Saturday, September 28, 2002

September 2002

Thursday at the Vanhan Kellari was a naistentanssit (ladies’ dance). Women ask men to dance and the men are expected to sit quietly and wait until asked.
The lady with the Marjorie Proops glasses was there again. I asked if she went every night as she always seemed to be there when I went. She said something that might have meant that she had just dumped her boyfriend because he was too old - or possibly that her son was now old enough to be left. Neither interpretation actually answered the question.
I was asked to dance by an energetic young woman who liked the fast jives. When she discovered I was English, she insisted I teach her ballroom tango.
Johanna Pakonen, this year’s tango queen, was the singer. A member of her backing group had an electronic keyboard, but instead of the usual piano keys it had harmonikka buttons.
I bought 3 CD's. With these and the 18 from my previous trip, I now have 22 which I have not reviewed. Do I need to write them all up, particularly as they are so difficult to get over here? All right, you twisted my arm, here are two to be getting on with.

Ystävän laulu, by Arja Saijonmaa (4509-99227-2).
Arja Saijonmaa was on the first Finnish CD I reviewed. I said I didn’t know what Kotkan ruusu was all about. I do now. It means “rose of Kotka”. Kotka is a port not far from Helsinki and the Rose was a lady who extended the hand of friendship to lonely sailors far from home. Kotkan ruusu appears on this CD, with one other tango, Mustasukkaisuuttaa, perhaps better known as Jalousie, Denmark’s biggest contribution to tango culture. Of the other 18 tracks, 4 are Greek songs, sung in Finnish. One of them, Tuska (pain), is a nice quasi-tango. All the recordings are old, made between 1978 and 1983. I have said before that I like my music to be up to date, but I like old stuff if it is good, and this is.

Satumaa, by Arja Saijonmaa (8573-86454-2).
As well as the title track, recorded in 1981 and the only version I have ever heard sung by a woman, there are 10 other tangos, including La Cumparsita. This is known in Finland, and is used as the signature tune for the Tangomarkkinat singing competition, but apart from that the only time I have heard it was when it was sung by a drunken reveller at 2 in the morning in a bar in Seinäjoki. Arja Saijonmaa has a rich sensuous operatic voice which she uses to great effect . Another really good one is Rakkautta ei se ollut, which is the German classic Liebe war es nie. It is as rich, creamy and old-fashioned as a Black Forest gateau.

Here is a book I will be looking out for: MA Numminen’s Tango on intohimoni (tango is my passion). So far it has been translated into Swedish and German. I have written to the publishers asking if there are any plans to put it into English, but I have had no reply. I definitely don’t fancy tackling a whole book in Finnish (or Swedish or German come to that).
My Finnish teacher lent me a VHS copy of Tango kabaree, saying it was “a bit surreal”. It has no subtitles and I couldn’t make any sense of it at all.

I had better luck with the DVD of Onnen maa (happy land). Set in and around a rustic dance hall where nothing but tangos are played, it is described as a nostalgic comedy; although with vicious duffing-up scene (fortunately off-screen) and the death of the grandfather it is hardly Carry On Tangoing. But it is a pleasant, and allegedly accurate, picture of the rural tango scene in the 60’s.
It is the supporting programme of a two-film DVD. The main feature is Badding, which is about the adventures of reluctant rock star Rauli “Badding” Somerjoki. All he wants is to be left alone to read comics, but he is chased across the idyllic Finnish countryside by detectives and others and manhandled onto the stage by heavies. Although the music is described as rock, I would call it middle of the road. I liked it. No tango content though. Both films have English subitles.