Features Music

Last Bluesman Standing

{mosimage}The story starts close to a river,
at a crossroad. This time it's not the Mississippi (next to which "Honeyboy"
came to this world 92 years ago) but the river Emajõgi in Tartu,
the second most important city of Estonia, and I am not waiting for a young Ralph
to go challenge the skills of Steve Vai, but for Bullfrog Brown, an Estonian
band that is going to open the show for Honeyboy Edwards in Tallinn.

The rest of the ingredients could well be taken from a classical
road movie: a ramshackle car, many miles of road ahead, and the excitement of
young guys who love blues music over all things, looking forward to the chance
of meeting and playing with one of the last blues legends, not even worrying if
they get their gasoline expenses covered or not.

David "Honeyboy" Edwards
is a true living legend. Born in Shaw in the heart of the Mississippi Delta in
1915, he is the last survivor of a generation who basically invented the blues
as we know it. An itinerant musician and gambler, surrounded by women and cheap
bottles of whisky, sleeping many a night under starry skies, Honeyboy spent his
youth wandering the American South, learning and improving his guitar skills
here and there on the dusty street corners of New Orleans, Tennessee,
Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas, playing with Charlie Patton, Tommy
, Tommy McClennan, Sonny Boy Williamson IIHowlin' Wolf and Robert
, the legendary bluesman who – according to legend – achieved an
agreement with the Devil himself, exchanging his soul for the skills of playing
the blues like nobody else. The continuation of the story is well known to
many: Robert Johnson was poisoned with a bottle of whiskey by the owner of a bar
in Honeyboy's hometown of Greenwood,
Mississippi for having an affair
with his wife, and died at only 27 years of age in 1938. But it is heart
touching to hear the story from the lips of Honeyboy during the press
conference minutes before the show; he claims to have been really there when
everything happened: "Robert said that he was not feeling well. We knew
that he was able to drink a lot of whiskey, so we told him to drink a bit more
and that would make him feel better. But no, he did not feel any better…"

Honeyboy Edwards has arrived a few
hours earlier to the Tallinn
international airport, and after taking a nap, looks in excellent shape for a
man of his age. Never without his cap, his Southern accent is difficult to
decipher but at the same time captivating; a presence that sounds and looks
like a reminiscence of other times.

{sidebar id=13}But the most impressive feature is
how accurate and fresh Honeyboy's memory is. He is like a little encyclopedia
of blues music, and can remember places and musicians he played with six decades
ago much better than he remembers his contemporary gigs. "Yes, I played
with that guitarist of The Rolling Stones… what's his name?" he
says while chatting with some inquisitive fans. "That" guitarist is Keith
, who was invited at the end of a gig to play with Honeyboy and Rocky
three years ago at the Boxcar Café, Connecticut. I ask Honeyboy who is the most
impressive musician he has got to know in all these years of a blues life. For
a man who has played or shared stage with basically every legend of the blues
and is widely admired by more contemporary "younger" stars as Eric
or B.B. King, I'm amazed by his humble and emotive answer:
"Well, my daddy is the first musician I saw playing. He is the one who
taught me to play guitar".

One cannot be less than amazed about
Honeyboy's vitality. Sitting on a comfortable sofa at the back of the club, his
manager, Michael Frank, who will accompany Honeboy during the show
playing the harmonica, tells me that they have had almost 8 shows in a row.
"We were playing in Norway last week, then yesterday in Denmark, two days
here in Tallinn, and then to Tampere in Finland". Although having
visited and played in more than 20 countries, this is the first time that they
visit the Baltic region, and they feel really glad to have been given the
chance to play there.

One must wonder, what is the secret
for keeping going on? "Well, playing is my thing, it is what I do.
Before I played for some pennies or a bit of whiskey, now I am lucky I get paid
for this", Honeyboy jokes. And it's not like he keeps himself fit by
leading an austere life. When the waiter comes to offer a drink, Honeyboy
quickly asks for "a couple of beers". But during the
compulsory break in the middle his show, when he can rest and relax, he admits
to me "Yeah sometimes I feel tired, very tired of travelling. But well,
as you see now, I try to take it easy".

As for the show itself, the presence
of Honeyboy in Tallinn
does not go unnoticed among my colleagues in the media. A broad TV and radio
coverage is made while Honeyboy appears in an old Cadillac crossing the old
town towards the club. Raising the temperature inside, Bullfrog Brown finally
has the chance to hit the stage. Their young singer, Alar Kriisa, looks
fragile and skinny, but when he takes the mic, he sings strongly and deeply,
with a confidence that seems like he had been born in the Mississippi delta instead of a small town in
the Estonian South.

{sidebar id=14}
The first part of Honeyboy´s concert
is welcomed effusively by the audience, but it is during the second part after
the break when most of the media members are gone and the atmosphere is more
intimate, when "Honeyboy" gives his best. Classic delta tunes like Catfish Blues, Sweet Home Chicago,
Cross Road
or Rollin' and Tumblin' are displayed in
front of the enthusiastic public. At the end, other musicians are invited to jump on stage
and share some minutes playing with the legend. "Honeyboy" goes on
accompanied by the harmonica of Harry "Dirty Dog" Finèr, who
came straight from Finland, and the guys of Bullfrog Brown, Andres and Üllar,
also get their dream moments of glory.

