Music Review: “Viena,” Värttinä

The Finnish folk group Värttinä has been a major player in the world music scene for over 30 years. “Viena” marks their fourteenth album, and it is a beautiful combination of both old and new.

The lineup of singers has always been a constant evolution for Värttinä, from the band’s early days as a 15-singer children’s vocal group to the three-women trio of recent years. Folk singer and ethnomusicologist Karoliina Kantelinen is a new addition to the group. Her voice blends perfectly with the other two singers, Mari Kaasinen and Susan Aho. Continue reading


Music to Write By: Genres and Music

If you know me or have been reading my blog for a while, then you know that music is very important to me and is one of my greatest sources of inspiration. Not only that, but a lot of the stories I write tend to involve music in some way.

I have playlists for each story that I’m working on. I don’t usually listen to music while I’m actually writing, but any time I’m brainstorming, researching, or just doing daily activities like driving I will put on my playlist for my current project. I always seem to be juggling two or three story ideas in my head at any point in time (not to mention thinking about my blog, the writing I do for my job, and just thinking about life in general). So I find that having specific playlists that relate to specific stories really helps me to not only get in the mood to write, but keeps my brain focused on what I want to focus on at any point in time.

And just so you can understand why I need separate playlists for all my projects, here is a sampling. I write a wide variety of stories/genres, and therefore the music reflects that. I actually don’t have a “general writing music” playlist; the music needs to be story and world specific.

Genre: Portal Fantasy – inspired by Finnish folktales

This is the Kalevala-inspired fantasy trilogy that I’ve been working on for a few years now. Book one is in its third draft, and is currently on the back burner while I’m working on other projects. I will pick this trilogy up again later this year, and when I do, I’ll use music like this classic song by the Finnish folk group Värttinä to get me into the right mindset:

I’ll also be listening to songs like this one by Sami singer Soffia Jannok, or instrumental Scandinavian folk music by Gjallarhorn.

Genre: High Fantasy – stories of sword and sorcery Continue reading

Music Review: “Revitty Rakkaus,” Kuunkuiskaajat

The Finnish folk-rock duo Kuunkuiskaajat has just released their second album, a crowd-funded project titled Revitty Rakkaus. I first started following the duo of Susan Aho and Johanna Hytti from their time with the band Värttinä.

For any Värttinä fans who haven’t heard Kuunkuiskaajat’s music yet, it’s well worth checking out. With a generally light and folksy sound, Susan and Johanna’s voices interweave like a dance, punctuated by Susan’s masterful accordion playing.

This album has perhaps a bit less of a “traditional” sound than their first album, as most of the tracks feature strong modern percussion. The upbeat tracks, like “Kaupungilla” and “Polttaa,” usually feature Susan as the lead vocal, while the slower, ballad-like tracks such as “Unelmaa” and “Elämä Kantaa” let Johanna’s voice shine.

In listening to this album, I was reminded that while Finland is usually grouped in with the rest of Scandinavia, musically they seem to belong more with Eastern Europe. To my Western-trained ear, tracks like “Salakavala” and the title track “Revitty Rakkaus” held the rhythms and sounds of Eastern lands. The entire album is a beautiful blending of East and West, and traditional and modern.

Whether you’re a fan of Värttinä, Eastern European folk music, or you can’t even find Finland on a map, I encourage you to give Kuunkuiskaajat a listen!

Kuunkuiskaajat’s website (in Finnish)

Kuunkuiskaajat on Facebook


Music Review: Vellamo

Welcome a new duo to the world of modern Finnish folk music! The self-titled album by the band Vellamo was released earlier this year. Being a fan of Finnish mythology, I was immediately drawn in by the band’s name—Vellamo was a sea goddess in the old stories.

And it turns out their music is equally enchanting. A singer-songwriter style, with a little rock tossed in here and there, adds flair to the simple yet enticing tracks on this album. The clear, unadorned tones of singer Pia Leinonen are accompanied by the acoustic stylings of guitarist Joni Tiala.

This album may be in the folk genre, but Vellamo offers a lot of variety for your listening pleasure. There’s fast and folksy like “Juokse Frank Juokse,” or slow and melancholy like “Kaipaava.”

There’s a little bit of Finnish—“Oman kullan silmät” or “Ja se mies;” a little bit of English—“Lovebirds” or “Silver Dagger.” And even a little bit of Swedish—“Elin i Hagen.”

Vellamo’s sound—whether toe-tapping or soothing, Finnish or English—gives me that warm feeling of live music night at a local coffeehouse. Or that lazy calm of sitting on a boat out in the lake. I’m excited to see where this music from the mythical sea spirit goes in the future.

Vellamo on Facebook

Music Video – Suljen

More Music to Write By

I’ve written several posts about how music inspires my writing. So I’ve decided to share three more of my favorite songs and how they help me with my current WIP.

Angelit – Garkit

This song could serve as a soundtrack for various scenes, as well as being simple inspiration/mood-setting. Angelit is a Sami folk-rock band from northern Finland, and they usually sing in their own language of Sami. The parts of my book that take place in the real world are set in Finland, and most of it is the northern part of the country known as Lapland.

“Garkit”—which means “escape”—is the perfect song to get me into a mood for writing a fast-paced adventure scene. There’s a battle—and an escape—in the climax of my story, so I often used this song to gear myself up for writing it.

Johanna Kurkela – Oothan tässä vielä huomenna

This is a love song—the title translates as something close to “Will you still be here tomorrow.” It’s by the Finnish singer Johanna Kurkela. It’s appropriate that I use Finnish songs, since—as mentioned earlier—the story begins in Finland, and most of the characters are from that country.

I use this song kind of as the “love theme” for the two lead characters, and listening to it helps put me in a frame of mind to write a romantic scene. Please note, for any romance or erotica readers out there—my book would probably be rated PG. Maybe PG-13, but that’d be due only to the battle scenes and one or two swear words. If you’re looking for steamy romance and lots of innuendoes, this is not the book for you.

But if you like just a dab of romance to liven up the fantasy adventure, then I’ve got that. And no matter what level of romance you prefer in your books, this song is worth a listen. I don’t worry about trying to understand the Finnish (I can catch about three words in the whole song). But the music and her voice are enough to put me in a mood to write.

Värttinä – Kutsu

The song is also Finnish, by the world music band Värttinä; it’s titled “The Call.” The lyrics are simple: “Come to my elfin dwelling. Come into the light.” It fits with several other songs on the album Utu, which tell stories of witches, conjurers, elves, and enchantments.

While my story doesn’t feature witches or elves as such, it is about a world of myth. It’s a world where folk tales have come to life, and ordinary things like the night sky and rivers in the woods aren’t always what they seem.

This song is haunting, creepy, and other-worldly—just the sort of sound I need to inspire me when my protagonists are skulking through the woods and jumping at shadows.

So these are my top three tracks right now for listening. What’s your music to write by?