in Reviews

Tradition is an inexhaustible source of joy

by Amanda Kauranne

"Sväng have now returned to their roots in a refreshing and energetic rediscovery of tradition – an inexhaustible source of joy."

The latest release by harmonica quartet Sväng, In trad we trust (Galileo 2020), consists wholly of folk music originally recorded in Finland and Karelia: dance songs with chashtushkas, Finland-Swedish traditional tunes and the beauty of the ‘long aesthetic’ of kantele music are given a handsome outing in the inimitable idiom of Sväng. Previously acclaimed for their catchy original pieces and ingenious arrangements of classics such as Chopin, Sibelius and (most recently) Finnish tango, Sväng have now returned to their roots in a refreshing and energetic rediscovery of tradition – an inexhaustible source of joy. This disc excellently highlights just how manifold and multicultural ‘Finnish tradition’ has always been.

The arrangements manage to retain something of the original style: Kustaa Järvinen’s brisk fiddling echoes playfully in the background in Euran polkka, while the widely familiar Peltoniemen Hintriikin surumarssi [Funeral march of Hintrikki Peltoniemi] is imbued with a feel of not only the lament of a solo violin but also the wall of sound that only a fiddler ensemble from Kaustinen can produce, as the sense of overwhelming grief sweeps over the listener like cleansing rain, bringing hope with it. And all this using nothing but harmonicas! For anyone familiar with the Roma song Minä yksin kuljen [I walk alone] as performed by Rauha Ek, this track will bring tears to their eyes, as the arrangement movingly echoes the mood of the lyrics. Fortunately, the lyrics to all the songs are printed in the booklet, adding an extra dimension to the disc. The disc concludes with a brisk quadrille, Katrillia, pilkkua ja wappua, whose title alludes to May Day celebrations, and the diversity of the disc leaves a tradition-hungry listener more than satisfied.

For those already familiar with Finnish folk music, the disc offers new versions of old favourites but also earthy new acquaintances. For those exploring new territory, it serves as an encyclopaedic article on all the kinds of music that have been found and continue to be found in this corner of the globe.


Galileo Music GMC091, 2020

Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi