Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Humppa – The New Punk?

Again, it is time for European countries (and some non-European ones, too) to choose a representative to Eurovision Song Contest. I saw two of the three shows that introduced Finland’s candidates. The last round, which I saw, was mostly surprisingly good stuff. I also finally heard Hulluna humpasta by Eläkeläiset, a song that now seems to be really popular. The performance was indeed great fun. A song about humppa, sauna and booze is something quite Finnish, definitely original and even controversial.

Eläkeläiset (meaning 'the Retired') have been around for 17 years but during most of that time they have been sort of an indie favourite of young people. Eläkeläiset play humppa music in humorous style and make humppa versions of popular songs. Humppa is considered to be a Finnish dance music form and it is mostly popular among middle-aged and elderly people. I believe humppa originates from somewhere else than Finland but I am really not much of an expert. A description for humppa might be a fast-paced version of polka.

Another strong candidate for ESC has been Kuunkuiskaajat ('Moonwhispers'), a duo formed by of Susan Aho and Johanna Virtanen both of whom are also members of Värttinä, a very famous Finnish ethno music group. Aho and Virtanen’s song is quite catchy and resembles last year’s winner Alexander Rybak’s style, although it is more Finno-Ugric than Slavic.

Which one would you choose?

Eläkeläiset: Hulluna humpasta
Kuunkuiskaajat: Työlki ellää

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Psychedelia, Jazz, Country… All in One

To be honest, it is extremely easy to make me listen to new bands, especially if you happen to be Markus Nordenstreng, alias Latebird (or any other musical person I look up to). At his annual New Year Bash at Telakka Latebird performed two Grateful Dead songs with his friends. I was there and listened carefully. Then, Latebird asked if there were any Deadheads present and encouraged others to check out the band as well. That is what I have been doing for some time now - not long, just a few days. But I really like this band already.

Grateful Dead is certainly a band that requires quite a lot of listening and research if you wish to know it thoroughly. A greatest hits album may not tell the whole truth… What makes Grateful Dead so interesting is the great variety of musical styles. When you have a band that performs psychedelic rock, blues, folk, country, jazz, and reggae, what else do you really need? Well… A straightforward, extremely catchy three-chord, three-minute song every now and then might work. But there are plenty of other bands that can do that. I think when you find yourself listening to 10-minute songs and enjoying every second, it must be a very good sign.

While Grateful Dead may not be musically the most compact or catchiness-pursuing band in the world, it also must be said that this obviously has never been the band’s goal. Grateful Dead is said to be the godfather of jam bands. There is a great deal of jamming in the band's music, indeed. I have never heard of a band that would have released this many live albums. On the other hand, if you are tired of 10-minute jamming songs or psychedelia, then just move to stuff like Friend of the Devil – suddenly the band turns into Flying Burrito Brothers. One of the first Grateful Dead songs that really grabbed my attention was The Music Never Stopped from 1975. It is easy-going, yet energetic and happy, melodic and harmonic. That is quite a lot already… Add saxophone magic and I’m taken.

Incredible creativity, incredible expertise of combining many different styles, magnificent improvisational skills... That requires talent, talent, talent, and a plenty of love towards music. That’s the way it should be. Don’t be surprised if I end up writing more about this band in the future. Now, I have a lot to do...

Grateful Dead - Official Website