Kaivama CD Release Party featuring Arto J√§rvel√§ at the Cedar Cultural Center
Seeing Finland‚Äôs Arto J√§rvel√§ and Minnesota‚Äôs Kaivama perform together at The Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis Friday night made me feel downright happy. For a musical performance to be a success, happiness need not be either the intention or the result, but regardless, it‚Äôs a great bonus.
Arto J√§rvel√§ is a founding member of Finland‚Äôs best-known folk fiddle group JPP (originally J√§rvel√§n Pikkupelimannit, ‚Äúthe small fiddlers of J√§rvel√§‚ÄĚ). One of Finland‚Äôs premier folk musicians in his own right, J√§rvel√§ has appeared in concert in more than 30 countries around the world and has oft been called ‚Äúthe busiest man in Finnish folk music.‚ÄĚ ¬†(I hope you‚Äôll take the time to enjoy a few samples of J√§rvel√§‚Äôs music on his ReverbNation site.)
Friday night, J√§rvel√§ opened with ‚ÄúMaa on musta,‚ÄĚ a track from his most recent recording, Arto J√§rvel√§ plays fiddle Vol. 2, Cross-tuned, a 16-track album recorded in his hometown of Ulvila, Finland.¬† From his first song, I jotted the word ‚Äúmesmerizing‚ÄĚ in my notebook.¬† ‚ÄúMaa on musta,‚ÄĚ a ringdance from a collection of music compiled by Hasse Alatalo, was both haunting yet inviting. J√§rvel√§ had the room under his spell immediately.
Most songs in his set came from his new CD, a collection of songs all with open tunings, or scordatura (in the Italian). In his liner notes he explains ‚Äúevery tuning has a character of its own, and some tunes work better in open tunings.‚ÄĚ On the back of the song booklet, J√§rvel√§ even includes a key as to how each of the 4 fiddle strings is tuned for each song.
J√§rvel√§ picked up the tempo with a medley of ‚ÄúHanhen polska‚ÄĚ (Goose‚Äôs polska) and ‚ÄúStarc 21,‚ÄĚ and then ‚ÄúAlfred at Armhaala‚ÄĚ, the album‚Äôs opening track, a waltz, dedicated to Alfred Niemisto, a fiddler and fiddle builder from Southern Ostrobothnia in Finland. Niemesto built a viola d‚Äôamore in 1905 which J√§rvel√§ had the opportunity to play a few years ago, and a short clip he recorded from that instrument into his mobile phone inspired him to write this song.
Other songs in this segment were the bouncy and fast dance medley ‚ÄúPrissatka & Melkutus,‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúJarrupolska‚ÄĚ (Brakepolska), a song he wrote in the winter of 2010 inspired by the sound of the brakes on the Parikkala Inter City train.¬† Both those songs can be heard on his ReverbNation page.
J√§rvel√§ announced he was 10 days into a tour with Kaivama and ‚Äúit‚Äôs been a lot of fun.‚ÄĚ
Kaivama then joined him onstage and they performed a wedding march as a trio, before segueing effortlessly into songs from Kaivama‚Äôs record.
Kaivama, who bill themselves as ‚ÄúFinnish-American Excavators,‚ÄĚ say their name is based on the Finnish word ‚Äúkaiva,‚ÄĚ which means ‚Äúto dig.‚ÄĚ They are Sara Pajunen (fiddle) and Jonathan Rundman (guitar and pump organ), both of whom profess to be 75% Finnish. Early demos of their music have received radio play on YLE, Finland‚Äôs public broadcasting network.¬† Pajunen has degrees from the University of Minnesota as well as the Helsinki Conservatory in Finland. And multi-instrumentalist Rundman has garnered critical praise for his songwriting and performances across the United States and Europe. (See his recent solo album, Insomiaccomplishments.)
Before wrapping up the first half of the show, the three musicians played ‚ÄúJoutsen Polska‚ÄĚ (Swan Polska) from Kaivama‚Äôs brand new debut self-titled CD.
After a short intermission, Kaivama dug into more of their record including ‚ÄúSulo‚ÄĚ (which means ‚Äúgrace‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúcharm‚ÄĚ in Finnish), then Pajunen‚Äôs haunting ‚ÄúCross Country,‚ÄĚ a melancholic piece that while sad still conveys a strong sense of forward motion.¬† Pajunen and Rundman traded off songs with Rundman‚Äôs ‚ÄúEdina Speedtrap‚ÄĚ coming next.¬† ‚ÄúSpeedtrap‚ÄĚ has a surprising heavy metal influence (or at least attitude) towards the end even while remaining firmly a folk song.
Next was another Pajunen song, ‚ÄúNonstop‚ÄĚ (again, melancholic but spirited), then the ‚ÄúPirun polska‚ÄĚ, which Pajunen called ‚ÄúDevil‚Äôs polska.‚ÄĚ
J√§rvel√§ rejoined the musicians, this time on mandolin. This next segment of the show featured a polka from Turku, Finland (the country‚Äôs former capital), and then ‚ÄúHoppavalssi‚ÄĚ (Jump Waltz) a song J√§rvel√§ wrote with JPP for their 1999 album History.
The three musicians closed out the evening with one of my favorites, J√§rvel√§‚Äôs 1997 song R√łros, a song he wrote at √ėrland Airport in Norway.¬† I am convinced someone should write and produce a film just so this beautiful song can be the theme song.¬† Kaivama‚Äôs version of this song is absolutely gorgeous.
Kaivama go back out on Tour on June 24th across Michigan and eventually end up at several American Finnish festivals including FinnFest in San Diego August 11-14.¬† Jarvelo goes back to Finland, but will join Kaivama again on some of their Michigan tour dates.