Jenni Venäläinen

© Leena Pukki

Bringing together ancient dance tunes and modern party music, does it work? And how it works! Finnish kantele player Jenni Venäiläinen created the “Melkutus Party” to prove it: People danced to traditional sounds from the archives a hundred years ago, so why shouldn’t it work today? Jenni Venäläinen has set her sights high on her debut album: She creates her very own party music on the Finnish box zither kantele. Here, electronic beats fit perfectly with the maanitus, melkutus and ripatska melodies that were heard at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in many Finnish villages at the festivals.
Jenni Venäläinen mostly plays on a 19-string kantele. In the track “Širgo” she uses a ten-string kantele with wooden pegs. In “Melkutus”, a very special instrument is used: the rare Novgorod lyre kantele: an instrument with nine nylon strings, built after an archaeological find of this instrument from the state of Novgorod in the Middle Ages. In addition, the musician can also be heard as a singer on her debut album.
Jenni Venäläinen is a versatile Finnish kantele player, composer and graduate of the renowned Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. She specialises in improvisation, Nordic folk music and especially the kantele tradition from Karelia. This region, which today belongs to both Finland and Russia, is the home of her grandfather. In this tradition, small themes are endlessly varied. Addictive polyrhythmic patterns emerge on the album, which are definitely related to modern electronic dance music!
The album “Melkutus Party” was recorded by Jenni Venäläinen and her co-composer, arranger and producer Antti Elias Huuskonen. Together they are deeply immersed in the hypnotic mix of tradition and electronics. The tracks “Juhlat” (the party) and “Pläššimizeh Soitanda” (get up to dance) were created in collaboration with sound artists Janne Storm and Miro Mantere. The majority of the pieces are traditional and named after the kantele players who collected these melodies. But there are also original compositions in which the musician is inspired by soundscapes and the rhythmic world of the old tradition of Finnish dance music.
Jenni is fascinated by the rich sound of the kantele, by the captivating stories from the archives and by the strong feelings that life holds. One of these stories is depicted in “Melkutus”. The accompanying music video was inspired by stories she found in Finnish literary archives. These stories told that the Melkutus dance was danced for several days and nights, sometimes even until the dancer died. Devil or horse legs were sighted among the dancers. These stories are similar to the phenomenon of “dance mania” in Central Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries. The protagonist of the video tries to escape her tormenting thoughts by dancing and partying, but eventually has to face her opponent. The video has already won awards at international film and music video festivals.


  • Melkutus Party

    Melkutus Party

    Year of Release: 2023

    Catalogue-Number: NN174 / NN174LP

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