Folk music from the twilight zone
Hämärä (Finnish for dusk or twilight) is a toned moment between light and shadow, new and old. Hämärä is momentary and transformative, it is a magical moment of transition and danger where anything can happen. It is apt to describe Sähköpaimen’s modern folk music, where the oldest tradition meets modern technology and improvisation smashes into the beat.
Sähköpaimen is Finnish for ‘electric shepherd’, electric fence. The trio performs archaic electronic folk music from Finnish, Karelian and Ingrian traditions combined with beats and soundscapes, live-looping and effects, and the magical rainbow of sounds and colourful electric wires from modular synthesizers.
Eero Grundström: machines
Amanda Kauranne: vocals, looping and mouthharp
Kirsi Ojala: wind instruments and mouthharp
The band members, all graduated from Sibelius Academy folk music department, play in various folk music groups, such as Sväng, Suistamon Sähkö, Wind on Wind, Tuultenpesä, Emmi Kuittinen & Ikuisen ikävän orkesteri. Hämärä is the second album of Sähköpaimen. The first one Niitto (Harvest) came out in 2014.
Hämärä is a theme album dedicated to twilight. Twilight moments (which in Finland are long) have been important for the transition of folklore. Families and close ones have gathered together to pass on stories, songs and beliefs from one generation to another.
For understanding more of the traditon linked with twilight, the members have digged the archives of Finnish Literature Society and especially the runolaulu collection Suomen kansan vanhat runot, The Ancient Songs of the Finnish People, which, despite the name, iclude also the Karelian and Ingrian folk poetry.
Sähköpaimen also draws on another meaning of hämärä, which means odd or obscure in Finnish. The album includes strange folk tales and curious instruments from the twilight zone. They come not only from Finno-Ugric regions, such as Udmurtia and Mordovia, but also from our Nordic neighbours and the Italian Alps.
The Hämärä record includes the Cantoira village choir Li Magnoutoun, who speaks Franco-Provençal, an Italian minority language, whose traditional spells, cattle calls and songs from Piedmont create a bridge from different corners of Europe with the music of Sähköpaimen. Also the sounds of the local cows and their tinkling and jingling cattle bells are heard in the album – and you can even hear a brisk individual licking the recording microphone in the celebration of Jyrinpäivä!
A duetto of songs with the master folk singer, Roma music collector Hilja Grönfors creates a meeting point of a Karelian dance tune and Roma tradition in the nocturnal song Koivumetsä (Birch forest) where lovers meet in the secrecy of the woods. Franco-Provençal folk singer Gigi Ubaudi’s voice changes from the boogieman into a soft lullaby in Tuli tuli painajainen.
Traditional wind instruments such as different sizes of shepherd’s flutes and woodwinds add their own colour to the band’s sound. With the disappearance of shepherd culture, shepherd music has also become rare, although the sounds of these unique instruments are still interesting and expressive.
The electronics of Sähköpaimen play with the idea of what electronic music would sound like if in 1864 the soirees in Suistamo, Karelia, had used a laptop, a sequencer and modular synthesizers? The relatively recent tradition of the modular synthesizer is continued in the spirit of classical minimalism and techno, but the melodies come from the shepherd tradition. The electronics are a whole being, not just a collection of things playing at the same time.
Now Sähköpaimen invites you, dear listener, to join us for the twilight moment, the celebration of dusk!
Year of Release: 2023