La vie est une fête
Finnish iskelmä and French chanson are related. But where continental romance blossoms in chanson, the iskelmä cries for the blue summer night. Throughout the 20th century, Finns became well versed in international songs through localised versions. It was a one-sided affair, with far fewer songs travelling out of Finland. As Finns’ understanding of foreign languages improved, fewer songs were translated.
Finnish actress Irina Björklund, now based in France, has been translating songs Finns love into French. Some songs on her second such album, La vie est une fête, are from the 1950s, but there are newer classics too. Kauas pilvet karkaavat, familiar from film director Aki Kaurismäki’s movie of the same name, is pure chanson. Originally by Kauko Röyhkä, Lauralle (Pour Laura), has an attractive sway.
As collaborators, Björklund has among others Marc Collin and Liset Alea, who have specialised in covering popular contemporary songs in a 1960s style in their band Nouvelle Vague. They have made stylish arrangements with beautiful translations, and moods that radiate the beauty of memories. The music succeeds in being at once fresh and warm.
Translation: Jonathan Mander