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Piirpauke - Hali CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.10 | 2 ratings

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3 stars Piirpauke from Finland gave their 45-year-career celebrating concert recently in my neighbour town (no, I wasn't there myself). There's no denying that this band led by multi-instrumentalist Sakari Kukko earns a very high status in the international World Music field. Right from the start in mid-70s, long before the term World Music was used, they have incorporated ethnic elements from all over the world into their unique, border-free musical expression in which jazz, rock, folk and art music have part of, in varying measures. Of the eight albums Piirpauke has now released in this Millenium I had heard two or three before getting this newest release. Especially I liked Laulu laineilla (2003) which was based on the compositions of Franz Schubert, and also Koli (2010) was a solid, instrumentally oriented Piirpauke album.

First thing to say about Hali (that's a Finnish word for 'hug') is the surprisingly big role of vocals. Each of the ten tracks feature vocals with lyrics, and they're in Finnish with one exception. Is this perhaps the first Piirpauke album ever to have such vocal orientation? Kukko himself sings on six tracks... unfortunately, I could add. There's something openly amateurish in his way of singing. Each of the musicians are credited with [backing] vocals besides their own Instruments; other main vocalists are Meissa Niang on 3 tracks and Sheila Surban on four tracks.

The opening track 'Kanteletara' is a mixture of Finnish and Senegalese traditional music, with words from Kanteletar, the "sister book" of the Kalevala. Kantele is heard also, naturally. Whether you like the singing or not, the organic music of the album is full of sincere joy. Meissa Niang does lead vocals on the Oskar Merikanto classic 'Itkevä huilu' (= Weeping flute); her very accented forming of Finnish is either charming or irritating, depending on the listener's attitude. 'Tiibetin noidat' is originally a children's song, sung here theatrically by Sakari Kukko. The composers for tracks 4 and 5 are Carl Michael Bellman and Erik Lindström, respectively. Like always, Piirpauke turns any source music into their own World Music, but I can't help thinking that the album would be better with notably less emphasis on vocals. The arrangements incorporate mostly flutes, saxophones, piano, acoustic guitar and African oriented percussion. Mika Mylläri from Finland's jazz scene is guesting on trumpet.

The peaceful ballad 'Long Time Ago', based on music of Aaron Copland and sung by Sheila Surban, sounds pretty pleasant. Her Her next vocal number 'Sinulle yksin' (again, Finnish sung with a foreign accent) leads the listener's mind to the Finnish schlager-filled dance venues of the old times. 'Hippapila' with Kukko's vocals is another take on Finnish traditional music. The tenth song is for some reason marked as a "Bonus track": Sheila Surban sings the anthem part of 'Finlandia' composed by Jean Sibelius.

Personally, I confess that this vocal-orientation is not the way I want my Piirpauke. I prefer their instrumental works. But taken from a more objective point of view, Hali is an upbeat World/Vocal album filled with borderless joy of making music together, capturing the feelgood atmosphere of a friendly gathering of people with various ethnical backgrounds. The musicians must have had merry time recording it, clearly more so than having a serious goal of making as "fine and sophisticated" music as possible.

Matti | 3/5 |


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