MARQUETTE – The music of Finland is a music rooted in tradition. For many years, the major influences on Finnish music have been the church, the Kalevala (Finn mythology), and folk music. Yet only in the last 100 years has the music of Finland begun to stand on its own two feet and make its impact on world music.
Part of that may be due to the fact that formal musical training is relatively new to the country’s history; part may be due to the world’s slow assimilation of Finnish music into the international repertory. It also may be that popular Finnish music is coming into its own as those with Finnish heritage make a point pass it on to future generations.
One of the groups playing at Finn Grand Fest 2005 will be Sattuma, a Karelian father-daughter, father-son band of multi-instrumentalists who have gained steadily growing popularity in Europe and the United States with their Karelian-style folk music. Randy Seppala, co-chair of the entertainment committee at Finn Fest, believes that Sattuma encapsulates the spirit of the festival for this year.
“They really embody this festival; that heritage powers the future in that they are a multigenerational group,” Seppala said. “You look at the attendees of Finn Fest, and most of them are in their 70s and 80s and they may not be around in 10 years, you know? So we need to attract the younger generation.”
Ulla Suokko is an internationally-acclaimed flutist who will bring her meditative music to Finn Fest that she has shared in concerts in Finland, Japan, Mongolia, Uzbekistan and other countries. With degrees from the Sibelius Institute in Finland and Julliard in the United States, Suokko “draws insights and ideas from the greatest minds and talents of all times, reminding us all how to be in touch with our genius,” according to her Web site.
Another Finnish folk group that Seppala thinks carries on the musical tradition is Leikarit, hailing from the Helsinki district, which puts its own spin on traditional folk melodies, primarily heard from fiddler Martin Hellstrom. The ensemble band uses violin, clarinet, double bass and accordion to relay its sounds from the past to the audiences of today.
These and many other artists at Finn Fest will be carrying on the pride of the Finnish culture for their old fans and new listeners alike. Though Finn Fest honors the past, it always looks to the future, and living music is perhaps one of the most important ways to do that. As attendees are introduced to or reacquainted with their native music—and the native instrument, the kantele—they will be able to participate in the tradition that exists and shape it in the years to come.