It is late at night and during the
car trip back to Tartu,
the usually introverted Estonians cannot stop talking about the excitement of
the last hours, having gone through probably the most important gig of their
lives, sharing stage with a blues legend and satisfied, too – they had sold
enough albums to pay for the trip. Some booze, a crying guitar, the memory of
lost loves and always future places in mind to play. The spirit of the blues
goes on.

Photos by Andres Roots and Antonio Díaz

Features Music

Bitch Alert

{mosimage}I really had to ask. What was the name again? Talking music over coffee on a grumpy
afternoon of the apologetic Finnish spring, the name was dropped like a coin on
the kitchen tile. Silence crept in. I show you – came the answer. Somebody
slipped the CD into the player, and on came sweeping, towering waves of sound,
and riding them the raspy, angry, vivid voice of a girl, irresistibly
commanding everybody's attention. "I wanna see your skeleton," she
snarled, "and I can feel your bones!" This is how I first met Bitch Alert.

he second meeting is slightly less spiritual
and certainly not so loud, but much more relaxed and, compared to what I'd
expected, reassuringly real. On the other end of the telephone line is Heinie
, lead singer and songwriter for the band.

"I'm sorry about my English, it must be
fuckin' rusty by now," she rushes to say, confirming two stereotypes at
once: the one about Finns apologising for their impeccable English, and the one
about the flippant attitude of rock musicians. Suddenly the choice of the band
name doesn't sound so strange anymore.

"In fact, originally we were called
simply Bitch, but when we signed to Poko Records, the label made us
change the name for copyright reasons. An '80s hard rock band was called the
same," Heinie explains. Reasonable, one could say, but, then, why
"Bitch" in the first place?

"At the time we thought that was just the
coolest name ever. That was the only reason. Sure, it's not a name your grandma
would like, but… luckily, at least my grandma doesn't speak English. And
after all, we were 15 or 16 at the time the band was founded. But we never
regretted the choice."

The "we" refers to the original
line-up of Bitch Alert (née Bitch), that is Heinie on guitars and
vocals, and friends Maria and Maritta, playing, respectively, the
bass and the drums. The trio got together in 1997. However, Maria soon chose to
leave the band, and it is with new bass player Kimmo that the band
finally got signed in 2000. (Just to avoid confusion, for those who are not
familiar with Finnish first names: yes, Kimmo is a guy.) Following the debut LP Pay for orgasm, the band has since then released four
albums, the latest of which is last year's I can feel your bones.

{mosimage}Riot grrrls

"We're not decidedly feminists,"
Heinie says, when I ask about the lyrics and the attitude. "We don't write
songs under a manifesto, and we don't consider ourselves political in any way.
On the other hand, most of our songs are very personal, and the person whose
view they are written from happens to be a young woman, so in this sense, you
can still say we are feminists. But I think the music is more important than
the lyrics anyway. Ideally, each of our songs would only have one line, one
sentence as lyrics."

The title of Bitch Alert's second album
(…rriot!) suggests a link to the riot grrrll movement –
the loose spiritual attitude at the meeting point of punk and feminism, started
almost two decades ago by bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile
–, and Heinie confirms.

"Bitch Alert is about girls – and of
course, boys – being themselves, having fun and being free to do whatever they
want, no matter how they are expected or told to behave by others," she
sums up.

2002's ...rriot! was
released in the UK too. Although it received some unexpected and positive
critical attention (notably from the Kerrang! magazine), and the 28-stop
promotional UK tour was considered a success, it didn't bring international
breakthrough for the band. Subsequent records haven't been released outside
Finland, either.

"We'd love to tour England again. Or the
US, or other countries of Europe. Being on tour is what we love the most. But I
just hate the business side of it; going on tour abroad is so expensive!"

And tight budgets are indeed quite a concern
for the band, whose three members all have day jobs to support their passion.

"Unless you're HIM or Rasmus,
or a similarly big act, in Finland you can't make a living solely with
music," Heinie comments.

Incidentally, this might have just changed. Just
as this issue of FREE! Magazine hits the streets, Bitch Alert are on
their way back from Los Angeles, after playing a showcase to "drunken
record company executives" at the Musexpo 2007 event, and with any bit of
luck, this has been an important step in going to "the next level,"
whatever that might turn out to be.

What is sure, on the other hand, that 10 years
on, the once-teen-band of Bitch Alert is as alive and kicking as it can be.

"Our last record was probably the
darkest, heaviest one so far, full of desperation. But if you listen close, you
can feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is always a
sparkle in the eyes. It's like the band. Although we got a bit bored with
touring Finland over and over again, we're still having a whole lot of fun
playing," she affirms.

This, in practice, means a couple of more
months of gathering inspiration, and a new tour in the autumn. And until then?

"I don't know, I've never been too good
at wise concluding remarks. Just have a nice fuckin' spring time!"

