Gjallarhorn is one of Finland’s gifts to folk music.

THOUGH not many would agree at first, folk music can deliver a mind-blowing experience. Contemporary folk bands offer an interesting alternative, and they create music that is fresh, exciting and of high quality. Especially in Finland, a country rich in very diverse music traditions, one can find real gems.

Gjallarhorn represents Scandinavian folklore that originally flourished on Finnish soil, with their style incorporating strong influences from the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland. The band experiments with incorporating instruments like didgeridoo into otherwise traditional Scandinavian-style ballads.

Their singer Jenny Wilhelms studied folk music in Finland, Sweden and Norway. She delivers a phenomenal kulning, or herding call, which is a peculiar high-pitch singing that makes you shiver.

Another example of innovative, contemporary folk band is Hedningarna, who have successfully merged Karelian-like Finnish singing with Swedish traditional music. Although not very well-known in Finland, Hedningarna is legendary and respected in Sweden.

When Finnish female vocalists joined the band they introduced Karelian-style singing into dark and heavy Scandinavian tunes. Though a surprising combination, it produced fantastic and unique songs, which bring to mind wild northern witches.

Hedningarna also recorded some material with Finnish joiku (traditional prose-singing) singer Wimme Saari. They met for the first time in Umeå in northern Sweden, where Wimme performed joiku so fiercely he collapsed on the stage. Their collaboration oozes raw energy.

Though folk music does not top the charts, it is certainly alive and can still surprise. Let’s just take the Finnish Eurovision entry for this year – Kuunkuiskaajat. The girls are members of Värttinä, a well-known band rooted in the traditions of eastern Finland, which is already an institution of its own.

Because of its diversity, Finland is able to create and accommodate plenty of styles. Digging around Finnish folk music is a good way to explore the culture, and to find fresh and exciting bands.

Katarzyna Herd