In Finnish (and other Nordic languages) we have this great word pelimanni. It means fiddler, not a person who plays the fiddle, but traditional musician or folk musician. I love the word and very much relate to it, for me it's also a state of mind and lifestyle. That's why this whole blog is also called Pelimannilifestyle.
Summer is traditionally the golden era of the pelimannilifestyle. All the work you've done alone during the year, office hours and practicing suddenly turns into real life. You get to visit many festivals, play gigs, jam, dance and meet old and new friends and that my friends, is the best!
This summer I get to visit festivals in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway – a whole Nordic tour wohoo! Also I'm going to teach at a folk music course in Durham in UK, looking forward to that! I was an exchange student at Newcastle University during the year 2013-2014 and had smashing time. I haven't been back since so it's about the time to feel the English trad scene again! Also as the super extra surprise bonus I'm going to play at Folk Azores in August. That's going to be exciting!
The festival season was opened a couple of weeks ago in Denmark where I was to play at the Belgian bagpiper Marieke Van Ransbeeck's concert. I jammed and danced and really felt that something started to move in my soul after the long and dark winter. Oh yes, I'm alive and music is the best! At the moment I'm at home enjoying the peaceful weeks before the crazy festival traveling starts. But I'm feeling the summer so much, like I was a bottle of champagne and summer was the bubbles in me, that suddenly no summer poem feels cliché and I want to play my accordion all the time, through the day and nite! I have a feeling that this summer will be amazingly amazing and it already is.
For the gigs this summer I'm especially looking forward to Kaustinen Folk Music Festival and ENKEL XL show at the main stage on Wednesday 10th July. We will have many guests starring the show and I've got a feeling it might be hard not to be touched of all the friends standing next to me on the stage. Musik over Præstø Fjord will be nice as well. It is such a cozy festival and I'm looking forward to play there with ENKEL!
Here you can see which festivals I'm going to take part this summer. Come and say hi if you're around!
L E I J A 'S F E S T I V A L S U M M E R 2 0 1 9
21/6 Seurasaaren juhannusvalkeat (ENKEL)
4-7/7 Førdefestivalen, Norja (Floating Sofa Quartet)
8/-14/7 Kaustinen Folk Music Festival (ENKEL, Alavuden kaksiriviset, Sibelius-Akatemian nuorisokoulutuksen yhtye Nirso)
20/7 Folkrot, Ruotsi (Floating Sofa Quartet)
25-28/7 Korrö, Ruotsi (ENKEL)
3/8 Kvinnfolk, Ahvenanmaa (ENKEL)
8-11/8 Musik over Præstø Fjord, Tanska (ENKEL)
X-X/8 Folk Azores
14/9 Godtfolk, Tanska (Floating Sofa Quartet)
As you can see from the schedule the blog might not be that active during the next couple of months but hey, we'll see on the road! Enjoy the summer wind on your little faces!
Last week we had the first ever Nordic Dance Helsinki Spring Party where we celebrated our first successful year! It was such a fantastic night. Everyone seemed happy and joyful, people talked with each other, danced and seemed to enjoy themselves. The music was beautiful, danceable and very special since you don't hear Ampron Prunni playing so many gigs these days and Topi Korhonen and Matias Tyni played their first ever gig as a mandolin duo. We as Nordic Dance Helsinki team were really happy that so many people turned up and seemed to enjoy the evening.
A B O U T N O R D I C D A N C E
Nordic Dance Helsinki is a folk dance club I've been arranging since last autumn with folk dancer Riina Hosio and folk musician and dancer Saana Kujala. At Nordic Dance I'm a musician and sometimes also teach dancing. I met Riina accidentally last spring and we found out we had the same dream: to have a place in Helsinki where people could dance folk dances in the social context regularly, with live music and without any pressure or commitments. Also we wanted to share the experience of social dancing based on Nordic traditional dances with as many people as possible. We both knew Saana shared our dream and instead of only dreaming we decided to act!