The music
Comparing Bitch Alert to '90s grunge-rock
sweethearts Hole is inevitable, and admittedly, the comparison describes
aptly the mix of fuzzy rock, grunge, pop and punk that is Bitch Alert. In fact,
there is little in there that you haven't heard before, if you're a fan of
Courtney Love, Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins or, even, Muse.
And still, as is often the case, the end result sounds fresh and invigorating,
partly because of the catchy riffs and grooves, and, perhaps more importantly,
because of the rich and powerful vocals, frail and whispering in one second and
breaking into uninhibited shouting in the next instant. (Heinie's singing could
remind you of PJ Harvey as well as Juliette Lewis, and sometimes
even the monotonous, aggressive snarl of Liam Gallagher.) Bitch Alert,
then, is not the band if you're looking for sophisticated subtlety or craftily
used samples, it's merely catchy and truthful – like emo would be, without the
"If you never heard of Bitch Alert
before, and want to take the easy way, listen to the …rriot! album,"
recommends Heinie. "If you want to listen to our punk side, you should go
for Songs for your wedding EP. If you're more into indie rock, Kill
your darlings
would suit you best."

And if you'd like to know where Bitch Alert
could go next, give a listen to I can feel your bones. Or just visit the
band's myspace-site (,
and decide for yourself if all their albums are merely a waste of plastic.
After all, independent choice is exactly what they are all about.

They sound like: Courtney Love finally got inspired!

Essential listening: The album I Can Feel Your Bones

The latest: spring break and showcase set in LA. Expect a return to stage in the autumn.

Features Music

Sounds good! Get your earplugs in!

Appropriately in this metal-mad country, the first events are loud and proud of it.

Sauna Open Air Metal (7-9 June) in Tampere’s Eteläpuisto kicks the season off with a big bang – if you don’t find Megadeth, Heaven and Hell, Type O Negative scary. Promoter Jussi Santalahti comments “This year’s will be the best ever (12,000/day) as I got the bands I wanted at this time, so next year we may need a new venue.”  

Provinssirock (15-17 June) is held in woods outside Seinäjoki in outback Pohjanmaa. This is for youngsters to expend energy, make and lose mates. As there’s nowhere near enough accommodation, most tent it. Very social, each one touching cloth with the next. Minimal privacy. 

The site is split between five stages, crowds troop from one to another via a stream. With an average age of 20, everything’s over-indulged. Mature people (25+) may think twice unless they have a safe nest. Camping areas resemble refugee camps after a war with bodies scattered around. First Aid does brisk business. 

Despite its location, Provinssirock attracts eclectic artistes: Marilyn Manson, Manic Street Preachers, Faith No More, Suede, REM and Black Sabbath. So this year’s Scissor Sisters, Patti Smith, Amy Winehouse and MUCC may not seem a theme, but there’s something for everyone whose still compos mentus – or not. Promoter Juha Koivisto informs “We’re now a stopover between Sweden and Russia while for others, Scandinavia is a big market.” 

Tuska Open Air Metal Festival at Helsinki’s central Kaisaniemi Park. A triple treat (29 June-1 July) for the jet black set with music that splits ears and atoms. But that matters not to the 11,000 inside. Although a guaranteed sell-out, fear not – join the throng outside where you’ll be able to hear the ‘lyrics’ clearly growled.  

Tuska 2007 is the 10th and features subtle masters of the dark arts as W.A.S.P., Pain, Hatesphere, and Children of Bodom (a local band whose name derives from a bloody unsolved triple murder 50 years ago). Power, doom, goth, thrash are all here for this must-see metal bash. And don’t be cowed by the fans, as Promoter Jouni Markkanen says “They’re much nicer than they look!”  

Simultaneously, Puistoblues on Saturday (30 June) is a picnic on pasture by a lake for ‘mature’ types. 2007 is the festival’s pearl anniversary. It’s volunteer-organised by blues lovers in quaint Järvenpää, but no worries – it’s a train ride from Helsinki with transport at the station to ferry fans to the venue at a set rate. 

Puistoblues’s legends over 30 years lists John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, George Thorogood, BB King, Jeff Healy, Santana. But recent lack of star names and wet weather mean it’s on a financial tightrope. If it’s sunny, 14,000 can relax comfortably on the gentle slope and appreciate Johnny Winter, Keb Mo and supports for 49 euro. 

After Tuska moshers head for Ruisrock in Ruissalo park outside Turku – so no decibel difficulties here. The mid-July weekend (6th-8th) has a bigger capacity (30,000) with a 3-day pass at €90 great value – if your eardrums don’t implode. 

Europe’s second-oldest festival (Holland’s Pinkpop was first) celebrates its 38th with bands on five stages, two inside a tent! As a trial, in addition to the small one for 800 people, Promoter Juhani Merimaa will erect a 10,000-capacity big top. Why? 

“It’s for bands wanting to use their lightshows. Here the sun sets at 11pm and after 3 hours twilight it’s up again. For foreign acts that’s strange, Mew and Tool played late last year to get the best effects. If more want to do it this year, we don’t have the slots.” 

Ruisrock’s music mix comprises The Flaming Lips, The Ark (fresh from Eurovision success?), Mastodon and The Hives. Look out for the Stockholm ferries behind the main stage around 8 and 9 pm. A sight which caused Oasis’ Liam Gallagher to mouth “What the ****!” 

Ilosaarirock (14-15 July) is on an island in the river that flows through Joensuu and will claim its 10th consecutive sell-out. Mainly for local yokels as accommodation is sparse unless a mosquito symphony in a tent appeals. This year’s not-so-magnetic acts are heavyish: Anthony B, The Business, CunninLynguists, HIM and Opeth. 

