Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Frank Sinatra Tribute and Straight Ahead

by Gran Canaria Big Band

We spent Christmas in Agaete, a cute and mostly quiet village near Gran Canaria. I say “mostly quiet” because two (of five) nights were not quiet. I don’t remember Nochebuena being celebrated so loudly in Corralejo. In fact, I don’t remember it being celebrated in Corralejo at all. But here, there was music and fireworks until 3 am. And then, on Saturday, there was a band playing just a few meters from the house we were staying. At some point, Yuri went out to see them. A bit later, I joined him.

This happened to be Gran Canaria Big Band and Fasur Rodríguez presenting “Frank Sinatra Tribute”. To be honest, I never understood what was so great about Frank Sinatra. I find his manner of singing out of tune (not even slightly out of tune) rather irritating, and lyrics of many “Sinatra classics” far too cheesy for my liking. Fasur has a great voice but I wish he didn’t copy the said out-of-tuneness so much. On the other hand, the band was simply perfect. It was a while since I heard the big band sounding exactly the way the big band should sound.

After the show, I went to chat with the musicians. As it happens, the band is all-male except the drummer, Xerach Peñate. Even that was an accident: she told me she was replacing the “official” drummer who got ill. And I bought the CD — but not before asking them if they have one for sale!

As could be guessed from the name, Straight Ahead is a tribute to Count Basie. Five songs feature vocals by Laura Simó. No Sinatra nonsense here, except maybe The Lady is a Tramp. My favorite tracks, however, are the instrumentals, Calles Vacías by the band’s pianist Rayco León and Gentle piece by Kenny Wheeler.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost

Today’s web feed brought the sad news: died Grigori Dashevski (Григорий Михайлович Дашевский, 25.02.1964—17.12.2013), Russian poet and literary translator. One of the last works of Dashevski was the Russian translation of Stopping by Woods.

Frost wrote the poem in June 1922, that is, as far from “the darkest evening of the year” as one can get. Couple of months ago, the polls revealed that Stopping by Woods is a most-requested poem on BBC’s Poetry Please, the world’s longest-running poetry programme.

Robert Frost
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Роберт Фрост, перевод Г.М. Дашевского
Остановившись у леса снежным вечером
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Чей лес, мне кажется, я знаю:
в селе живет его хозяин.
Он не увидит, как на снежный
я лес его стою взираю.

В недоуменье конь, конечно,
зачем в ночи за год темнейшей
мы стали там, где нет жилья,
у леса с озером замерзшим.

Он, бубенцом слегка звеня,
как будто бы корит меня,
да веет слабый ветерок,
пушистым снегом шелестя.

Лес сладок, темен и глубок,
но в путь пора мне — долг есть долг.
И ехать долго — сон далек,
и ехать долго — сон далек.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano

by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 1014—1019)
performed by Michelle Makarski and Keith Jarrett

I don’t listen to classical music that much, even to Bach, and most probably would not be able to distinguish Jarrett/Makarski interpretation from some other smoothly-played version. However, it was thanks to Jarrett, the pianist I know and respect, that I paid any attention to this album at all. It was on display in the library, in the “New CDs” section. Unmistakeably ECM. (I used to love ECM designs. Now they depress me. That’s what living in Finland does to you. You look out of the window and see the ECM cover art.)

According to Bruno de Giusti’s excellent Bach website,

the usage of calling these sonatas “Violin Sonatas” tout-court is absolutely wrong, because Bach was probably the most... democratic musician in his time and granted to each instrument its own personal space in his works. Indeed, the autographed copies of these sonatas report them as “Sonatas for cembalo certato and solo violin, accompanied by a viola da gamba, if one likes (!)” and listening to them makes understand why, in the headline, the priority has been given to the keyboard instrument.

I am glad that Jarrett chose piano for his part. One can tolerate only so much of harpsichord. But here, I was listening to this double CD in one sitting (well I was actually laying down, but you know what I mean), and did not get tired of it.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Kalahari Typing School for Men

by Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Ramotswe has a reason to worry: a rival detective agency is set up in town. A younger apprentice of Mr J.L.B. Matekoni finds the Lord. In the meantime, Mma Makutsi opens her phenomenally successful Typing School for Men — so successful, she almost gets a boyfriend.

