The TV series Peacemaker recently got off to a successful start in Scandinavia and will also be broadcast in several other European countries and North America until the end of the year. Finnish singer and actress Irina Björklund plays the leading role, she is Ann-Mari Sundell, a Finnish expert for complex peace negotiations. In the series she is sent on a difficult mission: Her job is to arrange a peace agreement between Turkey and representatives of the Kurds. Peacemaker was directed by the renowned Finnish director A.J. Annila (Sauna) and next to Björklund stars a number of internationally known actors, including Richard Sammel (Inglorious Basterds) and Louise Peterhoff (The Bridge). The ten-part series is set in locations in Turkey, Syria, Finland and Spain. In its opening minutes, Ann-Mari puts her entire career at risk when she publicly declares that a state-owned Finnish company is involved in illegal international arms trade.
In the “real world”, Finland is the country that is sending the highest number of diplomats and ambassadors abroad, men and women who work in countries like Afghanistan, Turkey, Indonesia or Saudi Arabia. During the preparations for Peacemaker producers Johanna Enäsuo and Marko Röhr conducted detailed interviews with many of these Finnish diplomats.
While preparing herself for her role, Irina Björklund thoroughly studied the work of professional peace negotiators, which usually goes under the public’s radar. Also, being a musician, she began to write songs reflecting the inner life of the woman she portrays. In her songs she intended to express the feelings she was not allowed to show in the series where Ann-Mari’s personality is depicted as rather complex and mysterious. During the process of writing in preparation for her role, Björklund realized that there was good reason to believe that fans of the series would be really interested in this woman’s inner world! For her album Barely Ann-Mari Irina Björklund therefore started to work with Finnish folk ensemble Pauanne, composing the music to the songs together with Janne Lappalainen, long-time member of her own backing band. “It was not easy to co-operate creatively under COVID-19 conditions, because I was in France and Pauanne were in Finland. But it turned out definitely fine,” the singer says in looking back.
At the heart of Barely Ann-Mari stand the virtuosity of Pauanne and Björklund’s diary-like lyrics. A number of tracks from the album are in differently arranged forms part of the series’ soundtrack. The touching “Sing, Girl” is Irina’s own translation of the Finnish classic “Laula, Tyttö” by Oskar Merikanto and J.H. Erkko – the song also is the signature tune of Barely Ann-Mari. “So The Wind Blows” again is part of the Peacemaker soundtrack, but there it is rendered in Turkish.
Being one of the most famous actresses and musicians in Finland, Irina Björklund worked with international stars like George Clooney in The American and has released six solo albums in her home country. Her trademark is translating Finnish “evergreens” from the past hundred years into French, which comes naturally to her as she partly grew up in France. Her successful album La Vie Est Une Fête (2014) was produced by none other than Nouvelle Vague’s Marc Collin. In 2016 Irina Björklund received the special honour of being awarded the title of “Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres” by the French Ministry of Culture.
Pauanne is a Finnish folk music ensemble of more recent times consisting of Kukka Lehto, Tero Pennanen and Janne Haavisto. Their album debut surprised with disrespectful, rough songs. Sifting through historical Finnish archive material from the early 20th century, it is especially important to them to rediscover the long buried pagan traditions of their native country. In doing this they also address the often cruel reactions of the Finnish authorities of the time against rituals of that kind. In their repertoire can be found bawdy curses as well as long forgotten shepherd songs. Pauanne also have discovered reckless historical songs that make fun of the priest’s Sunday sermon. “It’s spells of traditional healers from Lapland, sermons from West Finnish prisons and the calls of Karelian cattle herders that we bring to the stage,” Pauanne say. The trio surprises with an unusual mix of instruments playing violin, Hammond organ, keyboards and percussion. Pauanne were awarded best newcomer at the annual Ethnogala in 2019.
The Finnish release of Barely Ann-Mari will be by the 16th of October, and at the same time Irina Björklund and Pauanne will start an extensive tour of their home country.
Year of Release: 2020