{mosimage}For old-timer Pori Jazz (14-22 July) it’s the last 4 days where famous names perform in Kirjurinluoto Park across from the city on the river Aura’s far bank. This is the 42nd edition of the festival and its age shows. Artistic Director-Founder Jyrki Kangas admits “We regenerate the festival every 10 years and now we must attract new audiences too.” 

As most jazzmen have blown their last note, that audience has shrivelled apace, so Pori Jazz became an all-round festival. There’s a gamut of venues and the Jazz Street, but the big guns perform at Kirjurin Arena where Sting attracted a record 36,000 last summer. Warning: Pori is small with limited facilities. 

So schools, homes, practically anywhere will let you lie on a mattress (bring your own sleeping bag) for money. It may feel unusual staying in a stranger’s home (if they’re away it costs more), but you’re only supposed to sleep there…. It’s a very Finnish egalitarian thing, which may not suit those from class-structured societies. Snoozing in vehicles is popular too. 

Prices vary but it’s the festival where you can usually buy a ticket at the door. Thursday and Friday see Natalie Cole and Sly and the Family Stone top the bill, Saturday has Steely Dan and maybe Elvis Costello, who is a serial late-canceller á la eight years ago, thus the uncertainty. Pray hard Elvis fans. 

Sunday is ‘picnic day’ though Pori Jazz’s hallmark is fans flopped on the grass at KA with bottles and snacks on blankets. 2007’s finale is strong: veterans Blood, Sweat and Tears, John Scofield and Medeski as the festival closes with reggae legend Bob Marley’s son Ziggy. Jazz? 

Ankkarock’s timing (5-6 August) pushes meteorological luck. As Promoter Merimaa said after a muddy weekend “It was more like a duck pond than Duck Rock (its English name)”. Heavy again: Nine Inch Nails, Japanese rock Dir En Grey and The Ark are familiar names as you may have noticed. Look up the website for further details.  

But these all depend on the ‘fan in the sky’ blessing them with good weather for a memorable occasion. Amen, hallelujah and amaze the horde. 

Features Music

It’s our song!

The contest started in January. Depending on their roots, participates were divided in four different groups: Afrovision, Arabvision, Latinvision and Asiavision. The winners of each group went to the final which will be held this Saturday.

The lucky finalists are:



Prince Levy (Ivory Coast)
Sofy Kapepula (Kongo)

Aida Murad (Irak)
Samantha Marie José Sayegh (Lebanon)

Eva Wong (Malaysia)
Anfisa Proskuryakova (Ulan-Ude, Siberia)

Tatiana Pereira (Brazil)
Fabiane Laube (Brazil)

The grand finale is hosted by Aria Arai and Jani Toivola. The winner will received 2,000 euro and cola products for a whole year.

Read more about this contest: Ourvision, (Y)our Music! by Silvia Costantini

Ourvision Song Contest Grand Finale

Saturday 5.5. 8-11 p.m.
Kasarmikatu 46-48, Helsinki

Tickets: 8 euro (half price for students, pensioners and unemployed people)

Features Music

Jazz and a little bit more

For one week (25.4 – 1.5), Espoo's evenings are devoted to music. The main concerts take place in Outokumpu-teltta, a big tent installed next to the library in Tapiola. If the weather if good, the festival will be like a long summer night.

Of course, there is a lot of jazz. Good jazz. Musicians from around the world are coming to play, such as vocalist Andy Bey and saxophonist Archie Schepp, both from United States, and the jazz vocalist from Australia Michelle Nicole and her quartet. In addition, local sensation The Five Corners Quintet will make a special appearance on Friday night.

Jazz festivals nowadays include much more of other musical genres other than jazz. In April Jazz will get the blues, with the great Erja Lyytinen and the Blues Caravan, which features a trio of female guitar players (Sue Foley, Deborah Coleman and Roxanne Potvin) this year. Hot Latin rhythms will warm the tent with the Eddie Palmieri's Afro-Caribbean All Stars, and hip hop will meet flamenco with Ojos de Brujo from Barcelona.

Guitar woman

This year's Blues Caravan is travelling with three female guitar players: Sue Foley, Deborah Coleman and Roxanne Potvin. It is a nice shift for music usually performed by hoochie coochie men.

Canada-born Sue Foley represents the power of women in blues and popular music. Since her debut album in 1992, she has impressed blues fans with her sweet voice and wicked guitar playing. Apart from her career, in the last few years she has focused on the Guitar Woman project, which is meant to “document the relationship between woman and the guitar from past to present and beyond”.

The CD compilation Blues Guitar Woman (2005) features songs by contemporary and traditional blueswomen from the 1930s, such as Memphis Minnie and Elvie Thomas. Now, Foley is working on the book Guitar Woman that tries offer a concise historical and biographical account of women guitarists throughout the world and their stories and philosophies.

Music Born Everywhere
by Sergio Reseco Fernández

{mosimage}Someone wakes up hungry in some city in the middle of the night, goes to the kitchen to look for a bite to eat but finds out that the fridge is just empty. It has happened probably to everyone and for Ojos de Brujo the solution for this is simple: Go down to the streets and celebrate. These are just some lines from one of the songs by this band born in the streets Barcelona, but looks out to many different directions.

