Maija Kauhanen

A powerfully expressive voice, deep-rooted kantele and invenve percussion: fleet-fingered virtuoso and one-woman band Maija Kauhanen specialises in Finnish kantele. Weaving together polyrhythms and organic beats, she creates unique soundscapes and compelling grooves.
One of the most internaonally successful folk musicians from Finland, Maija Kauhanen, releases her second solo album Menneet (The Past). On the album Menneet Kauhanen takes a step towards being a singer-songwriter, but the album is sll strongly focused on her virtuoso kantele playing. Musical influences from folk music, indie pop, and film music can be heard on the album. All music is composed and performed by Maija Kauhanen, except Käärme – the lyrics of which are a combinaon of Maija’s and tradional texts.
The music and soundscapes Maija created for Menneet are inspired by her life, and the sounds heard whilst touring the world as a solo arst. The music tells stories of courage, meaningful meengs, and seng one’s boundaries; about the things that prevent us from being free, and those that hold us back; facing and dealing with the things that stop us from pursuing our dreams and doing the things we enjoy.
“During recent years I have been thinking a lot about personal space; what does it mean, how much space is enough, how can you find it and maintain it. That has been a big inspiraon for composing the music. I also love to experiment and play with new soundscapes and playing techniques.” says Kauhanen.

Kauhanen specialises in the rare Saarijärvi kantele and its tradional playing technique – using a small wooden sck as a pick. On this album she plays a 23-string Saarijärvi kantele (Saarijärven kantele in Finnish) with 7 bass strings and 16 melody strings, built by her father, luthier Kari Kauhanen. Maija plays the kantele in various tunings and with different playing styles, using: her fingers, a ny wooden sck as a plectrum, a cello bow, an E-bow (electronic bow), as well as other preparaon materials like Blu Tack. In addion to Saarijärvi kantele, 5-string kantele and a 39-string concert kantele are heard on tracks 3 and 4.
On this record, her percussion set is made up of a kick drum, juju bean shaker, cymbals, wind bells, enamel pots & bowls, silver plates, metal muffin ns, trays and assorted kitchen utensils found at flea markets.
Kauhanen´s vocals are inspired by imitang instrument sounds, rural music tradions of Finland and Karelia and the Swedish kulning vocal tradion.

Porlla (At the Gate)
The album starts with Porlla (At the Gate). This tune is an adventure into the unknown. You want to go, you know and see your goal, but you think; do I dare to? What challenges might I face on the way? But there is no choice, focusing on your own path you must venture towards what you want to do and to be.
In this soundscape Maija uses metal muffin ns and enamel pots as her percussion.

Käärme (Snake)
The single Snake is about seng one’s boundaries – about what things that prevent us from being free, and what holds us back. The snakes nesng in the mind are like the demands and expectaons that restrict us. In this song, I ponder whether those demands come from outside or inside one’s own head. Society creates expectaons about how we should act, look, behave. I’ve thought a lot about being nice and the need to please other people. That moment when you want to challenge the crics, but you sll hesitate: do I dare? Do I have the nerve? Am I too much or too lile?
In Snake, Kauhanen has combined her own lyrics with tradional Finnish snake charm texts which were collected at the end of the 19th century.
Snake charm texts:
Risto Niikkaanoff, Kiimasjärvi (collected by Heikki Meriläinen in 1889)
Tuomas Ketońi, Uhtua (collected by Juho Jalkanen in 1887)
Unknown, Nilsiä (collected by Kaarle Krohn in 1885)
Maija Kauhanen, Helsinki (in 2021).
Vaikka maailmaasi en mahtuiskaan (Even if I can’t fit into your world) A story about an uneven relaonship.
The soundscape of this song is created with a chromac Saarijärvi kantele. Maija is bending the notes, hing and playing the strings with a bow.

Menneet (The Past)
When memories of the past hit you – during the day, or when the night comes so that the memories keep you awake – at some point one must face them, even if having run from them for years.
In this song the enamel pots and pans play an important role in creang the soundscape. On Maija´s social media & YouTube channel you´ll find videos about this percussion set and the percussion solo.

Maija Kauhanen is a Finnish composer and mul-instrumentalist as well as a charismac performer with an entrancing stage presence.
In 2017 Maija Kauhanen performed at WOMEX World Music Expo among the Official Showcase Selecon and since then Maija Kauhanen has played in Asia, America and all around Europe. She has visited many major fesvals such as Celc Connecons, FOCUS Wales and WOMAD in UK, Folk Alliance Internaonal in Canada, Il Fesval de Músicas del Mundo in Colombia, Etnosur Fesval in Spain, Locarno Folk in Switzerland, Hudba Sveta Zilina in Slovakia, Urkult Folkfest in Sweden, Tønder Fesval in Denmark, EthnoPort Poznan in Poland and World Cultures Fesval in Hong Kong.
Kauhanen’s first solo album Raivopyörä (The Whirl of Rage, Nordic Notes 2017) invokes powerful atmospheres. The songs deal with the fates of various women: challenging relaonships, domesc violence and child-brides are unflinchingly portrayed, but there is also joy, consolaon, hope and the mystery of young love to be celebrated. Maija Kauhanen and Raivopyörä have received rave reviews internaonally and won several significant prizes, including: The Finnish Crics’ Associaon’s Crics’ Spurs prize for “the best arsc breakthrough of the year”, “The Newcomer of the Year” Award at Finnish Ethno Awards, and the presgious Emma Award for the Best Ethno Album of the Year.
Besides her solo project, Maija is also an acve member of the Finnish electro-folk band Okra Playground, and has worked on projects with arsts from all over the world.


  • Raivopyörä


    Year of Release: 2017

    Catalogue-Number: NN085 / NN085LP

  • Menneet


    Year of Release: 2022

    Catalogue-Number: NN159 / NN159LP

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