Venla Ilona Blom opened the Tuuletar workshop on the Moreton Bay Stage with, “This is our first time in Australia. WOMADelaide you have stolen our hearts.”
And the feeling was very mutual. The Monday workshop crowd was there to hear more from this Finnish quartet which had impressed them with an awesome concert on Sunday featuring their Vocal Folk Hop. This musical style that they take credit for, blends Hip Hop Beat Boxing with Finnish a capella folk music.
The results are sensational. They create the sounds of nature and the wide open Finnish landscape and take you with them on a journey through Finland and the lands of the Sami reindeer herders of Karelia. The Sami reindeer herders from near the Arctic Circle have their own distinctive yoik or call that their reindeer recognizes. It is so good to see the culture of these people who traditionally have been oppressed being brought to the stage of a WOMADelaide Festival. I first heard about the Sami people from a 2016 film, Sami Blood in which a reindeer breeding girl loses her yoik as she chooses to change her identity, to escape her family and tradition, in order to avoid racism and to get ahead in “mainstream society.”
Tuuletar take their work to mainstream schools in Finland as Blom, Sini Kuskelainen, Johanna Kyykoski and Piia Sailynoja give the epic Finnish poem, the Kalevala the beat box and hip-hop treatment to bring back a love for traditional literature. The beauty of these four wonderfully energetic and passionate ladies is that for them tradition isn’t dry and academic; it is so much alive and fun.
The audience has fun learning the herd calling or kulning that the sheep and goat herders use, and then watch Tuuletar turn these sounds into song. They have a wonderful ability to capture the sounds of the birds, the animals, and the landscape in their tremendously evocative creations.
Venla Ilona Blom explains that Finnish is a very percussive language full of snappy sounds and hard consonants which lends itself to beat boxing. And the beats and rhythm are strong as Tuuletar give a traditional Finnish polka the beat box treatment and get the crowd up and dancing along with them.
They do sumptuously layered harmonies too with voices that come straight from the Finnish soul, a quality that the producers of The Game of Thrones recognized when they asked Tuuletar to use their songs in the series.
You realize just how meticulously layered their compositions are when they deconstructed one of the stand out songs from the Sunday concert, Kohma during the workshop. Layers of vocal rhythm and harmony. No instruments – just voice for the concert and the workshop; and the results are so rich. Ambient at times and driving when the beat requires.
Time and time again WOMADelaide have a knack of bringing out artists that so few Australians have heard of, who just steal the hearts of the audience.
In Finnish mythology Tuuletar is the Goddess of the Wind and we were blown away by the force of nature that these Finnish girls brought to their performance.
WOMAD Review By Bob Becker