Flamenco, a gender born from pain, gets together here with several influences and rhythms as distant to each other as hip hop from rumba – as a matter of fact, they have been defining their music as 'hip hop flamenquito'. Categorizing them would probably take too much time and it would definitely be quite useless. Ojos de Brujo (Eyes of the Wizard) is usually formed by eight members and represents the mix of cultures that is currently felt on the streets of many Mediterranean cities, with Barcelona one of the clearest examples.

Due to the fact that flamenco is the main base of their songs, their concerts are lively and full of energy. Currently they are touring the world presenting their third album Techarí. They will be coming from Tallinn to play in Espoo. Zarkus, from Finland, will share the stage with them in Outokumpu-teltta.

Features Music

We Don’t Need No Education

Lapko have been amassing a following in Finland for over ten years, and the prognosis is the trio will be alongside fellow "hair band" Disco Ensemble next to break overseas. Malja (vocals and guitar), Nordberg (bass) and Heikkonen (drums) have been friends since they were hanging around the schoolyard in the small town of Harjavalta, where they still gather to rehearse.

They've remained a trio, welded together as a tight, powerful live act and matured from obscure indie faves to a full-fledged rock band with an unpolished sound of their own. "Actually we've regressed, up to the point where you concede you're too dumb to do anything other than play in a rock band,” laughs Nordberg.

Lapko's signature melancholic melodies and Malja's tightly wound vocals have attracted recurring comparisons to Placebo, but the band stands firmly on its own ground. "We moved on from our punk roots towards a broader definition of rock, and, at some point, we were a sort of mix between Rammstein and Placebo with Finnish vocals,” Nordberg recounts. The linguistic issue was reassessed when the vocals on a demo apparently didn't pass as Finnish for a record company.

English seemed more suited for the kind of volatile rock with a raw emotional core that they set out to play. Lapko released their first album, The Arms in 2004 through Tampere-based Jukeboss records, and moved on to Fullsteam Records for their 2006 sophomore effort Scandal.

{mosimage}The new album, Young Desire, celebrates Lapko's regression by going back to the schoolyard and teenage trash talk. "There's a whole leather theme going on; leather being the material of choice for teenage tough guys. It's about being hard and acting like a badass, but still having that insecure and emotional side hidden underneath.”

Following the release, the band will be touring Finland. The theme of acting a role goes further once they hit the stage. "Playing on stage always has an element of theater to it, and we've been looking to Queen for instance, for some inspiration on that,” says Nordberg. The theatrics come across on the album as well, in more stagy compositions. ”We've got guitar solos there.”

In contrast to those young and restless middle-school misfits, Lapko have improved their communication skills as they've grown as a band. They've learned to listen to other people's opinions, including each other's, and they're opening lines of communication to the general public.

A song from the new album can be heard for free over the phone by dialling a certain number. "It won't be released anywhere else as a single, and the phone preview will be available before radio play,” Nordberg explains. The title of the song? "Hugging the Phone"! All you lonely, insecure badasses out there, dial up and start hugging.

Young Desire is released 2nd May. You can catch Lapko live on tour and at various festivals over the summer.


To listent to Hugging the Phone, dial +358 (0) 700 122 55 (cost in Finland 0,10 c/min +local call charge)

Features Music

Young people rap for children’s rights

competition is open until 23rd of April and the lyrics of the entries may be
written from young people’s personal or global perspective in Finnish, English
or Swedish. The competition entries can
be solo or group acts. The candidates must be under 18 years old. In group acts, half of the
members can be from 18 to 23 years old. The songs may include samples and loops
that can be downloaded from the competition website.

jury includes well-known Finnish artists such as Paleface and Redrama among
others. The chairman of the jury,
DJ Mobster, encourages entrants to do what comes naturally and from the heart. “The most important thing
is to do what feels right.” The winners will have the chance to record their entry and the best lyrics in the
competition will be compiled in a book.

competition is modelled after the Tundu Dior musical project in Senegal. The 12-year-old Aminata,
who is in the Tundu Dior competition, wants to express through music her hopes
that there will be fewer
wars and that all children will be able to go to school, because
children are the future of the land.

information and instruction on how to enter at the competition website:

Features Music

Neighbours coming over for a good vibe

Luckily there is a guy named Tusovka. Loosely
translated from St. Petersburg
slang meaning "good vibe" and "a creative get-together of free
people", the Helsinki-based promoter has been active since 1998
introducing modern Russian music and popular culture to Finnish audiences, and
visa versa.

Tusovka’s biggest event is the annual Tusovkarock
Festival in Helsinki. This year, the eighth edition of the festival at Cultural
Arena Gloria takes place on March 30th and 31st. Kicking off will be St.
Petersburg-based Tva Samoleta (Two Planes), one of Russia's oldest and
best-known ska bands, and Boombox, a popular trio consisting of a vocalist,
guitarist and a DJ from Kiev (Ukraine), with their cosmopolitan blend of rock,
r ’n’ b, funk, soul and reggae. Also performing that night will be popular
ten-member strong Finnish dancehall/dub/reggae collective Puppa J &

{mosimage}On Saturday 31st Deti Picasso (Children of Picasso)
hits the stage. The group from Moscow plays psychedelic rock with expressive
vocals by Gaya Arutyunyan, in Russian and Armenian, combined with Moscow
club and Armenian folk influences. Monostereo from St. Petersburg will bring, in what they
themselves call, an energetic mix of post-rock, acid-jazz and hip-hop, combined
with deep and touching lyrics. Joining the party on Saturday will be Helsinki's
own, seven-member funk band Eternal Erection, widely considered to be one of
Finland's best live acts.

