Monday, September 21, 2009

Korpiklaani: Folk Rock From Finland

Finland has long fascinated me. It was actually fortunate enough to have separated from Russia in 1917, when Lenin let it go without a fight. I used to have a couple of Finnish stamps that were issued by the Czarist government that also had Russian writing on them. They actually survived a war with Stalin's Soviet Union in 1939 and 1940 by giving up some territory and control over foreign policy. During World War Two, they were allied with Nazi Germany yet insisted on maintaining complete civic equality for their Jewish population of about 1500 people.

After exploring a country's history, I always check out their music. While looking for Finnish music, I found a Finnish heavy metal group known as Korpiklaani that sings in Finnish. Their name translates into English as "Wilderness Clan". Although some of its repertoire reminds me of the German group "Rammstein", Korpiklaani distinguishes itself with a repertoire that includes a blend of Finnish folk music with heavy metal. A lot of videos celebrate the natural beauty of Finland. One song, "Keep on Galloping shows the band putting some kind of hex on a logger. At the end of the video, the logger seems to have morphed into a mellow tree lover.

The group has been through various incarnations under different names. Its leader Jonne Jarvela started out in 1993 heading a Sami folk music group known as Shamaani Duo. Then Jarvela relocated and changed the name of the group to Shaman. The group has had its current name since 2001. When Korpiklaani took its current name, the language of its music switched from Sami (spoken in the region known in the rest of the world as Lapland) to Finnish.

The band has achieved some popularity outside Finland. Its web site shows a tour which includes stops in Germany and in France. It seems to be building a fan base with time, even without singing in a more widely known language than Finnish. One of my favourite songs of theirs is "Running with Wolves" which is entirely instrumental. I have the same experience with Korpiklaani that I do with Led Zeppelin in that a lot of their music is too heavy for me. With Led Zeppelin, there were a few songs, most notably "Stairway to Heaven" that I liked and the rest that I ignored.

I am probably going to explore some more folk rock from Finland and the rest of Scandinavia, settling on music that showcases the beauty and uniqueness of local languages.

We are fortunate to live in times when the music of the world is only a few keystrokes away from our computer screens. The music of the world is ours for the asking on you tube and elsewhere. What a great time to be alive! I hope you enjoy the selection.

Korpiklaani "Metsamies"

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