Vartinna (2000) (credit: Vartinna.com)
After meeting as members of a Finnish youth group and then studying at Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy folk music department, these women came together as Värttinä in the 1980s. While they championed and revived "the unique polyphonic music of the Finno-Ugric people of Karelia, a region of eastern Finland extending into Russia" they also introduced contemporary influences by eschewing folk costumes and turning away from previoius notions that women should only sing a capella.
Their second record, Seleniko (1992) is a revelation presenting the extraordinary voices of strong women singing intricate, but robust folk melodies. The song, Kyl Vuotti Uutta Kuuta hear it ("The Village Awaits the New Moon"), is a vocal tour de force. A very rough and partial translation from the Vartinna site goes like this:
The village waited for the new moon.
They said my brother would return
empty handed when he was off hunting.
They were wrong. The eagle caught
It begins with a sole female voice singing the melody followed by a second voice repeating it, and then finally by the entire ensemble singing it together. The effect is of a group of women "burning down the house" as David Byrne used to sing as if the human voice could become a sonic force of nature.
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