To top everything off, there's Russian animation and
fine food. So for a “hyvä meininki” Russian style, head to Tusovkarock!


Tusovkarock 2007


Friday 30.3: Boombox, Tva Samoleta and Puppa J &

Saturday 31.3: Deti Picasso, Monostereo and Eternal

Cultural Arena Gloria, Pieni Roobertinkatu 12, Helsinki

Tickets: 9 e/day, 16 e/2 days

Features Music

Iskelmä hero travels to Memphis

to Memphis and Graceland is a pilgrimage. It is the same trip he did many years
ago before he joined the army to complete his military service and now the same
trip has been documented by filmmaker Ari Martikainen in Yhden Tähden Hotelli (One
Star Hotel
), which opens in cinemas on March 2nd.


is one of the youngest singers of the 1970's “Finnhits” generation. Born in
1961, he headed his first band when he was 15, but would not make his big breakthrough
until 1992 when he joined the band Agents, which is an important part of iskelmä music.

Iskelmä is
the most genuine form of Finnish popular music. It is a style of melodic and
light popular songs, and the word means “hit”. Most Finns know the list of the
pop stars that kept the iskelmä tradition alive since the 1970s, with names
like Irwin Goodman, Frederik, Jari Sillanpää and Katri-Helena being some of the
most popular.




Along with
the documentary, the singer is releasing his third solo album, also with the
title Yhden Tähden Hotelli. The first
single is Yksinäisten Miesten Kanjoni (Lonely Men Canyon) and the album features a full-size
orchestra conducted by Riku Niemi. For his previous album, Onnenlantti, Jorma Kääriäinen realized a live-long dream by recording
in Nashville and at Sun Studios in Memphis.

Martikainen’s film draws a portrait of the different sides of the singer. The
movie follows Kääriäinen’s path from Lapland to Memphis, and to the backstage
of Finnish dance halls. It is a deep, although warm and humorous, analysis of
the traveling musician.

Agents have decided to have a break for an undetermined time, Jorma Kääriäinen
will tour Finland during the spring and summer with the orchestra of Riku Niemi.
Either attending one of his shows or watching the documentary is the perfect opportunity
to discover this one particular Finnish crooner.

Features Music

That weird guy and his noise

born in Vilppula and educated in art in Lahti, Anssi lives and works in the
remote village of Sahalahti, where he finds strange stories and inspiration
from which to compose his music. Storytelling is a fundamental part of Anssi’s
songs and shows, yet the odd stories and rudimentary instrumentation – thanks
to homemade and worn out equipment – makes him look like a weird troubadour of

Where is
the drummer? There isn’t a drummer. Anssi simultaneously plasy guitar and
drums, producing crude tunes, which sometimes sound as though The White Stripes
are playing Nirvana songs. On stage and on the album, he is occasionally joined
by Miss Hot Coke, who brings some syntheziser, backing vocals and maracas,
hi-hat or tambourine to the ensemble. This addition sweetens the compositions
and stresses the pop sensibility of the melodies, which is like comparing Nico
to The Velvet Underground.

vs. Svesse was recorded over long three days with short breaks for pizza,”
according to producer Arttu Tolonen’s notes. The first day was used for
recording the basic instruments and during the second day was dedicated to
vocals: “Stick him in a booth with a mic, press record and let him yell.” The final
day of recording served for overdubs and Miss Hot Coke’s deft touch.

To add a
splash of extravagancy to the recording, Mexican artist Gustavo Artigas, as a
DJ, introduces the recording with not so pleasant words towards the music
industry, although you need to know Spanish to understand the intro track.

Features Music

The seed is fertilized

{mosimage}Toni and Antti, in a telltale
sign of the band's do-it-yourself attitude, convinced Sipe to join them on
drums. It didn't exactly matter that Sipe had never actually played the drums
before. On the contrary, it fitted perfectly into the genuine punk attitude of
the lads. As did the name Apulanta – meaning "fertilizer."

The story goes that Toni came
up with the name while lounging on his then-girlfriends' sofa, and that other
possible name candidates included Napalm Killers, Silmaläsikäärme
("spectacled cobra") and Pökäle (roughly translated as "sturdy
piece of crap") – Apulanta was to be different, gritty, and as
down-to-earth as possible.

At and around the first few
gigs, the band auditioned numerous bass players, but the right one came along
only in the autumn of '92, when Sipe met Amanda (Mandy) Gaynor, an exchange
student from the US. Again, the fact that Mandy had never played the bass
before was no problem: what really mattered was her fondness of punk bands,
such as The Misfits, The Ramones and Bad Religion. The band was soon playing
gigs, not only in Heinola, but all over Southern Finland. Time was ripe for a
record deal.

In the fall of '93, Mandy
returned to the US. Her replacement was the band's longtime friend Tuukka
Temonen. Keeping with the tradition, he didn't have any previous experience of
playing the bass, but he caught up quickly. Tuukka was also interested in
movies and videos, and became the first video director for Apulanta.

