BY Merja Hottinen
In Finland, multiculturalism and immigration have generated a lot of discussion in a variety of fields lately, including music. Music magazines have mulled over music made by immigrants and the perceived discriminatory nature of the Finnish national anthem as well as traditional hymns has come under fire. Many festivals have also tackled themes related to the convergence of different cultures, the Helsinki Festival among them.
Even Finnish Music Day, which takes place on Jean Sibelius’ birthday 8 December, has chosen multiculturalism as the theme for its seminar event, reminding people that multiculturalism is, in fact, an integral part of the modern Finnish identity.
Why is this issue cropping up right now? Partially, it’s a reaction by people working in the cultural scene to the fact that anti-immigration thinking has become a real phenomenon on the net, as well as in domestic politics. But it goes deeper than that.
Music has long been open to influences from foreign cultures. These influences have been utilized in producing high-quality Finnish world music, as well as modernist classical music. Take, for example, Erik Bergman whose centenary we are celebrating in this magazine, or one of the newer faces like Jimi Tenor, who perfectly represents a type of musician unafraid of cultural or genre barriers.
Another current phenomenon is the rise of talented musicians from an immigrant background. They haven’t been satisfied with staying in their immigrant context, outside of the mainstream of Finnish music life, but have challenged others in the central forums of our field. In the recently chosen Tulevaisuuden tusina (Future Dozen) of most promising new popular music artists, the two top spots went to hip hop artists from immigrant backgrounds, Gracias and Noah Kin.
It’ll be interesting to see how multiculturalism, as it appears in a world made smaller by globalization, molds Finnish music in the future. Cultural combinations will pop up all over the place, in all areas of music, and these border crossings can surely create something new, interesting and exciting.
Translation: Arttu Tolonen