I attended a party in Berkeley in the early 1990s and someone played Ottopasuuna’s eponymous (1991) record. The sound is riveting and powerful and I had to own it. It’s given me endless hours of listening pleasure ever since.
Though this review at Allmusic.com is sloppily written and full of musical comparisons that do little to clarify the author’s point (the problem is that there’s almost nothing on the web–at least in English–about this group), it’s sufficiently useful as to be worth quoting:
Local tunes mixed with Celtic and bluegrass phrasings trickle through the sensibilities of Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy, where Ottopasuuna’s members teach. Though violinist Kari Reiman also fiddles with Värttinä, these musicians aren’t exactly wild, except in a reserved sub-Arctic kind of way. Accept them as classicists, however, and the disc burst open up into a charming world view that in a subdued fashion does for Finnish folk what the 3 Mustaphas 3 do for klezmer. The same care and cleverness that go into arrangements shine on the choice of material, which in true folklorist fashion was unearthed by bandmembers from such obscure sources as a 1914 wax cylinder recording, an acetate disc from the 1930s, and an old music book dating back to the early 1800s.
Of all the junk in the above passage, the most important is “accept them as classicists.” Indeed, what shines through Ottopasuuna is the impeccable musicianship and beautifully balanced classical form of their compositions. The arrangements gleam like polished stones.
This is truly an outstanding album. I’ve chosen this particular song to sample, though I could’ve chosen any song on the record they’re all that good: Honkolan Mamman Kirnumasurkka (hear it).
For more information about Finnish folk music (including groups like Vartinna and JPP), visit the Finnish Music Information Centre.
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