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Finland is the home of magic and mysteries. The Finno-Ugric traditions, the Shamanism as well as the wonderful world of Kalevala capture people who visit this country and can feel that a kind of ancient force is still alive here. The land of this country, filled with endless pine forests, meadows and rivers, can be visited not only by a real journey but also it is often enough if we dive into Finnish folk music. If we do it, we can get to know the heroes of Kalevala, the word of Shamans, and many forms of magic. Besides, we learn how simple people lived close to the nature and how they expressed their happiness, sadness, feasts and deep mourning. Nowadays, when the old world seems to be disappearing, it is good to see a bastion of old ways, which resists against the winds of the new times. Therefore, more and more people tend to discover this unique heritage.

This country has given so many great music bands to the world, for example, Nightwish, Finntroll and Tarja Turunen are worth mentioning. However, it is also worthwhile to mention Värttinä, who has been performing at stages of the world and music festivals with their unique repertoire for almost 35 years.

Photography:© Seppi Samuli/Värttinä

In 2000 Ilmatar introduced a renewed and more polished and diverse sound. Despite the rotation of the band members, Värttinä became one of the biggest acts of World Music. The finest examples of this era are the intimate Iki (2003) and their last album, Viena, which returns to their folk music roots.

The core of the band is the female vocal trio, whose singing techniques and harmonies represent the old Finnish folk sound properly. However, at the same time, due to unique melody lines, we can feel that Värttinä can be easily called as a crossover band because they use many other ethnic elements in their music. The razor-sharp vocal parts can be ethereal and dynamic so we can feel both enchanted and excited.

The instrumentation can be simple for the first sight, we can hear several types of stringed instruments, accordion, double bass and fiddle. By the way, the extraordinary rhythm, the well-crafted clear sound and the influences of other worlds we can feel that the songs are much more than ethno-inspired ones. Despite of it, we can feel the ancientness of the folk music and the variety of crossover ways. For instance, we can experience that there are several songs which sound Japanese, the others are like Hungarian folk music, but Celtic, Slavonic, Arabic and Klezmer influences can be found as well. On the other hand, ancient Finno-Ugric characterisations are clearly captured.

What about the lyrics? If we want to get a deeper picture of the band, it is worth studying them because old magical texts, the episodes of Kalevala and other epic works, laments, impish, near feminist says can be found. Moreover, the old magical landscapes can be recognised in these songs and we instantly become the part of this unique world.

During their long career, everything happened to Värttina, which can happen to a music band; enormous success, finding new horizons, and silent periods can be found in the history of the band. Despite the line-up changes, the group could re-invent themselves and move towards new directions from album to album in the highest artistic levels. In the vocal trio, there is only one original member from the beginnings, she is the high-pitched-voiced Mari Kaasinen. The ethereal beauty, Susan Aho, represents the more crossover side of the group and she has become one of the pillar of the trio since 1997. Last but not least, here is Karoliina Kantelinen, who sings the low parts. Not only has she sung with Värttina since 2013 but also she is a ethnographic specialised for different ethnic vocal techniques, which make the sound more interesting and richer.

Photography:© Seppi Samuli/Värttinä

The band also made success with their collaborations; they have worked with several big names, Maggie Reilly and Hector Zazou, to name a few. They also collaborated with the Indian composer A.R. Rahman to work on an epic musical piece, The Lord of the Rings. It was shown in Toronto and London in 2007 and despite the mixed reviews it comes up to the greatness of Tolkien.

The band, which were awarded many times, have massive fanbase in Hungary, where they have performed many times since the 1990s.  Beside their visits to the Sziget Festival, they played at Művészetek Palotája, moreover, they were one of the main acts who performed before some ten thousand people during the eve of Hungary’s join to the European Union.

Zoltán Kodály, the famous Hungarian composer and ethnomusicologist said that „Deeper musical culture evolved only at places where its base was singing. The instrument belongs to the minority, the favoured ones. The human voice, the free musical instrument, accessible for everyone, can only be the general, fertile soil of the musical culture, which covers many.”

Värttinä is one of these special and authentic ways, with whose help we can get to know the hidden dimensions of vocal music and can get in touch with the Ancient Source. Despite the changing trends it is always available; our only task is to find the pathway which leads us there. Nowadays when flat music is trendy, it is worth diving deeper to find the true treasures in music. This band can be a proper way, especially if we want to fill the road with unconventional colours and forms.