Hiien Hivuksista: Jouhikko Music from Finland
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Hiien Hivuksista
Jouhikko Music from Finland
Folk Music Institute, Finland

cd cover This CD is the first Finnish recording devoted entirely to a fiddle-like instrument called the jouhikko. Produced in the summer of 2002 by a group of musicians who are affiliated with the Folk Music Institute in Kaustinen and the Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department, this is essential listening for anyone who cares about Nordic folk music. It gives an insight into the kind of traditional Finnish/Karelian music introduced to a larger audience by 'New Nordic' folk groups like Värttinä and Hedningarna.

The jouhikko, sometimes called a knee-fiddle, is a bowed instrument with a flat wooden body and 2 to 4 horse-hair strings. Its sound is earthy and dense, somewhat like a primitive viola.

On this CD, some of the wild, driving rhythms could have been lifted from Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" (which was inspired by a Russian folk tale from the same region on the Russian-Finnish border). Old tunes collected on early 20th century field recordings indicate that improvisation was an essential component of the jouhikko master's style. This group extends improvisation into new compositions and arrangements for duets, trios, and larger groups that occasionally add kantele, harmonium, or vocal parts. After hearing the expressive range of this 'primitive' instrument in the hands of thoughtful music-makers, it becomes clear that the jouhikko has been saved from the near-extinction it faced at the turn of the 20th century.

Musicians who participated on the CD project include Jouni Arjava (whose grandfather had been one of the few remaining traditional players to be documented), Lassi Logrén (fiddler for Finnish folk super-group Värttina), Piia Käppi, Tytti Metsän, Rouno Nieminen, Outi Pulkkisen, Karita Rajaniemen, Eero Turkan, and Patrick Weckman.

The beautifully illustrated 20-page CD Booklet, in Finnish and English, summarizes the history and development of the jouhikko in affectionate detail.

Recommended tracks include "Laulu nro 5 ja Ralli," dance tunes from the traditional repertoire, arranged for jouhikko sextet; "Väinämöisin soitto...," a beautiful vocal and instrumental ballad from the Kalevala; and Lassi Logrén's original solo, "Hitaasti, Hitaasti," pulling depth and color out of the instrument to illustrate its full expressive potential. - Patrice George

Available at cdRoots

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