maria Kalaniemi on two tunes tonight.
Musicians: Maria Kalaniemi (accordion), Timo Alakotila (piano)
Named after the Finnish goddess of the wind, the four young women of Tuuletar describe themselves as ‘vocal folk hop’. They thrillingly combine ancient Kalevala poetry with contemporary beatboxing and gorgeous harmonies. Experiencing their sonic journey, It’s hard to believe that everything is done with the human voice. Their performances are energetic and unpredictable with a superb vocal dexterity. They have been welcomed by audiences across Europe and as far away as India, Taiwan and Japan. “Their compositions and vocal skills are quite breathtaking,” said the London Evening Standard.
Musicians: Venla Ilona Blom, Sini Koskelainen, Johanna Kyykoski, Piia Säilynoja,
Tapani Kokko (The sculptor of Ethnogala 2019)
Tapani Kokko (1969-) is an Orimattila-based sculptor, originally from Pudasjärvi. The artist became known for his racy and powerful wooden sculptures when he was still studying. His sculptures often depict human figures, and they are full of humour and sexual references. Kokko carves his sculptures using a chain saw, then finishes them with bright colours, sometimes adding materials such as lace and ornamental fabrics to them. Kokko also makes three-dimensional paintings and sculptural reliefs. Tapani Kokko’s sculptures are being exhibited at this year’s Ethnogala. Kokko’s participation was arranged in collaboration with the Association for Rural Culture and Education.