With Nordic Dance Helsinki we want to create interactive and social dancing culture that invites you to join even if you aren't familiar with Nordic folk dances. That's why we have always a workshop where we teach couple dances like waltz, schottish, polska etc. and also group dances that were originally danced in Finland around 17th hundreds – like ceilidh in Schottish or Irish culture or American style square dancing but with Finnish traditional elements! Our aim is to create the atmosphere so easy-going that everyone gets the feeling of dancing and music no matter how much they've danced before.
It's been a bit surprising for me to end up arranging such thing as Nordic Dance. I've learned to dance folk dances as a kid, by imitating adults and trying on the dance floor. But it's only lately I've realised I have that skill in me. And that I could actually use it to give other people some of that joy I myself have got by dancing at the festivals, getting to know people by asking them to dance or being one (or two as a couple) in the crowded and hot dance floor.
Lately I've also realised that I actually enjoy so much all the occasions where people do things together. Such things are for example watching ice hockey and celebrating the world championship by going out on the streets (Finnish people are very passionate about ice hockey) or going to rock festivals and being in the festival bubble wearing weird clothes and hugging everyone. Social folk dancing at its best gives me the same feeling and as I love both, being together in a big crowd and folk dancing, why not to try to combine them!
At the Spring Party the whole year really got wrapped. So many people came and stayed for the whole night. We hired Ampron Prunni all the way from Kaustinen and Halsua to come and play. We chose the band because we think they really play traditional music straight from their hearts and that's what gives an extra magic to our first spring celebration. This is them playing for dance at Højbystævnet in Denmark, check them out!
The venue, an old villa in Helsinki, was very beautiful in the sun light with the old wallpapers and plants and the most perfect dance floor. The atmosphere was cheerful, warm and open, people danced and spoke with each other, no matter whether they knew each other before or not. The evening was relaxed and filled with dance and music but also there was a pinch of something very festive and formal, as there is when the schools end and summer is about to start. I got to play with Nordic Dance Helsinki Extended House Band and also danced with many people. BEST. Here's a video of us playing Kolomuunen, traditional tune from Kauhajoki, Finland, originally sung by Sofia Risku. The dance is called kolomoospolkka! See what a feeeeeeeling!!!!
This world definitely needs occasions, places and times for people to connect and do things together. That's what we try to make Nordic Dance Helsinki to be, besides a folk dance club. As the first year is over, it seems that we are getting there and we definitely want to get going and growing. Can't wait to start again in the autumn. Hope to see you on the dance floor then, starting on Tuesday the 10th of September!
I hope you have a good weekend and find something nice to do together. I'm going to find a jam session to play at! Thanks for reading, until next time!
Spring is my favourite time of the year. In May everyone seems to wake up and suddenly all kinds of spontaneous things like concerts, after-parties and jam session in the park start to happen. Everything is still under control because no one is on summer vacation yet. It's like secretly tasting the summer a bit before you are actually allowed to and that makes it so great.
I've also woken up after the winter. I want to sit in the parks and dance and jam all the time. Also I've got such amazing power boosts lately and after the last post about my boring and grey week at home, I want to share them with you!
H I R I N G A C A R A B R O A D
ENKEL was touring in Denmark last week. I hired us a car. I drove the car. At one point I realised how amazing I felt for the facts that I knew my way around somewhere that is not my home country, knew how to hire a car and had no problem to drive it, knew what's the best place for a pit stop and what's the best vegetarian option on the local fast food chain menu. I enjoy driving a car but I don't have one so I don't really drive often. To be honest I mostly get to drive when I'm out gigging abroad. My band mates have started to call The Immortal European Driver. Booooom!!!
D O I N G M Y T A X
I really didn't want to do it and I tried to avoid it. Up until I started and remembered I actually enjoy writing down numbers and counting. And that I know my way around it. Bye bye tax form, see you in a year. Booooom!
E A T I N G C A K E B E F O R E L U N C H
I really like a traditional Finnish cream cake. My sister had her birthday and I found some leftovers in my mom's fridge. And I ate it before lunch. Based on my empirical research timing is everything: the cake tastes best as the first thing in the morning or before lunch when you are hungry. One of the best things in being an adult is that you actually can use the chance to enjoy your cake the most.
G E T T I N G A F U N D I N G
I applied funding for Floating Sofa Quartet's Sofa Songs project a couple of months ago. We are going to make a live music video series with Nordic singers. Two weeks ago I was hungover drinking bad (weak) coffee at Norwegian hotel breakfast and I got an email that Nordic Culturepoint had decided to award our application a grant. I wasn't sitting and drinking my coffee anymore, I ran around and called my friends. Making music is great but being also able to write a funding application that gets through is freaking great!
R I D I N G M Y B I K E
I haven't been cycling that much for the last couple of years. I used to and it's great. Now I've managed to start and I've already rode almost 100 kilometers. It feels awesome!
I don't think these things would feel so great if I didn't do the for something else. Playing gigs and making music is great, so if I was just hiring and driving a car randomly I don't think I'd enjoy it this much. Then I'd rather take a train and read a good book to use the time well. But when it's for a good purpose, like getting to Danish countryside playing one of the best gigs ever, that's what makes it double great. Also it's amazing to realise how many normal you have learned to do that you didn't even know about! Like for example hiring a car. :)
Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear what has made you feel powerful lately! Comment and share, I'll be back. And go to the park enjoy the sun, it's great!
To actually write about what I promised, my work life, I need to write also about these weeks when I'm not touring or gigging but working from home and wondering what to do. So, here we go, I'm offering you a sneak peek to my week at home from day to day!
M O N D A Y
Monday was still a bank holiday so I ate a brunch out, played on my Nintendo Switch, took a nap and all that kind of stuff you do on a day off. Also I needed to fight a bit against my brain who really wanted to bring all the work tasks up that needed to be taken care of. I wrote them down and kept on playing Mario Kart.
T U E S D A Y
I started working on my to-do list as the very first thing in the morning. In the afternoon I bicycled to exercise and the weather was amazing! I could feel the summer on my face as I opened the bicycling season. It was perfect! In the evening I made schedules for the next year's teaching and played a bit on my accordion.
W E D N E S D A Y
I decided not to do any office stuff and have a music day. I browsed through some collections of old Finnish folk music melodies to find suitable tunes for my ideas for new ENKEL repertoire. I found nice tunes but not maybe exactly what I had in mind. So I have to keep on looking!
I have different ways to work with the traditional material. Often I have an idea of the piece I'd like to make. For example I can think of the atmosphere of the tune (sad/happy/light/heavy), length of the melody, arrangement I want to make (simple or more layered and complicated or I might have a reference from an folk music hit from 90's or something), tune type (polka, polska, mazurka or something else!) or then I have a topic in my mind it it comes to lyrics. Sometimes the suitable tune pops up from the depth of my memory and I find that the best way. It means it's kind of living tradition because I've already learned it from someone somewhere and usually those tunes also mean something to me already. If nothing pops up in my head, then I have to search from these folk music collections (in the picture) or even go to the archives. I have to admit I don't do that as often as I could, I need to get better in that!
Sometimes I also just happen find nice tunes from the books, usually as a side product of this kind of specific search. I keep those in my idea bank and when needed, they might end up to my or my bands' repertoires!
T H U R S D A Y
Thursday I did not feel fabulous. I had no motivation to work so I decided to do all the things I least wanted to do on my to-do list. I started with writing a funding application for a project I'm working at. In Finland we have a very good art funding system, both by the state and by individual foundations, so sometimes it's possible to get financial help to get your fabulous projects and work done! I did write the application and sent it out. I moved on to another application for the same project but slightly different topic. I also got that sent which felt like a miracle – they take so much effort always! After all this I realised I had forgotten to eat lunch and I was starving. That happens to me like always when I work from home. I mean, how hard can it be to keep your eating routines rolling? After eating I got a couple of more to-do tasks done so I decided to quit and go out to the town, just to move a bit more than between the stove and the kitchen table.
F R I D A Y
Today I had a lunch out with a friend (helps to remember to eat). I planed my teaching for this weekend and a bit more. I got some art on the wall of my music room – FINALLY, after two and half years living in this apartment.
T H E W E E K
It was a very average week at home. Not very fab but also not horrible. I got a lot done but didn't feel that great. Sometimes when you work alone from home it makes you not see the amount of all the work you do and you don't get the kick out of it. And then again some days you do and that's great. I love working from home and often don't want to leave the house if I have the possibility of staying. Sometimes it's just a bit boring not to share things with colleagues.
