From which city does the world’s northernmost flamenco singer come from? – She’s from Oulu in Finland! Anna Murtola is one of the pioneers of Finnish flamenco singing and was born in Oulu. It is a city of 200,000 inhabitants and located about 5,000 kilometres north of Andalusia, where flamenco originates. Anna Murtola has found her own strong flamenco voice and has established herself in recent years as one of the most passionate performers of that musical style in the far north. She is a graduate of the global music programme at the renowned Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. La Tierra Blanca (“The White Land”) is her second solo album. Murtola’s music combines flamenco with Nordic musical traditions and the modern soundscape of the city of Oulu in an unconventional way.
This is how the singer explains the process of creating the album: “I use to take impulses from Oulu and record them, that is, stories, feelings and memories of my life. The songs of the new album arose from returning to my roots and at the same time from the stories of those who came before me.” The lyrics draw inspiration from Scandinavian landscapes and the Nordic way of life, but also from Finnish musical traditions. No wonder, therefore, that in Murtola’s songs flamenco and Finnish folk merge in a surprising way. Musical guests on the album include kantele virtuoso Maija Kauhanen, Joonas Widenius on guitar, and Robert “Robi” Svärd from Sweden, an authority on the flamenco guitar.
On La Tierra Blanca, Murtola also collaborates with Paavo Impiö, a sound artist from Oulu who recorded sounds and noises from local environments and used them to create the soundscape that is part of the music. That’s how the album features traditional flamenco elements in a completely new way. “Instead of the traditional clapping, for example, there are the sounds of birch twigs, the cracking of a branch, or the strange chimes of a church bell that are used in the music,” Murtola says. She is the first flamenco singer to record an album in Finland.
The unusual fusion of elements of the Spanish flamenco lullaby tradition and old Finnish lullaby lyrics in the song “Nana/Tuutalaulu” is very convincing, while in “Ańńikin Laulu”, Murtola draws inspiration from a Karelian text in the rune song tradition originating from the region her ancestors came from. “The music of ‘Ańńikin Laulu’ I wrote myself in collaboration with kantele expert Maija Kauhanen,” the artist explains.
Anna Murtola reminds us that flamenco owes its origin to the influence of different cultures. Although the Roma population of Andalusia may have played an important role in its genesis, the genre is also influenced by Spanish folk music as well as Indian, Arabic and Jewish sounds. Murtola therefore has always been aware that she can and will not copy Spanish flamenco singers. “To me flamenco is the language, but the lyrics and contents are my own,” she emphasizes. When writing the song lyrics she on the one endeavoured to come to terms with her personal experiences, but on the other also wanted to spotlight the lives of people in the area putting herself in their shoes.
Year of Release: 2023