Tag Archives: Music

Esa Pulliainen and his “Finnish” guitar sound

I’ve been playing guitar my whole life and our home was full of great music. I recall the time when I heard Topi Sorsakoski & Agent’s song “Kaksi Kitaraa” coming from our stereo system and it hit me like ten thousand volts. I thought to myself: “What’s this? What’s that guitar sound? Why does it sound so beautiful? Why it sounds so melancholy and sad?” That was time before internet so I looked the CD cover and saw that it was and old folk song but Agent’s guitarist Esa Pullianen had re-arranged it. I wrote this blog about Esa Pullainen’s guitar sound because in my opinion it defines what’s “Finnishness”. And of course the band “Agents” is topical subject today and they released magnificent record with Ville Valo two weeks ago.

So, why Esa Pulliainen’s guitar sound defines what “Finnishness” is to me? Firstly, his guitar (Fender Stratocaster) is blue and it has Finland’s flag-sticker on it. Secondly, you just have to listen how his guitar weeps, moans and groans so insolently. Mr. Pulliainen uses his Fender Stratocaster as a brush and paints beautiful landscapes with his signature sound. And while he lets his guitar sing, you can imagine all the beautiful things about Finland: forests, lakes, fields, mountains, winter, summer, spring, autumn, etc. But it also sounds sad and melancholy at the same time. And that’s why when I think about “Finnishness” I think about Esa Pulliainen and his guitar sound. It’s simultaneously so beautiful and so melancholy. Just like Finns.

Funny fact: I have many friends who aren’t Finnish and when they ask me how to describe Finland to them, I play some songs by Topi Sorsakoski & Agents to them. Every time I get the same response: “What’s this? This sounds so beautiful and so melancholy at the same time. Wow!”

Esa Pulliainen and his famous Fender Stratocaster

Finnishness

Finnishness means actions and thoughts what Finnish people have daily. We all are individuals who have their own experiences about Finnishness but still together we create a nation which has common features. Everyone shapes and maintains Finnishness by their own personal way.

Finnish language

One unique characteristic of Finnishness is a Finnish language, which is divided in various regional dialects. Finnish is spoken by about 4.9 million people, most of whom reside in Finland. Most of the population of Finland speak Finnish as their first language. Finnish people are always so proud of their own language and how it have kept the position through the history.

Finnish language has a very rich nature related vocabulary and for example it has dozens of different words for snow. Finnish language does not make difference between genders. The most noticeable is the gender-neutral hän which means both ‘he’ and ‘she’.

Finnish uses compound words, meaning words which are combined into one rather than written out individually. This has given birth to one of the longest words in the world at 61 letters, lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas, which means ‘airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student’. The word is used basically never.

 

Finnish music

Finnish music can be roughly divided into the categories of folk music, classical music and popular music. Every Finland’s Independence Day I listen to Finlandia composition by Jean Sibelius who is the most famous composer from Finland. The compositions of Sibelius describe Finnish mentality and psyche so well.

The folk music of Finland is typically influenced by Karelian traditional tunes. Also, many Finnish traditional stories are from that area and they have been passed on through several generations by singing the stories. The music has always brought the people together, maybe that is the reason why we like to sing karaoke so much!

Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto’s Finnish folk song encore in London:

 

Four seasons

Although I do not like hot weather in summer and the darkness drives me crazy in every winter, but at the same time I value the variety of Finnish nature and its annual cycle. Every season has its own specialities and possibilities. The annual cycle has also shaped people. Winter is a time for calm down and rest up before a new starting year. There is nothing better than put on woollen socks and sweater, light the candles and enjoy the calmness. In summer the life is totally opposite. People are full of energy, because nights are bright and there is plenty of light.

 

My Finland is something more!

I love today’s Finland.

ART

Finns truly appreciate arts and it shows up more and more every day! So that is making me really happy! We want to be something more than stereotypical shy people. We have so many young people who have passion, enthusiasm, knowledge and ideas for the world to share! We want to change the stereotypes of Finnish people. We are so much more than you think we are. (But still we are Finns so don’t expect too much or we get uncomfortable.)

You would be amazed how talented people you can find in Finland. Today’s Finnish music is more vivid than ever. We have a lot of new young artists and a lot of humble underground music bands. There is music for everyone at the moment and in big cities like Tampere, Turku and Helsinki there is gigs every week! I think the best thing is to see a lot of people of different ages on those gigs enjoying music together. We also have a lot of amateur theatre activities and free artists. We are humble people so we don’t make a big number of ourselves but nowadays there is new types of possibilities to show our skills. Example we have a large scale of festivals in summer such as Flow Festival which is an urban music and arts festival in Helsinki and Ruisrock which is the second oldest rock festival in Europe and it is awesome how big number ART is there today!

Flow Festival / Samuli Pentti

NATURE

Finns take really good care of nature. I have lived most of my life in a middle of nowhere. I have grown playing outside in forests building a castle and playing a Tarzan etc. Nature means everything to Finns. I love to go out to the forest to breathe and think. It doesn’t matter what town you are in, you can always find forest near you. To me Finland is a place where you can enjoy nature whenever.

