in Reviews

Strong Tales

by Amanda Kauranne

"The varied use of vocal technique and storytelling go naturally hand in hand throughout this album."

When an artist finds their musical home, it’s an amazing gift for the listener as well. This is apparent from the first song Ogrejalo slantse – Vuota vuota of Emmi Kujanpää’s solo album Nani. Singer, songwriter, kantele player Emmi Kujanpää’s musical heart beats with Bulgarian and Ingrian-Karelian music, and these influences combine to create this strong album that is outright nourishing for the listener. Kujanpää’s compositions tell strong tales of the many sides of womanhood. The songs, written in both Finnish and Bulgarian, also draw on verses of folk poetry.

The combination of musical talent found on this album is unique. The vocal ensemble Le Mystére des Voix Bulgares Vocal Academy, made up of the youngest singers from Bulgaria’s most famous choir, as well as trumpetist Jarkko Niemelä and harmonium player Eero Grundström from Kujanpää’s own Celenka-ensemble, join in dialogue with Kujanpää’s expressive, virtuoso singing and kantele playing. In addition, Sauli Heikkilä adds his own enchantment to the songs with his throat singing, as well as playing the morin khuur.

Throughout the album, the varied use of vocal techniques go hand in hand with the stories told by the songs. The mother goddess Nani is addressed in lament singing, while abusive harassment or experiences of violence sound in the pieces Milenka and Kuutar [The Goddess of the Moon] through folk poetry and fierce harmonies of unspoken sorrow. In contrast to these difficult themes there are also soft tones – The percussion created by Kujanpää’s necklace sparkles clearly while the sounds of her 11 and 40-stringed kanteles soothe the listener. The joy and strength of womanhood shine through the joyful dance tune in Sirkus Savonia as well as in the Valkean yö joiku [Yoik of a White Night].

Translation: Kathleen Weidenfeller


Emmi Kujanpää: vocals, 11 and 40 string kanteles, jewelry percussions 
Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vocal Academy
Eero Grundström: Harmonium, vocals
Jarkko Niemelä: Trumpet, vocals
Sauli Heikkilä: Tuvan throat singing, Morin khuur

Nordic Notes NN135, 2020