In a positive way, Päivi Hirvonen (Okra Playground) does not make much noise about herself. She approaches music with focus and attitude, but then lets it speak for itself. On her solo debut album, she expresses herself by singing as well as playing the fiddle and the bowed lyre. Her music-making is quite intimate but at times incorporates a lot of different layers, expanding herself into an orchestra or a choir.
Her music grows from a strong traditional foundation but is mostly self-penned, with Tero Pajunen collaborating on the lyrics. The tracks are long, drawing from both archaic and pelimanni traditions – Hirvonen often presents a tune in a traditional style and then starts playing around with it, passing through different moods from dreamy to more pompous. Her singing has a nice Värttinä-like edge but personally I find her voice most touching in the sad tunes such as Eikä mun saisi laulella and Tuuti tuuti, tuomenmarja. I'm also impressed by her fiddle playing, which covers a large range from energetic pelimanni playing to more classically inspired polska styles. It certainly grooves. The bowed lyre, too, is used in a very straightforward, danceable style.
Päivi Hirvonen is not the wildest or the most radical musician on the Finnish folk music scene, but a talent worth listening to. She is currently working towards an artistic doctorate at the Sibelius Academy.
Alku – The Beginning (Nordic Notes 2018)