@Ruissalo, Finland  ©Riikka Lamminpää

When I got older I moved to a big city to study and I have grown to love city life almost as much as I love being alone in forest and near the sea. In Finland city life is lively and most of the time people seem to be on a hurry. (We are hardworking people.) Luckily, we have the best solution for urgency. We have parks all over the town where your mind can calm down for a moment. It works the same way as a hug works for an angry child.

IT FEELS

Our culture is more like a feeling. Example we have a lots of bad tasting tradition foods but the taste doesn’t matter because it means something to us. You know, it is something more than just a bowl of mämmi. It’s OUR mämmi. (I’m sorry if you like mämmi.) Just like our Christmas songs are terribly sad but we still want to listen the songs every year or it doesn’t feel like Christmas. And this is important! If someone from Finland achieve something internationally it is a moment of victory for all of us and then you will find us going crazy at TORI (market). And if you ever dear to insult our culture WE will secretly hate you together.

2011 Ice Hockey World Championship celebration in Helsinki
Picture: YLE

Auf Wiedersehen mein liebes Finnland!

Right now I am sitting in a train from Rovaniemi to Helsinki, with a heavy suitcase on the seat next to mine.  Having spent a wonderful winter break at my sweet home in Lapland, I head to Germany with a lot of mixed thoughts and feelings. I am surely more excited I’ve ever been in my life before. Living and studying in Germany has belonged to my dreams since my childhood, and I’ve somehow always felt at home when I have been there before. However, Leipzig is a new town to me, and five months is the longest time I’ve ever been out of Finland. And I am gonna miss things, A Lot of things! This morning I had to say farewell to my parents and grandma, who all are very dear people to me. And all the sweet people that I have  had a wonderful privilege to work and spend time with in Tampere, I so hated to say good bye to them! But life goes on, and I am going to carry the good memories with me. And after all, its only five months till I’ll be back to Finland.

All right, lets cut this melancholy that hits you sooo easy when you’re a Finn, and give a great big hand for the future!  In case you who are reading this (and thank you indeed for your time! 🙂 ) didn’t know, I am a cellist, and I’m heading to one of the greatest music cities in Europe! Leipzig has been home for names such as Johan Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann, from which the latter two have been teachers in the same school I’m going to study at! One of the prides of Leipzig is also the city’s orchestra, called Gewandhaus orchester. It is one of the top orchestras in the whole wide world, and I cant wait to get to listen to it! I am also very very grateful for having a chance to meet, play chamber music and make friends with new people that I am gonna meet there, it’ll be great for sure!

I understood that in this first blog I should share my views about Finland and being a Finn. Because Finns never talk more than what is necessary, I am going to cut straight to the point in focus. So here’s what follows, no more nonsense. Please fasten your seat belt. Are you ready? All right, here we go. I’m just kidding. And being a bad Finn. 😉  Last Christmas me and my sister gave to our grandparents as a gift a book called Finnish nightmaresIt’s a book about the situations Finnish people stereotypically consider  as awkward. You’ve probably heard about it already, such a hilarious book! I sure can identify some of the stereotypes in my own personality as well, but on the other hand, if you see only the awkward situations, you’re, in my mind, missing the main point of a real Finnish character. To find that, you need to focus on the main character of the book. He is called Matti.

Matti

When you investigate how Matti interacts in the situations, you will probably notice that he is in fact quite humble, kind and caring person. Those are all good characters right? Of course a Finn might want to have little more own privacy than a person from Brazil, for Example. Or take a step backwards when a person from Paris comes to have a chat with him or her. But if you think that five and a half million people are spread over the area roughly as large as Germany with almost 90 million citizens, you’ll realize that that is how its ment to be. We have a lot of room per person here, lets be proud of that!

Furthermore, what I didn’t find from the Finnish nightmares, was the proudness and pure solidarity that lies deep in side of a Finnish person. Although in Finland it is very honorable to succeed in life personally, we are still people who can cooperate with eachother very, very well indeed. When Finns get together, what is needed to be done will get done in the fast and well planned way. (That can also be related to the hubleness and being caring, as a Finn doesn’t wan’t to waste the coworkers´ time by being inefficient. 😉 ) The proudness of a Finn can be seen in the endeavor for always doing everything well and right. When a Finnish person fails or sees something wrong in his or her character, that person is going to work hard to make things right in that area, to meet the high standards one has set to him or her.

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So, tomorrow when I leave Finland, I will step into the plane as a Finn, proud of myself and proud of my country. I will probably be the last one to step out of the plane, as I will be carrying my cello with me in the cabin. ( And because there might not be many other Finns who want to be polite and give a way for everyone else first. 😉 ) I will miss the nature, snow, midnight sun, and good tasting water from a tab. More than that I will miss all the lovely people here in Finland, and the rich language that we have the privilege to use with each other. But although missing things, I am so much looking forward to the coming spring. Leipzig, you better brace yourself cause here I come!