That afternoon, when Mma Makutsi had been dispatched to the births, deaths, and marriages registry to pursue some routine enquiries on behalf of a client, Mma Ramotswe was visited, unannounced, by a woman whose view of the Satisfaction Guaranteed Agency and its boastful proprietor was quite the opposite of the view held by the apprentice. She arrived in a smart new car, which she parked directly outside the agency door, and waited politely for Mma Ramotswe to acknowledge her presence before she entered the office. This always pleased Mma Ramotswe; she could not abide the modern habit of entering a room before being asked to do so, or, even worse, the assumption that some people made that they could come into your office uninvited and actually sit on your desk while they spoke. If that happened to her, she would refrain from speaking at all but would look pointedly at the bottom planted upon her desk until her disapproval registered and it was removed.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Chaal Baby

by Red Baraat

Baraat (not to be confused with Borat) is a North Indian wedding procession, often featuring its own band. Red Baraat is a nine-piece dhol‘n’brass band founded by Sunny Jain in Brooklyn. The band’s debut studio album, Chaal Baby, is fun from beginning to end. Imagine funky Balkan brass band playing bhangra! Naturally, the program includes Punjabi Wedding Song as well as the unusual rendition of Tunak Tunak Tun. My favourite song of the lot is Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna.

Compared with original US album, the European edition inexplicably omits two great songs, Aaj Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai and Dum Maro Dum. Instead, there are the “live in Brooklyn” versions of Baraat To Nowhere (featuring excerpt of Mundian To Bach Ke) and Hey Jamalo. In my view, hardly a good replacement. I read that Red Baraat is great to watch live, but that does not always mean it is equally great to listen to. And they really, really should lose the rap.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


by Александр Сергеевич Грибоедов

For most Russian speakers, Aleksander Griboyedov remains homo unius libri, the book in question being his great comedy Горе от ума (Woe from Wit). Yes, we all have been learning by heart Chatsky’s monologue in high school. For the rest of the world, Griboyedov is largely unknown but for his beautiful waltz in E minor.

To my surprise, I found (and bought for €2!) a hefty 1953 hardback edition of Griboyedov works in one of Porvoo’s second-hand shops. I spent a few long November evenings reading this book. Mind you, I did not read all of it. I don’t think Griboyedov’s letters were meant to be read by anybody but their recipients, so I gave them a miss. (But I did read a preface by Vladimir Orlov, complete with quotes from Lenin, Stalin and Malenkov.)

And so, another discovery was made: apart from Woe from Wit, Griboyedov authored a few more plays. Of them, Студент (The Student) is by far the funniest one. This scene below could have been written by Gogol. Benevolski, a student from Kazan, is the protagonist; Sablin, a Hussar captain, is his drinking companion; and Fed’ka is Benevolski’s servant.

Саблин (наливает и поет).
Vive Henri quatre!
Vive ce roi vaillant!
Беневольский. О! умолчите! что за охота петь французскую песню? У нас столько своих пленительных мелодий певцов своей печали.
Саблин. Пусть они сами свою печаль поют, а я стану петь «Vive Henri IV», оттого именно, что это вовсе не печально.
Беневольский. Но есть ли тут хоть малейшее воспоминание для души русского?
Саблин. Преславное: наш вход в Париж, мы первые заставили петь эту песню. Вот было житье! Выпьем скорее в память этого счастливого дня! Пей же, ну, без гримас!
Беневольский (с стаканом в руке). Вакх!.. тебе!
Саблин (вливает в него весь стакан). Без росказней!
Федька. Пей, да про себя разумей.
Саблин (выпивши). Что за бургонское! стакан было проглотил.
Беневольский (сморщившись). Нектар.
Саблин. Беневольский! душа моя! выпьем еще по стаканчику.
Беневольский. Нет, никак; я еще с обеда отуманен этими парами.
Саблин. Беневольский! не будь хоть теперь Беневольский: выпей, не заставляй себя просить. Беневольский, знаешь? я тоже когда-то учился по-латыни и очень помню одну пословицу... постой! кажется: что у трезвого на уме, то у пьяного на языке.
Беневольский. In vino veritas.
Саблин. Ну, а ведь ты теперь не трезвый. — Скажи мне, любишь ли ты меня?
Беневольский. Люблю.
Саблин. А я тебя не люблю, да всё равно: ты любишь, так докажи, выпей! на! Да полно, я не в шутку рассержусь; бери же, вот так, поцелуй меня! стукнем!
Беневольский. Чашу в чашу.
Федька (подкрадывается). Подойду поближе, хоть понюхать. (Саблин пьет, а Беневольский ловит эту минуту, чтоб вылить стакан, и попадает прямо Федьке в лицо и на платье) Что за обливанье, сударь? еще я покамест свое платье ношу, когда-то сошьете!
Саблин. Выплеснул! не выпил! Поделом не терплю я этих марателей: всякий из них, последний, презирает всех, думает, что он всех умнее, ничем не дорожит.
Беневольский. Именем дружбы...
Саблин. Плевать я хотел на твою дружбу и знаться с тобой не хочу. — Поеду домой. (Смотрится в зеркало) Раскраснелся, досадно! никуда нельзя показаться: про меня и так бог знает что говорят. (Уходит)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Paper Cutting: Contemporary Artists, Timeless Craft

