Friday, March 28, 2003

March 2003

At the tail end of winter, Finland does not look its best. The piles of snow by the sides of the roads are dirty grey or even black. Residue from the gritting still covers the pavements. You need to really love Finland to go there this time of year.
The war in Iraq dominated the TV of course. But there was a good music programme on - Jos sais kerran - introduced by Joel Hallikainen and Arja Koriseva. The programme is in the format of a game show, but really it is an opportunity for the two presenters and their two guest stars to plug their latest singles. A member of the public also has an opportunity to strut their stuff. Hallikainen introduced a guest as “Finland’s Tina Turner”. Sonja Lumme (who I had not heard of before) went on to sing The Best in English. The interesting thing is that Hallikainen pronounced the name as “Taina” (rhyming with miner) Turner, suggesting that he had never heard the name said out loud, and also that he did not associate it with the very similar and very common Finnish name Tiina.
Another tango-related commercial is on TV at the moment. A housewife takes some delicious meat pasties, hot and steaming, from the microwave. The smoke alarm bursts into a spirited rendition of Jealousy.
Tuesday at the Vanhan Kellari was another naistentanssit. The ladies guard their privileges jealously. On previous occasions I have approached them, only to be told very firmly to go back to my place and wait until asked. Naturally such a serious breach of good manners has scuppered my chances of getting any invitations afterwards. I noticed that some women seem to go to the naistentanssit and just sit there without ever inviting any men to dance. Perhaps they just want to listen to the music and have a quiet drink without constantly being pestered by men as they would be at an ordinary dance.
“Marjorie Proops” was there again. I must stop calling her that as she now wears different, non-lethal, glasses. Her real name is Hilkka. She remembered me, which is very flattering as she goes there nearly every night and must meet hundreds of people. Another partner was a slim, very elegant and refined lady who wore an expensive-looking black sequin dress and even more expensive-looking shoes made up of very tiny straps. She had shoulder-length blonde ringlets, and was aged I suppose about 75. We were dancing in a restrained and dignified manner, when the record changed and she sighed “Janne Tulkki!” and melted all over me. Thanks Janne. I’ll do the same for you one day.
On Wednesday the singer was Finland’s own Dannii Minogue. Now here is a woman who has everything: beauty, talent, charisma, star quality - and a big sister who has more of the same. But Eija Koriseva is not just a pale shadow of her sister - she is a wonderful performer in her own right. She isn’t content with singing the words and standing there beaming at the audience during the instrumental bits - she flings herself all over the stage acting out the song and it is possible to understand it without knowing a word of Finnish. I particularly enjoyed the humppa set, where her delicious bust bounced very prettily under her low-cut dress. I was first in the queue to speak to her after her spot. I said I had always admired her. What a despicable liar I am. Three months ago I hadn’t heard of her. I asked when her next CD was coming out. Hopefully a single later this year, an album in the offing. She signed a CD insert I had brought with me, and also gave me a photograph and a kiss.
La Cumparsita by Arja Saijonmaa (4509-98124-2) is an all-tango CD. Most of them are on the two Saijonmaa records I have mentioned before, but it also has the Finnish classic Pieni sydän, and Kyyhkynen, which we know better as La Paloma.
Arja Saijonmaa is a truly cosmopolitan artist. She has issued a CD of French classics sung in Finnish, an LP of Chilean folk songs, again in Finnish, and another of Finnish classics (including Satumaa) sung in Swedish.
I bought a book - Tango-kunninkaalliset ja heidän tarinansa (Tango royals and their stories) by Marja Nyman. I quote from the blurb:
Why did the first tango king Kauko Simonen spend a night in jail? And why was Eija Kantola forbidden to sing? Do you know who Jari Sillanpää’s first love was? Who did Tomi Karkkola hit with a lavatory brush? What makes Arja Koriseva cry? . . . Every story is full of the large and small joys of life, the disappointments and the tears. Every story transports us through the trials and errors, hard work and sacrifice necessary to achieve victory. This book tells what sort of person becomes a star in one night. And how it is done.
Obviously essential reading for every tango fanatic. Yes one may scoff at this tabloid- journalism stuff. But it is a healthy antidote to the attitude one often finds of the tango being a “thing” completely independent of the human beings who create it. The Finnish is not too difficult, and I am trying to read at least a page a day.