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Hannu Saha
Mahla (Sap)
Institute of Folk Music

cd cover The cordophone has been played for thousands of years in Finland, evolving considerably over the last two centuries. Six of its performance configurations appear in this varied sampler of original compositions and arrangements of traditional tunes. Each kantele credit differs in either the total number of strings used (5, 15 or 36), the string material (metal or horsehair), or the playing technique applied (plucked or bowed). Hannu Saha's many colors of the kantele make this an especially complete encounter with the spirit of contemporary Finnish folk life, where olden takes its place liberally with modern. Arrayed around him in this substantial but not overdone production are a diverse group of instrumentalists and vocalists. String quartet, oboe, nyckelharpa, accordion and harmonica, add supplementary acoustic texture to the delicate palette of kanteles, but electrified bouzouki, fiddle, guitar and bass are also plugged into the scenery, sometimes for cadenzas, at others for atmospheric enhancement or foundation.

Saha himself displays everything from traditional solo improvisations to new textural roles for the kantele amidst the different musical idioms chosen. The set is chiefly instrumental with four songs interspersed, including Sibelius' "Finlandia" hymn. The idioms comprise unadorned folk to popular jazz and mildly spacier derivations of each. Most memorable here is the vital, uncomfortable beauty of the title song and its erotic whisper vocal effects that evoke the irresistible forces of desire, as embodied in the sap metaphor. Least memorable is the thinly recorded jazz funk drum kit in "Parre Henke." Urban clinker aside, there is much here to prove the love Saha and his compatriots have for topics like the "Riverside Grove," "Cow Dance," or the "Song of a Mating Bird." - Steve Taylor

CD available at CDRoots

"Cow dance" and "Song of a mating bird"
Traditional / Hannu Saha
©2000 Folk Music Institute
used by permission

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