BY Juha Torvinen
Cultural export is one of the main trends in current Finnish cultural politics. The Finnish government and institutions such as Music Export Finland (Musex) and the Finnish Music Information Centre (Fimic) have crucially supported the international invasion of Finnish music – especially popular music – during the last decade or two.
The critical left-wing side of me thinks the cultural export boom is just another symptom of the Western ideological climate, where everything is evaluated by economic standards. As a consequence cultural export could be seen more as a culture of export than an export of culture. Furthermore, the ideology demanding that everything (in this case, music) is potentially exportable, cannot avoid influencing the art itself in the long run. This is why popular music gains most of cultural export politics, and why, I’m afraid, music in general slowly starts to change into a commodity, into something more popular and something more easily consumed – and exported.
Fortunately, this is not the whole picture. First, this is nothing new. Music, popular or not, of such a small and relatively outlying country as Finland has never been able to reach the musical centres of the world without significant institutional support. Second, becoming more popular does not necessarily imply a decrease in artistic quality (albeit it often does). Third, the success of one popular artist, band or composer may help raise awareness of more critical or avant-garde artistic products, which have less commercial potential and would otherwise be left without attention.
Fourth, cultural export is not just about exporting something “cultural”. It is always about exchanging ideas, forms of artistic creativity and experiences too. Therefore, there would be no cultural export without cultural import.
Foreign musical impulses and influences have always benefited Finland. And we are still able to absorb them, make them our own, and, eventually, send them back to the world with a certain peculiar twist that makes them totally and essentially Finnish.