Finnish Music Traditions: From Folk to Rap!

Episode 18

A short introduction to traditional Finnish music from Piia & Mika, including Iskelmä, Choral, Rautalanka, Folk… and Rap.

Guests: Piia Kleemola-Välimäki and Mika Virkkala, from the Sibelius Academy

Download MP3: Finnish Music Traditions: From Folk To Rap!Download MP3:

Show Notes

In this episode, you will her Piia and Mika talk about several different styles of Finnish music, as well as some more recent trends, many of which have a strong following in the South Ostrobothnia region. Firstly, Iskelma and Schlager music, and it took quite a while for me to begin to appreciate the difference between these two – you decide for yourself whether I completely understood or not!

We then discussed Rautalanka, a style of guitar playing based on classic American rock’n’roll, imagine The Shadows or the surf guitar sound beloved of Quentin Tarantino. You’ll also hear my ‘Dire Straits confession’! We then switch tack completely and talk about the popularity of choirs for both men, women and children, and how this has made it’s way onto the TV screens in Finland.

Finnish Rap also deserves a mention (what do you mean, you’ve never heard of Finnish Rap?!) You can hear us discuss how both Cheek and Elastinen (two Finnish rappers) have risen in popularity  in recent years. This leads us onto the subject of Finnish-language pop music and the impressive ticket sales for arena concerts and festivals in 2014!

Finally, we talk about the prominence of Folk music in this area, centred on the Kaustinen municipality (which features a fiddle on it’s coat of arms), where you can study folk music as well as attend the annual Kaustinen Folk Music Festival.

I thought it might also be useful to provide a few examples of the music mentioned in the podcast 🙂

Yölintu, Juha Tapio, Rauli Badding Somerjoki
Laila Kinnunen, Olavi Virta
The Sounds, Timo Jämsen & The Strangers, Onni Gideon
Seminaarimäen mieslaulajat, YL Male Voice Choir (Finnish: Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat)
Elastinen, Paleface, Cheek
Timo Väänänen, Arja Kastinen, Vilma Timonen Quartet, Kardemimmit
Melancholic, Finnish pop
Jenni Vartiainen, Jippu, Anna Puu, Laura Narhi
Hehkumo, 5/5, Bill Hota & the Pulvers, Piia Kleemola

YouTube & Spotify Playlists, featuring these artists, to illustrate the types of music we discussed in the podcast.

Finnish Musicians mentioned in this episode

Finnish Words in the Episode

  • Jatkokoulutus – Continuing education
  • Polska musiikki – Polska music. A family of music and dance forms shared by the Nordic countries. Normally a partner dance.
  • Seinäjoen Tangomarkkinnat – Tango dancing festival and singing competition held annually in Seinäjoki
  • Tango kuningas – Tango King
  • Tango kuningatar – Tango Queen
  • Provinssirock – Rock and pop music festival held in Seinäjoki each June
  • Vauhtiajot – Race & Rock festival held in Seinäjoki each July
  • Schlager – a style of popular music from Central and Northern Europe
    • For context think Abba, The Carpenters, Barry Manilow, Tony Christie, Engelbert Humperdink
  • Slaavilainen – Slavic
  • Iskelmä – The Finnish varient of Schlager
  • Vain Elämää – ‘Only Life’ TV Show where a group of musicians spend time in a summer cabin and perform each others songs
  • Nuorisoseuraliike – youth association movement
  • Lakeuden Risti – Alvar Aalto designed church in Seinäjoki (see episode 7)
  • Rautalanka – Lit. Steel wire. American rock & roll-influenced style of guitar music
  • Runolaula – Lit. poem song, an ancient folk song tradition.
  • Käyttyömusikki – Everyday music
  • Kantele –  instrument consisting of 5 to 38  strings stretched across a thin, flat body
  • Kalevala – Finnish National Epic story
  • Jatka – continue
  • Näppäri – A music education philosophy created by teacher Mauno Järvelä from Kaustinen
  • Ammattikorkeakoulu – University of Applied Sciences


Next episode – In Competition on the Frisbee Golf Course

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