jaakko laitinen radiohelsinkiOutside of Finland, little is known about the music scene in the Far North. Jaakko Laitinen has come to the rescue, putting together for us a small selection of almost forgotten pearls of the so-called Finnish iskelmä (or hit) music. Now it is clear where Jaakko Laitinen gets a large part of his inspiration from. Here are his personal all-time classics:










Olavi Virta - Leirinuotiolla (1962)
Olavi Virta (1926-1972) is referred to as the King of Finnish tango music, and his voice is truly fascinating and absolutely magical. Finnish tango is actually a fusion of old Argentinian tango music combined with Russian minor melodies, and offset with elements of American freak jazz music from that time. In my opinion, Olavi Virta is the greatest singer ever.



Anneli Sari & Hortto Kaalo
Anneli Sari is a singer who, together with the band Hortto Kaalo, made gypsy music popular in Finland in the 1960s and 1970s. For our ears today, it is an interesting and slightly odd mixture of Finnish Roma singing, paired with elements of Russian gypsy music with a hint of the international pop music of that period. A few years ago, we had the opportunity to open for Hortto Kaalo. I arrived backstage extra early so that I could listen to all the old stories.


Hiski Salomaa - Vapauden kaiho (The longing for freedom) (1929)
The singer and composer Hiski Salomaa (1891-1957) was a Finnish expat who immigrated to the USA. There he managed to release recordings of his songs before a recording industry even existed in his home country. His songs are timeless and his interpretation is expressive and full of character. Hiski Salomaa was both a Communist and a pacifist. Because of his conscientious objection to military service, he spent time in prison during World War I. Even now, 100 years after they were written, his songs have lost none of their topicality or immediacy. This song is about the triumph of freedom, and that the poor have the power to achieve this freedom together.
Viktor Klimenko -Katjusha (Album: Milaja, Columbia Records, 1972)
Viktor Klimenko comes from a Ukrainian family of emigrants. He began his artistic career as an actor and tried his hand at being a moderately successful pop or hit singer in the 1960s. At the beginning of the1970s, he rediscovered Russian music, portraying himself as a wildly romantic Cossack and producing albums during that period which were really great and crazy. He would pose on the covers wearing a fur hat at lavishly laid tables, with beautiful women, or on horseback! Ivan Rebroff, in comparison, is a good little choirboy in the truest sense of the word.
Later he turned increasingly to religious music, which was not to my taste. However, he recently made a small comeback as a Cossack, and his voice and charisma are still extraordinary.
Markus Allan - Liljankukka (Single, Warner Music, 1945)
The Roma ethnic group in Finland is relatively small, yet they have contributed a great deal to our music culture. Many of the great tango singers are of Roma descent. Markus Allan is a good example of that. For a long time, he and other Roma musicians were not allowed to perform in the very popular Tanssilava dance halls in Finland because of their origin. But thanks to the films of Aki Kaurismäki, that all changed, and Markus Allan was able to make an international career and prove his outstanding talent to the Finns. Magical voice.


Interview: Robert Lippuner / Global Music Network

Translation: Jamie Davies


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