Villoi varsa, the second album by Finnish folk music trio Celenka, will be launched at the Haapavesi Folk Music Festi-val on 1 July 2021 (Finland release). The international launch will take place on 17 September 2021. The album is released on the German Nordic Notes label. It is recorded and mixed by Eero Grundström and mastered by Taito Hoffrén over the winter and spring of 2021.
Celenka (Engl. green / fresh), founded in 2013, finds their inspiration in Karelian, Slavic and Balkan musical traditions. They released their first album in Finland in 2015 to acclaim (on Kuu Records) and in Germany in 2016 (on Nordic Notes). The band also accompanied vocalist Emmi Kujanpää for the launch of her 2020 solo album Nani (Nordic Notes).
On Villoi varsa, Celenka brings to the fore old Karelian female singers who performed the traditional songs from their villages and families to folk song collectors in the early 1900s. The album includes songs by Olga Kottina, Matro Tika-no, M.F. Makarova ja P. Ivanova, and even lyrics recorded under a pseudonym ”One wife” whose actual name the collector didn’t bother jotting down. The songs are in Karelian, Veps, Finnish and Russian and represent a multilingual and multicultural Karelia in the midst of a period of war and persecution.
Many of the songs by Karelian women are straight out of Chekhov’s plays: in Vanusha a better life is sought in Mos-cow, in Brihat hebot lovers meet in a cherry orchard and the title track Villoi varsa takes us on a wild wooing ride. Although the world depicted in the songs is obviously patriarchal and every woman, man and horse has their scripted part to play, the stories and ageless melodies touch us even today. In 2021 we dream of better days just the same.
The band has gathered most of the album’s material from archives between 2016 and 2020 and arranged the songs to combine the voices of the three musicians with the sound of the harmonium and kantele as well as the trumpet solos by Jarkko Niemelä that will rival the trumpets of Revelation. The album also includes some songs by the musicians themselves, like Eero Grundström’s Balkan-influenced Työväenlaulu (Engl. Working Class Song) which resonates with both the Russian Karelian socialist past and the plight and precarious position of the artist in today’s society.
The album weaves together personal and political history. When the leader of the music department of Finnish radio in Petrozavodsk, Ahti Sonninen, collected songs by the Veps singer Olga Kottina for the Greater Finland project during the Finnish continuation war, a young 19-years old soldier served in Petrozavodsk. He was none other than Emmi Kujanpää’s grandfather Veikko Kemiläinen. He never spoke of what he experienced there but he did lament the loss of his beloved mandolin there. When Emmi, as a 19-years old young folk musician, was about to leave on a concert trip to Petrozavodsk in 1999, her grandfather asked if she could bring his mandolin back for him, should she happen to come across it. The mandolin was nowhere to be found but Emmi did discover the song Ljotal golub (Engl. The Dove Flew) there, when it was performed by a local group, Myllärit.
Celenka, founded in 2013, finds their inspiration in Karelian, Slavic and Balkan musical traditions. They released their first album in Finland in 2015 to acclaim (on Kuu Records) and in Germany in 2016 (on Nordic Notes). The band also accompanied vocalist Emmi Kujanpää for the launch of her 2020 solo album Nani (Nordic Notes).
Celenka are in essence three singing musicians who share a love of musical ornaments, rousing melodies and nimble dance rhythms. Their music is based on old archival finds and self-composed works. Celenka has performed in both Finland and Russia.
The musicians of Celenka are known from several collaborations in the world music scene: Harmonium player Eero Grundström has come to be known from the band Sväng and the duo founded with Maria Kalaniemi. Vocalist and kantele player Emmi Kujanpää’s Finno-Bulgarian solo album Nani and the collaboration with Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vocal Academy brought international attention in 2020. The trumpetist Jarkko Niemelä, in his turn, is known for Alamaailman Vasarat and Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha, although he works in cancer and artificial intelligence research nowadays.
Year of Release: 2016
Year of Release: 2021