by Laura Heyenga, Rob Ryan and Natalie Avella
featuring works by Thomas Allen, Hina Aoyama, Su Blackwell, Zoe Bradley, Yulia Brodskaya, Peter Callesen, Laura Cooperman, Béatrice Coron, Cindy Ferguson, Emily Hogarth, Molly Jey, Andrea Mastrovito, Nikki McClure, Heather Moore, Elsa Mora, Helen Musselwhite, Chris Natrop, Mia Pearlman, Casey Ruble, Rob Ryan, Justine Smith, Matthew Sporzynski, Yuken Teruya, Kako Ueda, Emma van Leest and Patricia Zapata
Were you the kind of child that ate your way all around the edge of the hole in the middle of a biscuit bit by bit with tiny teeth in little nibbles?
Were you the kind of child who spent much more time drawing margins and making multi-colored borders and underlining the titles and subtitles of your homework than ever actually doing it?

I know I was. As a consequence, I saw this book in the library, started to read the preface by Rob Ryan and simply could not leave it there. No way.

I like the fact that I don’t need paint or brushes or water or oil or palettes or canvas, just a piece of paper, a knife, and a pencil, and a rubber eraser. So much less — less mess, less waste, less stuff. More time — more time to say the things I have to say without detail getting in the way. No adding on of paint, layer after layer — no more never quite knowing when to stop. Only taking away and taking away, first of all, all of the holes from the middle of all of the doughnuts in the world, and then the tiny slivery gaps that exist in the spaces in some lovers’ entwined fingers, or maybe that tiny little island of nothingness that lives between two pairs of kissing lips.
Now let me ask... Could you leaf through this book and still dismiss paper cutting as a serious art form? No. But I am sure you know somebody like that. Perhaps he spent all of his childhood diligently doing his homework. Let’s ignore him and do some important stuff.

It is not a how-to book. Its purpose is to inspire; and there are no rules anyway. No expensive materials or equipment is needed. Would you like to give it a try?

laForetles Fee0001
Hina Aoyama, La forêt harmonieuse les fées, 2007

Emily Hogarth, Woodlands, 2008

Heather Moore, Waiting, 2007

Rob Ryan, Boat Couple, 2006

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Funny Films of the North

Here’s the blurb that got me intrigued:

Are Nordic films really as melancholic, depressing, and humourless as rumour has it? Four Nordic film journals — Filmmagasinet Ekko from Denmark, Rushprint from Norway, Flm from Sweden and Episodi from Finland — have tasked themselves with finding the exceptions that showcase the cheerful and self-deprecating side to Nordic cinema.
Not that I ever suspected Nordic cinema of humourlessness. It took me a while to go through the whole collection. Truth to be told, most of these shorts are depressing and melancholic, except for a couple of positively sinister ones. As for “funny”... They are funny, but weird funny rather than hilarious funny. Cheerful they are not.

Swedish Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers is probably the best of the lot: both funny and funny funny.

Other delights include Swedish Elixir (that is, a magic formula to transform immigrants into true Swedes); Finnish animation The Irresistible Smile; and Danish Oscar-winning Election Night (which also could be found on Cinema 16: European Short Films collection).

