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FMQ Playlist: Finnish Roma songs

by Anette Åkerlund

The many branches of the Roma people have influenced musical cultures throughout Europe. The voice of Finland's ancient, original Roma minority can be heard especially in the tango and 'iskelmä', but the Roma's own, strong musical tradition has only been brought into mainstream culture in recent years.

This playlist is compiledy by Roma and flamenco singer and songwriter Anette Åkerlund.

Dimitri Keiski: Monta kertaa [Many times]

Dimitri’s song is melodically inspired by traditional songs of the Finnish Roma. It has a harmonium intro, and some of the guitar accompaniment draws on folk music styles. A wonderful mood.

Anette Åkerlund: Ajatuksia ja tunteita [Thoughts and feelings]

I wrote this song in 2021, incorporating flamenco influences, for instance in its rhythm. I have found that the lyrics often appeal to listeners at gigs, and I have had feedback that people find support and comfort in the song. The lyrics have come to have a deeper meaning for me now that I have been performing the song for a few years. You can interpret its content on multiple levels.


A well-known Russian song, sung in the Russian dialect of the Roma language. My friend Miritza and I have been performing it at gigs since I was 15 years old. The Dorian melody in the refrain lends a powerful feel to the music.

Valfrid Åkerlund: Kiitoslaulu elämälle [Song of thanks to life]

My father wrote this song for our vocal ensemble as part of Karavaani [Caravan], a production directed by Jemina Sillanpää at the Finnish National Theatre in 2017. I’ve been performing it at my gigs a lot ever since. The lyrics in Finnish and Roma tell the story of the centuries of wandering of the Roma and our strong sense of community, along with the cycle of life that brings us to where are we now; life has its joys and its sorrows, but ultimately it is all just life. The melody shows a lot of influences from Finnish Roma songs.

Anette Åkerlund & Pablo Suárez: Tummuessa kesäillan [As the summer night falls]

An old traditional Finnish Roma song that I have been performing since I was a teenager. It is dear to me, a tender and touching song. It has been recorded by the band Hortto Kaalo and Miritza and others. I have performed it for instance with Pablo Suárez, pianist with the Camerata Flamenco Project of Madrid, in Finland and in Spain.

Valfrid Åkerlund & Tuula Åkerlund: Latso diives

With music by my father and lyrics co-written by him and my mother, this song was originally released on disc by the band Pelimannet in 1994. Many Roma musicians have performed it since then. The lyrics in Finnish and Roma are about the long trek of the Roma to the present day and the connection, friendship and love that we feel to one another.

Emil Szentirmay: Mustalaiseks olen syntynyt

An internationally known song written by Emil Szentirmay, Csak egy szep [Gypsy Lullaby]. Its Finnish title encapsulates the message of the song: “I was born a Gypsy”. The song also has lyrics in the Finnish Roma dialect, beginning “Kaaleske me som födime”. It is a fine example of what a beautiful language the endangered Finnish Roma dialect is for singing. It should be revived and featured more in song lyrics.

Kutujensa kamajensa

A traditional Finnish Roma song with Finnish and Roma lyrics that can be combined in improvisational ways. I believe this is one of the oldest known Finnish Roma songs.

Anette Åkerlund: Kaalo tsau

I wrote these lyrics directly in Romani language. The melody draws on Hungarian Gypsy songs, which I have sung a lot and which are a major source of inspiration for me in addition to Finnish Gypsy songs, flamenco songs and Balkan Gypsy songs.