But instead it's great that I got to share it with you now, even if it was not the most memorable and fantastic week ever! Thanks for reading and taking part to my week at home!
Then again the next week will be something totally different. I'm heading out to Norway to tour with the Nordic harmonium project Marja-Liisa Orgelsuite! I'm looking so much forward to be on the road again!
Have a lovely weekend folks and don't you worry if you didn't have a fabulous week – neither did I! :*
PS. Besides the actual work I've done I've been trying to tidy the apartment and get the interior design of the music room finally done. That project is taking surprisingly much space in my head as well. But I'm getting there slowly, wish me luck! Pictures coming soooon!
First of all, thanks to everyone who's been reading and commenting on this blog already! It's been a surprise to get so much positive feedback, so thank you! I hope you've all had a lovely Easter holiday!
My April (also Easter) has been full of ENKEL! ENKEL is my trad girl power band. We played the first notes as a band in the summer of 2014 but we got the idea a year earlier. We were on a study trip with a big group and all the flights were delayed. We four ended up having coffee and playing music at the airport since there was nothing else to do in that chaos. Someone said that our relaxed traveling attitude would make the best touring band in the world and we took that as a goal from the very start. The repertoire of ENKEL is based on traditional Finnish melodies and songs and our own compositions in that style. We have wanted to really find interesting traditional material and therefore we have limited the amount of our own compositions a bit - otherwise we might get too productive on that area. :) We also wanted to be easily portable so we decided everyone can only play one instrument and it has to be small. So no harmonium or big 38-string kantele in this band!
In ENKEL I get to work with Miia Palomaki, Maija Pokela and Iida Savolainen. Miia plays the same kind of melodeon as I do and we've played together ever since we started in 1996. We come from the same small village and as you can count, this year we've played together for 23 years. Crazy, ha? In other occasions Miia plays also fiddle and she has the best surprising jokes rising up when you are least prepared. Maija plays 15-string kantele. She's amazing in remembering chords and arrangements and always keeping the mood up and shining! On viola we have Iida with whom I started the folk music studies the same year. Iida is crazy creative and can come up with everything from amazing fluffy outfits to beautiful posters and rich viola voices and singing harmonies. We all compose, bring material to the band and do all kinds of administrational stuff.
It sounds kind of impressive that in freelancer life you get to concentrate on one band for a month, doesn't it? Well, impressive it was. We got to do so many different things, in one month only. We played a couple of gigs, a school concert, accompanied two folk dance groups performing, made new music, had several video meetings about music video, sent and received thousands of Whatsapp-messages, made the music video and after all, had a wellness and spa day together as a band!
In Finland there are lots of performing folk dance groups. ENKEL have wanted from the very start of the band to get to co-operate with dancers also and that dream came true! We accompanied two folk dance groups at the dance event Tanssimylly. The other group TÃ¤rsky (in the picture!) had their choreography made to our music and I can't believe how touched I was to play. There was very warm and friendly atmosphere at the whole festival and people were really encouraging each other. You could see that both on and off stage, and I really had to concentrate not to cry too hard when playing. That's how touching it felt to be a part of a big moving group!
From Tanssimylly we moved on to something different - except that it had a lot of dancing as well. We shot a music video for my composition Lempi-ihmisille (Girl Gang Quadrille). It's directed by fabulous Saara Mantyla and it will be out in the Summer. It was AWESOME. We had a stylist and a make up artist and good food and friends helping us out. Help was really needed with those fake nails. I've never ever worn anything like that and I needed to be fed and someone needed to tie my shoe laces. It was a good way to practice how to ask help which is not my strength usually, I have to say.
âI can't wait to show the world the results!!! Meanwhile you can listen to the tune on Spotify and follow ENKEL on Facebook and Instagram. There will surely be more posted about the video!
I N O T H E R N E W S
my Easter has been peaceful and nice. After the video shooting day we went to spa for a whole day with the ENKEL babes. It was the most amazing idea one could have got. We got to relax together in the hot pools and saunas and didn't have to talk about work â the kind of time you need with your best friends also!