  1. Las Palmas by Johannes Nyholm (Sweden, 2011, 13 min)
  2. No Sex Just Understand by Mariken Halle (Norway, 2011, 15 min)
  3. Äiti ei enää keilaa (Mother Doesn’t Bowl Anymore) by Teemu Nikki (Finland, 2010, 10 min)
  4. Slitage (Seeds of the Fall) by Patrik Eklund (Sweden, 2009, 18 min)
  5. This Is Alaska by Mårten Nilsson and Gunilla Heilborn (Sweden, 2009, 10 min)
  6. Space Monkeys by Jan Rahbek (Denmark, 2008, 8 min)
  7. Sunday Mornings by Jannicke Låker (Norway, 2008, 9 min)
  8. Naglinn (The Nail by Benedikt Erlingsson (Iceland, 2008, 16 min)
  9. Sagan om den lille Dockpojken (The Tale of Little Puppetboy) by Johannes Nyholm (Sweden, 2008, 18 min)
  10. Anna by Helena Stefánsdóttir (Iceland, 2007, 13 min)
  11. Occupations by Lars von Trier (Denmark, 2007, 3 min)
  12. Ilo irti (The Irresistible Smile) by Ami Lindholm (Finland, 2006, 6 min)
  13. Järvi (The Lake) by Maarit Lalli (Finland, 2006, 9 min)
  14. Elixir by Babak Najafi (Sweden, 2004, 26 min)
  15. De beste går først (United We Stand) by Hans Petter Moland (Norway, 2002, 9 min)
  16. Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers by Ola Simonsen and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson (Sweden, 2001, 10 min)
  17. Døren som ikke smakk (Shut the Door) by Jens Lien (Norway, 2000, 10 min)
  18. Valgaften (Election Night) by Anders Thomas Jensen (Denmark, 1999, 11 min)
  19. Pilot for En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron (A Pigeon Sat on a Branch - Reflecting on Existence) by Roy Andersson (Sweden, 2011, 8 min)

Friday, 8 November 2013

Love and Death

a film by Woody Allen

I don’t sweeten my tea or coffee, but I enjoy reading what is written on Spanish sugar sachets. Our last day on Fuerteventura, we had coffee in our favourite pasteleria in Antigua. One of the sachets had this Woody Allen joke on it:

El sexo sin amor es una experiencia vacía. Pero como experiencia vacía es una de las mejores.
Now that we have two teenagers in the house, I thought it is appropriate to watch the source of the above quote with them. They watched and loved Sleeper and Zelig, but I was a bit afraid that the humour of Love and Death would be lost on them (blissfully ignorant of Tolstoyevsky etc.) I really shouldn’t have. The movie was a roaring success. Now they are going to annoy me randomly quoting it. Because every single line is a classic.

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Time Traveler’s Wife

by Audrey Niffenegger

Oh well. I finally finished this book. Why it became an international bestseller, I don’t know. There’s enough good and bad books about time travel already. A bit of sci-fi that could have been interesting. In fact, the concept is interesting. But it was explained in the very first chapter. Eighteen pages. It could have been a good, or even great, short story. What we have instead is a pretentious romance going for five hundred something pages. So I was trudging through it for the last month in a hope that something unpredictable (from that first chapter) will happen. No such luck.

All in all, it is not that bad, although some scenes did make me cringe — such as when Clare is in labour and Henry... reads her Rilke (translated by Stephen Mitchell, copyright © 1982, used by permission of Random House, Inc. That’s right, there’s an awful lot of copyrighted stuff used by permission, and none of it is needed at all.) Or Henry going to the opera to hear Tristan und Isolde. Please!

Just one question: why on earth the person who leaves his clothes behind when time-travelling (fascinating theory, although, as any time traveller can confirm, completely wrong) he does not go someplace nice? I mean, if he moved to Fuerteventura, it would be so much easier on everybody. He could appear out of nowhere and sit naked there, without having any job, and read Rilke aloud to his heart’s content, and nobody would give a hoot. But no, he has to be either in South Haven or in Chicago, where there’s always a pressing need to steal clothes, or else people will stare, or beat him up, etc. I guess it is because the author has lived in or near Chicago for most of her life and cannot possibly imagine there could be life elsewhere.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Buena Vodka Social Club

by Leningrad Cowboys

On this all-original album, Leningrad Cowboys sound great — even without Alexandrov Ensemble. Maybe not all songs are everybody’s shot of vodka, but they all are worth sampling. If I may advise, don’t buy the MP3 album, get the real thing, if only for the exclusive explosive cocktail recipes. For example, here’s the song:

And here’s the recipe:

Take 50 liters of quality vodka and pour it into a bathtub, crash 5 balalaikas and throw them in. Sprinkle some gunpowder on top and dive in naked with a few yellow rubber ducks. Take a water pistol, fill it and enjoy! After a few drinks, call your neighbors and ask them to visit. Remember to repeat three times everything you say... Nothing’s better than a confused neighbor.
You’ll never drink alone.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Na Afriki

by Dobet Gnahoré

After listening to Na Afriki, I went to check some of her live videos on YouTube. What an amazing woman: composer, singer, dancer, percussionist. Dobet left school at 12 to study theatre, dance, music and singing with her father and his fellow artists. She is now on the top of my “to watch” (live!) list.

