BY Merja Hottinen
The Flow festival is one of the trendiest musical events in Finland at the moment. A showcase for a host of musical styles with a young urban following, the most recent festival in August ranged from hip hop to experimental – and children’s music, too. It had a children’s music DJ, front-line artists singing new songs for a young audience, and as the main attraction Hurjat silmät (“Scary Eyes”), a brother and sister from Helsinki aged 7 and 9, respectively.
That the festival devoted a whole afternoon to children’s music says a lot about the trendy nature of this genre in Finland today. Parents want to take their children with them to various events, to hear the music they themselves like listening to. Concerts and festivals are accordingly programming children’s music to suit a variety of tastes, from contemporary opera to kantele and even heavy rock.
Rather than being a separate category, children’s is nowadays a specific consumer segment in a variety of musical genres. It has commercial potential in that parents are prepared to pay for their children’s music. In this they may be motivated by many ideologies: a desire to educate, to provide opportunities, or to recreate personal childhood experiences. In a sense, the children’s music inherits and renews itself from generation to generation, as we can see from the historical articles in this issue.
The range of opportunities does, however, lead to inequality. Musical activities demand parents’ time and money, and not all can afford infant music-and-movement sessions, to say nothing of tuition in an instrument at a Music Institute. In theory, the music lessons in the comprehensive school are designed to act as an equalising element in Finnish music education, but in practice this element is being steadily reduced by the dwindling number of lessons.
Appreciation of children’s musical culture can, at its best, serve as fertile soil for cultivating children’s natural creativity and thus produce something never heard before. The Flow festival’s “Scary Eyes” are an excellent example of this. For these two Music Institute pupils began composing songs together, and their music, drawing on everyday life and their fertile imaginations, has already delighted listeners both young and old. The result is not children’s songs in the traditional sense, but nor does it copy adults: it is the voice of the children themselves.