I also fixed my bike to be ready for the summer. Hope we'll spend some time together during the upcoming months! Yesterday I wore shorts outside for the first time this year (only for a little while!). If I could, I would only wear shorts always. I absolutely love them. Also I've been eating chocolate and changed the curtains to my working room, it's almost ready to be worked at!
I wish you all a happy rest of the Easter and sunny spring days! Hi until next time!
DEAR INTERNATIONAL PEOPLE,
Hi and welcome to read my blog about the life of a Finnish folk musician. I'm going to open my everyday life a bit and tell you what do I actually do for living and how does it feel. Of course I can only tell about myself and my days are obviously Leija-like, since no other folk musician lives the same life than me. Even if you travel with your band mates your days can turn out different. I feel very excited to start this! And I really appreciate comments, feedback and topic ideas, so please leave a comment here or email me whenever you feel like it! I'm going to write in Finnish and English so if you aren't up for Google Translating my Finnish stories, please click yourself here to the Blog in English page and you'll find something else! :)
So let's begin!
W H O A M I A N D W H A T D O I D O
My name is Leija and I'm a professional folk musician from Finland. At this point I usually get asked 'oh wow, can you make a living out of that?'. My answer, luckily enough, has been yes for now! I play melodeon (a diatonic accordion) and harmonium, a little bit mandolin and I sing as well. I play in several bands. The most active of them at the moment are the trad girl power band ENKEL and Finnish-Danish-Swedish Floating Sofa Quartet. My other bands are Haka (almost 15 years of modern Finnish folk songs!), Sheehan/Lautamaja (combining Irish and Nordic traditions on two different kind of melodeon) and the acoustic folk-punk combo VIHREET-HOMOT. Sometimes I still play with the group I learned to play accordion with, Alavuden Kaksiriviset (The Melodeons of Alavus). I'm also part of a Nordic harmonium project called Marja-Liisa Orgelsuite (NO-SE-FI) lead by a Norwegian composer Mariann Torset.
Besides the bands and different projects I also perform solo. I have a repertoire of modern folk songs, partly written myself and partly traditional. At the moment I perform solo if needed but my dream is to get back working on songwriting and my solo material. You will probably hear more about that – in good and bad!
I absolutely love performing and maybe that's why I ended up being a musician. Besides gigging I also teach different kind of things attached to folk music and dance. At the moment I'm leading a band of youngsters (oh my, they're so good!) and a couple of instrument students. I also give workshops and short courses. Lately there has been workshops like Finnish 3-beat tunes, Arranging folk music and Dancing Finnish polka. 8)
The latest passion of mine is social folk dancing. I mean, dancing as my passion is not new. But working with it and trying to spread it out there is! I learned to dance as a kid. As I wrote, I learned to play the accordion in this big accordion group and we performed a lot. Usually there was not much to do for children at the night time at festivals and the dance floor was maybe the only place where underaged people could go. So I went and learned all the different folk dances by imitating what the adults did. Nowadays I never miss a good change to dance! To create more of those changes I united with two wonderful human beings, Saana Kujala and Riina Hosio, and started Nordic Dance Helsinki a year ago! It's a regular dance club for social dancing that's based on Nordic traditional dances. By social folk dancing I mean spending time and connecting with people by dancing. So it's not a performance but communication and being in the moment. Our first ever spring season just ended and I'm looking so much forward to get rolling again in the autumn. In a year our crowd grew four times bigger than it was in the beginning and it's been so nice to see people learning and enjoying to dance. And also to play for them dancing!
U N O F F I C I A L F A C T S
I like books, mostly novels. This year I'm trying to read a book per week. So far I'm following the schedule!
I absolutely love Finnish spring nights. Especially around Easter time when you start to see the ground under snow and ice, sunsets are amazing but it's still a bit chilly.
My favourite tune at the moment is Buster Keatonin valssi.
My secret hobby atm is to study Danish. In my head I think I can speak it quite well but unfortunately it doesn't come out at all. We'll see if I never manage to say a word!
T H A N K Y O U
for reading this first ever blog post up 'til the end! I'll write more soon. And if you have any questions, comments or even ideas for blog posts, please don't hesitate to comment or email me!
Until next time, enjoy the spring sun!