This song, Djiguene (Woman), is sung in Wolof. On this album, Dobet also sings in Dida, Fon, Guéré, Lingala, Malinke and Xhosa.

Na Afriki

  1. Dala (sung in Dida)
  2. Djiguene (sung in Wolof)
  3. Issa (sung in Malinke)
  4. Inyembezi zam (sung in Xhosa)
  5. Télo dé (sung in Dida)
  6. Khabone-n’daw (sung in Wolof)
  7. Jho avido (sung in Fon)
  8. Yekiyi (sung in Malinke)
  9. Ma poô (sung in Guéré)
  10. Pygmées
  11. Palea (sung in Dida and Arabic)
  12. Pillage (sung in Lingala)
  13. Loubou (sung in Dida)
  14. Massacre (sung in Dida)
  15. Mousso Tilou (sung in Malinke)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Ian Paice On The Drums

by Ian Paice

He played with The Velvet Underground, Gary Moore and even Sir Paul. Enough memoir material by any standard. But for me, as probably for about everybody else, he always was — still is — the Deep Purple drummer. There never was DP without Ian Paice.

You’d think there should be plenty of DVDs around showcasing Paice’s talent. Well... (drum roll please...) no. But there is at least this one.

On The Drums is a curious collection of Paice-related bits and bobs. Released by Edel in 2008, it looks like a European repackaging of 2002 American DVD Not for the Pros. In contrast to what Amazon says, this DVD is region-free (not region 2). The picture quality could have been better; the sound is OK for the most part, but I wouldn’t mind having subtitles.

Ian Paice’s Drummers Guide

The “main feature” is a fifty-minute documentary where Paice travels the world visiting the musical instrument factories: Pearl in Japan, Paiste in Switzerland (hey, I just learned another Finnish word!), Pro-Mark and Remo in America. He demonstrates just a little bit of his technique but clearly not enough to be considered an instructional. The film is interspersed by snippets of Deep Purple archive footage. I find them rather distracting; luckily, you can choose a viewing option without these clips.

Abbey Road Session

...contains two cool instrumentals, Paicesetter and Dustbins. Paice is accompanied by Colin Hodgkinson on bass and Miller Anderson on guitar. I did not realise Paice is left-handed until I watched this! Now if the entire DVD was material of this quality, I wouldn’t hesitate to give it five stars.

Roadie’s Eye View

This section has several songs or fragments filmed during Deep Purple’s 2001 US tour, with a twist: the camera, for a change, is focused on Paice. Ted the Mechanic, Lazy, Knocking At Your Back Door and Highway Star are shown in their entirety, but the highlight is the middle section of Fools, which is not even a drum solo and still is mind-blowing. But why on earth didn’t they show the full Fools?

Drum Clinic

That could have been really interesting... (short drum solo please...) if any part of it lasted more than ten seconds, that is. What we have here is just some short promo for Australian TV. Total waste of time.

Ian Paice Interview

Another bit filmed for Aussie TV. Rather more entertaining than the “drum clinic”. Paice, apart from being simply the greatest rock drummer alive, appears to be very nice (and humble) bloke.

Retro Mix

A montage of old and new(ish) Deep Purple clips set to Paicesetter. Please ignore it and watch the Abbey Road Session again.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Aina uusi aalto

by Maria Gasolina

In good old Soviet times, you simply were not allowed to publicly perform popular songs in a foreign language. That is, not in Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Uzbek and so on. I guess Bulgarian was still OK. Polish was already suspicious. English, of course, a big no no.

So this is what VIAs would do: sing cover versions of well-known Western songs with (usually) Russian lyrics.

Back then, I thought of it as something unique to USSR. How I was mistaken. Now every morning I listen to a Finnish radio station and hear quite a lot of Anglo-American pop and rock sung in Finnish. Maria Gasolina is one of the bands that specialises in this art. And when I say “art”, I mean it.

By their third album, they became truly versatile, expanding their repertoire from mostly Brazilian pop to, well, other “international” pop: from Carimi’s Ayiti bang bang to Femi Kuti’s Beng beng beng. Good taste in choosing the material, great arrangements, and a pleasure to listen to, from beginning to end. Still, my favourite tracks come from Brazil: Nykyaika, Susta huolimatta, Teemalasit... When it gets cold and dark, like now for example (it was snowing this morning!), a ray of Brazilian sunshine is just what the doctor ordered.

In Brazilian Portuguese slang, “Maria gasolina” means a girl who only dates motorists. Why did they choose this expression to name the band? Who knows. Maybe they don’t take themselves too seriously. Or maybe they just like the sound of it.