In 1994, Apulanta supported
Californian punk band The Offspring, but the grandiosity of the events failed
to impress Antti. He would have pursued a heavier, more gothic, darker sound,
instead of the catchier, punkier tunes that were the traits of Toni's
songwriting. In the fall of the same year, Antti decided to quit the band.


…and they became famous

Initially it seemed that his
departure led to a lowpoint in the band's career, but in fact it merely marked
a new beginning. The band decided not to look for a replacement guitarist but
continue as a trio, and they recorded their first LP (Attack of the A.L. people) in the winter of 1994. The EP that
followed in 1995, under the name Hajonnut,
contained the song that would become their biggest hit to date: Mitä kuuluu ("What's up"). The
rest is Finnish punk rock history…

Features Music

Open your ears

Since its first
edition in 1981 – at the time it was called Helsinki Biennale – Musica Nova has
focused on introducing contemporary music from all over the world to the
Finnish audience. And judging from some of the musicians who have been
participating in the festival the mission has been, so far, brilliantly
accomplished. Over the years one of Musica Nova’s main features has been the
choice of offering a great variety of contemporary music, from jazz to chamber
music to choral concerts to electronic music.

This year the festival will turn 26. Also, this year marks the 90th anniversary
of Finland
as an independent republic and the 125th anniversary of two institutions of
paramount importance in the cultural life of Helsinki and the whole country – the Sibelius Academy and the Helsinki Philharmonic
Orchestra. Thus it’s probably not by chance that Musica Nova’s 2007 program
focuses on Finland, offering the opportunity to get familiar with the country’s
composers and performers, and the work of some of those artists who have come from
abroad to study and work in Finland.

The festival will take place from the 10th to the 17th of March in several Helsinki
venues (all listed in the festival website: where you can also find detailed
information about programme and tickets), and boasts several very interesting
premiers, as for instance Kimmo Hakola’s
L’or d’Azur, Kaija Saariaho’s
cello concert Notes on the light, the Concerto for orchestra by Jukka Tiensuu. But this year at Musica
Nova there will be space also for modern dance with Kwaidan, composed by
Pehr Henrik Nordgren and
coreographed by Mia Malviniemi, and
for the series of Focus concerts featuring such artists as Matthew Whitthall, Paavo Heininen, Lauri Kilpiö and Perttu Haapanen.

Features Music

A tsunami of Japanese Rock

Japanese rock (J-rock), or rather a particularly flamboyant subgenre called visual kei, is hitting it big all over Europe. Visual kei stands simply for “visual style”, and refers to a movement that pays specific attention to the visual side of ands. The look, eccentric and exaggerated, often draws inspiration from anime, video games, goth or punk subcultures, and usually involves theatrical costumes, clots of make-up, hints of androgyny and enough of bling to make Finland’s own Hanoi Rocks look like the Dave Matthews Band.

Musically most visual keibands fall under categories of goth rock or heavy metal, but subcategories abound. “There’s for instance angura kei, which is darker and not as particular about the visuals, and oshare kei, which is more cute and fluffy”, explains Annika Vellonen, also known as Matron, co-manager of JaME-Suomi web portal and an active member of the JrockSuomi association. “The categories mainly delineate a certain visual style, but it usually also reflects the music.Angura kei band MUCC, for instance, blends aggressive metal and punk rock.


J-rock fandom is often closely associated with a general interest in Japanese youth culture, and within the variety of styles represented by J-rock groups any Japanophile can find hers. The fans are truly dedicated, and in fact the recent invasion is mostly orchestrated by an underground army of fans. “There were a lot of fans and demand for gigs in Finland, but nobody was doing anything about it, so we decided to do it ourselves”, says Annika. JrockSuomi took the initiative and brought the first visual kei band Blood for a gig to Turku in 2005 and collaborated with King Foo Entertainment to bring in other names like D’EspairsRay andMUCC.

Once proven popular, bigger promoters are joining the game. This summer’s Ankkarock is the first Finnish rock festival to get on the J-rock bandwagon by adding visual kei heroes Dir en grey to their line-up. Bands are also springing up in China and Korea, and recently a group in Greece proclaimed themselves the first European visual kei band. There’s plenty of potential there, and right now J-rock is hotter than lava.

Features Music

On the pursuit of the perfect plate

music and sound systems

The reggae scene in Finland is currently
doing better than ever. Over the
years there has been a strong underground movement, but only
recently it has broken through to mainstream. In addition to the flow of Finnish
reggae music, sound systems are gaining more and more attention and are
becoming known to the public.

In short, a sound system means a group of people,
most notably a DJ (Disk Jockey) and an MC (Master of Ceremony), who play reggae
music at parties. A sound system does not include a live band. Instead, they
rely on the Jamaican tradition of playing recorded music to the audience. Thus,
an important part of the sound system is the arsenal of vinyl and the style in
which the records are played.

An essential aspect of reggae culture is the
concept of sound clash. Sound systems compete against each other in sound
clashes, where the idea is to “murder” the rival sounds by playing better
records. Special records, dubplates, are needed if one wants to qualify. In
addition, the wordplay of the MC is also a crucial weapon.


the mpv sound

FREE! Magazine took an inside look in the
sound system culture by interviewing Andor, the DJ of one of the leading sound
systems in Finland, MPV.

