Let me tell you about Kardemimmit, Internets!
Kardemimmit are a group of women from Finland who do folk music featuring the kantele, which is apparently Finland’s national instrument. I first heard of them via De Temps Antan, since Éric Beaudry of that band was posting on Facebook about having had the opportunity to learn about this group while De Temps Antan was recently on tour in the States. Then they shot straight onto my listening queue thanks to a kind person giving me their album Autio Huvila as a gift!
So I promptly did the appropriate thing and listened to that album ASAP (well, after thanking that kind person in email, because awwwwww :~) ). Because pro tip: giving me surprise music that features unusual instruments is an excellent way to get my musical attention. I looked up the band, went “ooh” at the instruments in their splash page pic, and then looked up the kantele at the Wikipedia link above. From that, I learned from that that it’s an instrument of the dulcimer family, and from Kardemimmit’s site, I learned that they play it in 15- and 38-stringed versions.
Then I listened to the album itself.
Now, I don’t speak a lick of Finnish, though I’ve gotten pretty good at coaxing halfway coherent meaning out of Google Translate (coupled with judicious actual Googling) if I’m trying to figure out bits of a language I don’t know. But since the band has no lyrics posted on their site, not even in Finnish, I have no earthly idea what any of these songs are about. These girls could be singing the names of all the streets in Helsinki, in alphabetical order, for all I know. But I did note with interest that iTunes tags several of the tracks on this album as “Explicit”, which made me make the O RLY? face. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from Quebec trad, it’s that the most innocuous-sounding song can have very bawdy lyrics. (Le Vent du Nord’s “Les métiers”, I’m looking at you. 😉 )
Just by sound and style alone, though, this isn’t stuff you’d think would earn that particular rating. The women of the group all have lovely voices, and between their harmony and the chiming of the kantele they play (note: kantele is both a singular and plural noun), the album’s all very bell-like and beautiful. There’s energy, make no mistake. Right out of the gate, listening to the lively first track, I decided this was very compatible with my rampageous affection for Quebec and Celtic trad. I was particularly amused to hear the singers break into something that sounded a lot like a turlutte, even–though I suppose they call it something else in Finnish! And I kept finding myself totally wanting to give them a podorythmie rhythm track, or maybe a bodhran.
I’m not a hundred percent convinced the album’s instrumentation is all kantele–I could have sworn I heard a bass or extra percussion in there every so often, but if there were any other instruments at all, they were scarce. Mostly, this album’s all about the women’s voices, and about the kantele they play. And I found it highly enjoyable. I’ll be exploring the rest of their work.