  1. Nykyaika / Maracatu atômico (Jorge Mautner / Nelson Jacobina)
  2. Marcia baila (Catherine Ringer / Frédéric Chichin)
  3. Voi että / Que pena (Jorge Ben)
  4. Teemalasit / A Rita (Chico Buarque)
  5. Länkkärifilmi / Ayiti bang bang (Richard Cave / Mickael Guirand)
  6. Öisin / تنگ غروبه (Tange ghoroobe) (Dariush)
  7. Susta huolimatta / Apesar de você (Chico Buarque)
  8. Vahvaa heikkoutta / Naturträne (Nina Hagen)
  9. Hellimmin / Carinhoso (Pixinguinha)
  10. Barikavilyn asemalla / Barikavily (Erick Manana)
  11. Beng beng beng (Femi Kuti)
Maria Gasolina
    Taneli Bruun: tenor and soprano sax
    Kalle Jokinen: guitar
    Lissu Lehtimaja: trumpet, vocals
    Mikko Neimo: drums
    Matti Pekonen: bass
    Essi Pelkonen: alto sax
    Aarne Riikonen: percussion, sampler
    Sanni Verkasalo: flute, clarinet
    Alexandra Babitzin: chorus (2)
    Valtteri Nevalainen: vibraphone (3)
    Mikko Ojanen: synthesizer (5, 6)
    Panu Syrjänen: bass sax (4)
    Finnish lyrics by Lissu Lehtimaja
    Arranged by Maria Gasolina except 9 arranged by Ilppo Lukkarinen
    Recorded and mixed by Panu Syrjänen, Mikko Ojanen and Taneli Bruun
    Produced by Maria Gasolina, Gasolina Records 2010

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Pasqua Villa Borghetti Bardolino Classico 2012

My, it is getting cold here. Cold, as in below 0 °C cold. Which means that, for example, I have to drain the water tank in sauna. Which also means that the beer season is almost over. And so, for the first time in two months of our life in Finland, we’ve ventured to the nearest Alko shop.

It was really painful to see some of my favourite Spanish wines so exorbitantly priced. At times, three times as expensive as in Spain.

The trick, for me at least, is not to look at Spanish wines at all, but concentrate on French and Italian ones instead. I already mentioned that Italian wine was rather expensive in Corralejo. And look, I found this nice bottle of Bardolino, just under €8. That makes me feel, if for a short while, slightly better. Although of course it is still a daylight robbery.

The label info, as it often happens, is lost (or reinvented) in translation.

Proveniente da vigneti nella zona collinare del lago di Garda sud-orientale, è un vino fresco, con deliziosi aromi fruttati, che ricordano marasca e ribes, di medio corpo e sapido al palato. Si accompagna a piatti tipici della cucina veronese como risotti, luccio con polenta o coniglio in umido.
Bardolino indicates the vineyards located in south-eastern shore of Lake Garda. This is a clean, crisp, light ruby red wine, with delightful aromas of wild cherry and blackcurrant and a fresh acidity on the palate. Pairs well with first course dishes, such as risotto, fish soups and white meat entrées.
Oh, I wouldn’t mind the rabbit stew with it! In fact, that’s exactly what I’d be considering to consume in Corralejo this time of year. (Sadly, pike wasn’t on offer in Fuerte.) But, for the benefit of English, who obviously will be shocked by the gastronomical use of their fluffy pets, an alternative is found... which is not even close.

More photos of red wine @ Shutterstock.

Saturday, 5 October 2013


by Rhythm Funk Masters

So what’s “Arctic” doing in the title? I don’t really know. Maybe it is to indicate that Finland is close to Arctic? But I can’t honestly say I hear anything specifically Finnish or Nordic here. If somebody played it to me and said that it is a 1970s recording of an obscure American band, I would probably believe it. The keyboards definitely sound vintage 1970s. As it happens, Afro-American-Arctic is a 2007 album by an obscure (but great nonetheless) Finnish band. And, as far as my (not very thorough) research shows, it is the only album recorded by Rhythm Funk Masters. Which is a bloomin’ shame, because after listening to it for half a dozen times, I want more of them! Just listen, and you will want too.

I post here the complete credits: funk should know its heroes.

