Monday, July 28, 2003

Tangomarkkinat 2003

First I must apologise for a serious error of fact in a recent report. I said that Eija Koriseva is Arja’s younger sister. In fact Eija is the oldest of three Koriseva sisters. The youngest, Piia, was a TV announcer but she has now become a full-time mother. I got this from Tango Royals, along with a few other interesting titbits:

When Arja Koriseva was a student in the USA, she worked on a farm harvesting corncobs - an appropriate job for a future tango star.
The Tangomarkkinat organisers tried to get her to adopt the stage name of Arja Karen, saying that no great singer could have the name Koriseva, which means “wheezing” in Finnish.
Taina Kokkonen appeared in Argentina and Uruguay as part of the Tango 2000 educational tour. A Finn teaching the South Americans about tango.

Jos sais kerran is coming off. The TV company says it is lack of public interest; Liisa says that Finnish wives are complaining that the men spend all their time leering at Arja. I think that there should have been a more macho male presenter than the distinctly camp Joel Hallikainen. Anyway, in spite of top-notch guests such as Kaija Pohjola, Taina Kokkonen, Janne Tulkki and Katri-Helena; and the memorable episode when Hallikainen was thrashed with birch whisks by girl band CatCat, the programme finished in May 2003, the final guest being Jari Sillanpää.
The weather forecast for Seinäjoki was not good: cold for the time of year, frequent showers. At the station bookstall was a paperback edition of Tango on intohimoni. I bought it at 8 euros. I quote: “Many ask what the meaning of life is. I know: it is the tango.” Nothing to disagree with there, and the language doesn’t appear to be too difficult. I will start on it when I have finished Tango Royals.
I went to the health food shop. My two ladies had left, thought the manageress thought she remembered me. Disappointed, I went to a kahvila and had a coffee and pulla bun while I had a look at the local paper. The lead story was the strawberry crop but there were many pages devoted to tango. There was a page devoted to the semifinallists in the singing competition. I had seen the programme from the town of Raisio where the twelve semifinallists were chosen. They included last year’s runners up, Johanna Piipponen and Rami Rafael, and Ailamari Vehviläinen, dark, sensuous and sultry, and my particular favourite. The others I thought bland and uninteresting. But what is this? Ailamari Vehviläinen was not there! She had been eliminated by the TV viewers! How could this be? Apart from Johanna Piipponen, she was the only one who had any personality! There was more. Taina Kokkonen is quitting showbusiness. She has only been Tango Queen since 1999 and has made a mere two records. I was distraught. Surely things couldn’t get any worse? They could. It started to rain again. There was only one thing for it - I bought a litre of strawberries and pigged the lot.
I saw Johanna Pakonen, last year’s Tango Queen, singing in the shopping mall to harmonikka accompaniment. By then the rain had stopped, and I went to the Tangokatu, where Mira Sunnari was appearing. She was Tango Queen in 2001, the year Erkki Räsänen was King. I was unimpressed at the time and thought Katri Aapalahti should have won. Since then she has not been in the public eye at all, until now. What a difference. She was barely recognisable. The tight blonde curls had gone, replaced by straight black shoulder length hair set off with blue-tinted glasses. More importantly, her singing style had matured and she wrung every ounce of passion out of tangos like Vie meidat rakkauteen (Tango d'amore). In a particularly sad one, I am sure I saw a tear glistening on her cheek.
In the evening was last year’s Tango King, Mikko Kilkkinen. He was cheered by his hundreds of fans, most of them women and some of them four times his age. He could have the pick of any woman over 50 in Finland. What a lucky lad he is.
Friday evening was when the big stars came out in the Tangokatu. The ultra-wonderful Arja Koriseva appeared at 11. The Tangokatu was packed solid. There was room to dance, in the sense that there was a few inches of space between you and the next couple, at the ends of the street but if you wanted to see Arja as well as hear her (the sound system was very good) you were crammed shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other fans in front of the stage. Her rich sensuous voice poured over me and all disappointments were forgotten. I was lifted out of myself and I felt that there was nobody in the Tangokatu but me and Arja and she was singing for me alone. This is what I had come for: this is what tango is all about.
Jari Sillanpää’s testosterone-fuelled performance followed. He appeared immediately after Arja and more people crammed themselves into the non-existent space. The big guy bounded on to the accompaniment of huge cheers. By the end of his first number he was running in sweat. He kept it up for an hour, giving us Elvis numbers, sentimental waltzes and of course tangos, flirting with the audience between numbers. He had as many male fans as female, showing that he is not merely sex on legs.
After that I had a quick dash round the corner to see Kaija Pohjola. She sang only tangos for her entire spot - the only singer who did so. Her spot started at 00:30 in the morning - the same time as Marita Taavitsainen, though after Kaija had finished I dashed back to the Tangokatu and caught Marita’s last song - the classic André.
Other people I could have seen at the same time were Eija Kantola in the Atria Hall, Erkki Räsänen in the Sports Hall, Sebastien Ahlgren at the race track, and the semifinals of the singing competition at the Areena. Not to mention all the minor events in hotels and bars. One of the hotels even had Argentine tango.
Shock horror at the finals! Saija Tuupanen and Kari Hirvonen were the winners! Johanna Piipponen and Rami Rafael nowhere! Piipponen and Rafael were confidently predicted by all and sundry to win. There had been a two page spread in the paper predicting their victory, but the judges disagreed, one of them, Arja Koriseva herself, giving Tuupanen and Hirvonen the maximum 10 points each. “Tango finals end in tears!” screamed the headlines the next day, pushing everything else off the front pages. “Winner Saija weeps for joy, favourite Johanna for disappointment”, with pictures of both ladies in floods of tears. Does any of this actually matter? I think it does. We can vicariously experience Saija’s joy and Johanna’s misery, and powerful passions can be dissipated in the throb of beautiful tango music, rather than the flash of Lappish hunting knives (available from Stockmanns, 219 euros for a particularly vicious-looking one).
On the last day the weather improved and there were some interesting dancers in the Tangokatu, including a man dancing tango with two young girls stacked one behind the other, two men dancing rock and roll together (the only all-male couple I have ever seen in Finland), and two teenage girls who turned the jenkka into something stylish and elegant.


      Post a Comment

      << Home