MPV is a Helsinki-based sound system. It has
gained reputation and a fine bunch of followers by providing energetic dances
and competing successfully in sound clashes. Who are the members of MPV and how
did it all get started?

MPV consists of Nestori the MC and Andor the
DJ. One MC and one DJ, as the man would say. The first gig was on New Year’s
Eve 2005. I joined MPV when I returned to Finland from Holland in summer 2005.

The most visible part of the sound system’s
activity is performing in
front of a live audience. What makes MPV strong in live situations?

Nestori and his energy on the mic! Energy
also flows to the dance floor from behind the turntables. We want to offer
people something which we would like to hear in a dance ourselves. A crucial
thing is the selection of records, which builds the atmosphere and has a proper
amount of hooks and humour in it. It’s important to be in contact with the
audience – music has to stir the soul and leave people both fulfilled and
yearning for more.

Managing a sound system requires a lot of
time, effort and, naturally,
money. How much does it actually take if one wants to have a fully operational,
professional sound system?

It’s a big part of life. The running of the
sound system takes all the
time I can give to it. It requires a lot of work in different areas:
finding out and ordering the latest hits, playing shows, making mixes, remixing
songs. Organizing the recording of dubplates and mixing them is important, too.



A dubplate is a custom-made special record,
often a re-recording of a hit tune with altered lyrics. They are played at
dances, but more importantly, in sound clashes. How does MPV obtain these
special seven-inchers?

We get dubplates both from Finnish and Jamaican
artists. There are some studios in Jamaica with which we have been
cooperating. It all depends on how good a business partner one is able to find.
In some cases there has been a great deal of teeth-grinding included. If an
artist is performing in Finland, due to touring schedules the recording can
take place at very awkward hours, such as late at night or early in the

It’s a long way from here up north to the
West Indies, both geographically
and mentally. Is it difficult to acquire dubplates from desired
Jamaican artists?

Usually it’s quite possible to get what one
wants. The prices have risen in the last couple of years, though, and some
artists may ask for large sums of money.

Getting dubplates can be a risky business.
The artists might record dubplates in long sessions. At the end of these
sessions the quality can vary. Getting a superb dubplate is not easy; a good
plate is powerful both musically and lyrically. What dubplates is MPV the most
proud of?

Gonna Put on an MPV Shirt
(a version of Max Romeo’s
hit, I Chase the Devil – ed), which has kind
of become a signature tune for us. Derrick Parker, Gyptian, Million Stylez and
Luciano have done a great job too. MPV has also lot of quality Finnish
dubplates, for example from Finnish reggae artists Jukka Poika, Nopsajalka,
Raappana and Janhoy. We have dubplates from other genres too, such as from
Mariska and Don Johnson Big Band. Finnish dubplates are usually of very high quality.
The lyrics are written with thought.


to the future

The Finnish reggae scene is strong at the
moment; lots of sounds have started operating lately. How have things developed
in recent years?

{mosimage}The development has been wild. It is unbelievable
how strongly clashes and dubplates have broken into the scene. Soon we will be
on an international level. The audience has kept up pretty well, too. On the
other hand, hits from Jamaica come ashore faster nowadays.

It’s important to understand that although
Jamaican music is usually
associated with the “one love” idea, the reality in the dancehalls
in Kingston might be a little different. Sound clashes can be total war, albeit
musical and verbal. In the future the competition between sound systems will
probably get fiercer in Finland, too.

The standards will get higher. At the
moment there are few sounds in Finland
that do things on a professional level. There are lot of rising stars, but not
anyone can invest as much as it takes to be on the top. I wouldn’t necessarily
want the competition to get much fiercer than this.

Jamaican popular culture has always been very
dynamic, constantly changing shape and moving in new directions. Being able to
react to changes makes one vital in this culture. What kind of moves does MPV
have in store for the future?

To the top! I will soon go to Jamaica, with the
intention of bringing inspiration and spice to our thing. MPV has a view in the
right direction, but the road there will be built with care. Better things are yet
to come! In conclusion, I’d like to give respect to Komposti, Lion Head and all
the other sound systems. And of course to all the people who enjoy themselves
dancing or just listening to the music.

Features Music

How much would you pay for music?

{mosimage}”There's been a lot of talk about
high record prices in Finland
and we thought it would be interesting to see how much people would actually
pay for music if given a choice”, says singer/guitarist Sami Konttinen from ultrasport. ”On the other hand we just wanted
to put out some quality music for a price you can definitely afford.”

Ultrasport's guitar-driven pop
builds on catchy up-tempo melodies and bittersweet lyrics with a geeky slant.
Their first album, entitled Nothing Can
Go Wrong
was released in 2005.The
new album is more energetic”, Sami declares. ”Juho [Kosunen, singer/guitarist
for ultrasport] describes the new sound as 'The
playing Springsteen',
which is pretty accurate.”

Of course there's the possibility
that shoppers will decide to pay the bare minimum for the record and the band
ends up suffering a serious financial loss. They are fully prepared for such a
scenario, says Sami: ”We're definitely not expecting to make a lot of money
with this, but hopefully people will enjoy the album and appreciate what we're