  1. Enormous Introduction
  2. Gogo
  3. Nudinuff
  4. Non Compos Mentis
  5. Radio Bembe
  6. Latin Bantu Lounge
  7. Bushman
  8. Frantic Activity
  9. Highway
  10. Arctic Rainforest
Rhythm Funk Masters
    Mikko Pöyhönen: drums
    Jarkko Toivanen-Myllärniemi: bass
    Mikko Kosonen: guitar
    Jukka Heikkinen: keyboards
    Aleksi Ahoniemi: tenor sax, soprano sax, flute
    Timo Lassy: baritone sax, flutes (7)
    Mikko Pettinen: trumpet
    Jay Kortehisto: trombone
    Tero Rantanen: percussion, conga solo (5)
    Aarne Riikonen: percussion
    Juuso Hannukainen: percussion, tama solo (9), djembe solo (2)
    Fernando Da Silva: the voice (1)
    Aleksi Oksanen: djembe (1, 2, 4)
    Terhi Valmala: kenkeni, sangban, dundunba (1, 2, 4)
    Jukka Uljas: tenor sax solo (2)
    Teijo Jämsä: drums (7)
    Abdissa Assefa: percussion (7)
    Eero Savela: flugelhorn (7)
    Tapani Rinne: bass clarinet (10)
    Composed by Jukka Heikkinen except 1 by Jukka Heikkinen / Jarkko Toivanen-Myllärniemi and 3 by Jukka Heikkinen / Sami Saari
    Recorded at Sumo, Helsinki by T-Mu Korpipää and Jukka Heikkinen
    Mixed at Sumo by T-Mu Korpipää except 7 by Jukka Heikkinen
    Mastered at Finnvox by Pauli Saastamoinen
    Artwork and photo by Jani Tolin at Alfons Helsinki
    Produced by Jukka Heikkinen

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Polkabilly Rebels

by Veli-Matti Järvenpää, J. Karjalainen, Mitja Tuurala and Tommi Viksten

In case you were ever wondering — which I doubt — whether Finnish folk music could possibly mix with hilbilly, here’s the answer. Or maybe not. For the most part, it sounds like American old-time songs, just sung in Finnish. Out of twelve tracks, only three could be reasonably called polkas (or polkkat?): Kauppias Intiassa, Vingelska (the only instrumental piece here) and Karjalan poikia. So what? It is all jolly good stuff. I can imagine these guys playing in a pub (which they probably do) and people actually dancing to this music.


This album is dedicated to the memory of Jenny “Jingo” (Viitala) Vachon (1918—2009), a Finnish-American musician, artist, writer and local historian. According to the liner notes, or, rather, the short commentaries to the songs, “Jingo made American songs out of Finnish songs and vice versa”.

If you want to sing along, the lyrics are there. For the benefit of non-Finnish speakers, the lyrics are translated to English too (while many of the texts originated as Finnish translations of American folk songs, as, for example, Wabash Cannonball, which was translated from English by Jingo Viitala).

I am not quite sure whether Polkabilly Rebels is just the name of the album or also the band. The CD cover has the names of the four musicians on it. Amazon and some other sources, including Wikipedia, list Polkabilly Rebels as one of J. Karjalainen solo albums. But then Amasa Blues is presented as “A Polkabilly Rebels original”. To be sure I don’t forget anybody, here are the complete credits:

    J. Karjalainen: vocals, guitar, 5-string banjo and fiddle
    Veli-Matti Järvenpää: 1- and 2-row button accordion
    Mitja Tuurala: upright bass
    Tommi Viksten: electric guitar
    Marjo Leinonen: vocals on Hopeinen veitsi (The Silver Knife)

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Fantasiatango 2

by Johanna Juhola

I’m still to listen to Juhola’s 2010 record, Fantasiatango. In the meantime, I got hold of Fantasiatango 2. My it’s good. Very different from her debut album, Miette, and probably as good. (The more I listen to Miette, the more I like it. Let’s see.) As the name suggests, it is mostly tango, with numerous twists. I like these little descriptions for the songs:

Summer is my religion. I run outside into the tropical night. Winter can’t catch me, no sir! I don’t want antidepressants; just give me some of that Vitamin D – light therapy! (Bipolär tango / Bipolar Tango)
It’s –32 °C: the wind whips my face and snow blankets the streets, the cars and my thoughts. I want to be under a palm tree. Time for a last-minute departure to Tenerife! (Etelän kaipuu / Longing for the South)
I start to suspect that she’s a tad unhappy with Finnish weather.

Bipolär tango, featuring Swedish rapper Promoe: I don’t understand a word but who cares, it’s great anyway.

Friday, 20 September 2013

African Textiles Today

by Chris Spring
The history of indigenous African art has been misdirected by Western aesthetic preferences, which give an undue pride of place to figural or abstract sculpture (a pre-eminently patriarchal art) and less visibility to the role of textiles, decorative arts and performance arts (pre-eminently matriarchal arts) in the construction of indigenous identity.
Sylvester Okwunodu Ogbechie

There is no question that humans came out of Africa. Naturally, human culture came out of Africa too, but we Westerners tend to ignore this fact. The West, above all, values literature, painting and sculpture, while Africans are more concerned with oral tradition and the subject of this book: cloth.

Cloth in Africa is much more than “just” a material for clothing. Cloth served as a currency until minted coins replaced it in the last century. Protective gowns or shirts may be decorated with Quran inscriptions, or have numerous charms sewn into them, or both. The kanga, which often bears subtle (or not so subtle) slogans in Kiswahili, is a powerful communication instrument. Cloth is also a means of declaring the social status:

Sometimes the only true measure of a man’s status in life is revealed after his death, as is still the case among the Kuba people of the Kasai region of the southern Congo Basin, where the fine cloth which a chief or high-ranking official has accumulated throughout his life is shown to a wider public for the first time at his funeral.
Last but not least, textiles serve as historical documents. In short: if you want to understand anything at all about African culture, you’d better have a serious look at the African textiles.

On more than one occasion, the author points out that the indigenous-ness of any tradition is not a particularly helpful concept. I like the story told in Chapter 3: in the 19th century, the Dutch embarked on producing the printed cloth imitating Javanese batiks. The textile proved to be not too popular in Indonesia but appealed to Ghanaian soldiers employed by the Dutch. Then a Scotsman sets up a company in Glasgow and pirates the Dutch, um, imitations. In the post-colonial times, textile factories were established in West African countries, but now the production is threatened by cheap Chinese copies of... the “West African” designs!

The author, Chris Spring, is a curator at the British Museum; the book is published by The British Museum Press. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the beautiful textiles illustrated in the book are from the British Museum collection. African Textiles Today also includes shots of artistic installations, for example Nike v Adidas by Hassan Hajjaj and Space Walk by Yinka Shonibare, as well as documentary and street photography. The last chapter shows textiles through the eyes of African photographers such as Seydou Keïta, Oumar Ly, Malick Sidibé and Jacques Touselle.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Portuguese Irregular Verbs

by Alexander McCall Smith

Unlike its sequels, Portuguese Irregular Verbs has no plot to speak of as it is a collection of more or less independent stories featuring the trio of German academics. Meet Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, the author of a seminal work on Portuguese irregular verbs, simply but majestically entitled Portuguese Irregular Verbs, and his two colleagues, Professor Dr Dr (honoris causa) Florianus Prinzel and Professor Dr Detlev Amadeus Unterholzer.

Ah, to be a philologist! To work in an (apparently spared by crisis) academic Institute and travel the world! In this book, von Igelfeld finds himself in Switzerland, Ireland, Italy and Goa (by special invitation of J.G.K.L. Singh of Chandighar, author of Dravidian Verb Shifts). I could swear that I have met him, or maybe his identical twin, a biologist, in all these places.

That evening, after he had taken a refreshing drink of mango juice on the main verandah, von Igelfeld ventured out onto the road outside the hotel. Within a few seconds he had been surrounded by several men in red tunics, who started to quarrel over him until a villainous-looking man with a moustache appeared to win the argument and led von Igelfeld over to his cycle-driven rickshaw.
‘I shall show you this fine town,’ he said to von Igelfeld as the philologist eased himself into the small, cracked leather seat. ‘What do you wish to see? The prison? The library? The grave of the last Portuguese governor?’
Von Igelfeld chose the library, which seemed the least disturbing of the options, and soon they were bowling down the road, overtaking pedestrians and slower rickshaws, the sinister rickshaw man ringing his bell energetically at every possible hazard.
The library was, of course, closed, but this did not deter the rickshaw man. Beckoning for von Igelfeld to follow him, he took him through the library gardens and walked up to the back door. Glancing about him, the rickshaw man took out a small bunch of implements, and started to try each in the lock. Von Igelfeld watched in amazement as his guide picked the lock; he knew he should have protested, but, faced with such effrontery, words completely failed him. Then, when the door swung open, equally passively he followed the rickshaw driver into the cool interior of the Goa State Library.
The building smelled of damp and mildew; the characteristic odour of books which have been allowed to rot.
‘Here we are,’ said the rickshaw man. ‘These books are very, very old, and contain a great deal of Portuguese knowledge. The Portuguese brought them and now they have gone away and left their books behind.’