Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tangomarkkinat 2013

The theme of this year's Tangomarkkinat is "100 years of tango in Finland". As M.A. Numminen says in "Tango is my Passion":

Tango came to Finland in 1913, when a certain Danish couple performed it in the Börsi restaurant in Helsinki. Tango had a sinful reputation. Dancing it was lewd. Just why the couple’s tango displays were so popular that they performed in the Börsi for several years, I can’t imagine.

I thought I would spend a few days in Helsinki before carrying on to Seinäjoki. I rang Eine-Liisa and asked if she would be at the Vanhan Kellari on 6th July, and she said she would. I arrived in very heavy rain and thunder, and made my way to the Omena hotel in Lonnrot Street. It is more expensive than the Eurohostel, but at my age I find walking down the corridor to the WC a bit wearing. When the rain stopped I went out to stock my fridge with piimä and rye bread. A jazz group was playing Tico Tico outside Stockmanns and a big blonde with a nice deep cleavage was watching. The Vanhan Kellari opened at 20:00. Contrary to expectation, Eine-Liisa was not there but I found some nice partners, one of whom said "tack" after every dance so presumably she was Swedish, or thought I was.

I was up at 9 on the following day (Sunday). I had often thought of going to a service at Helsinki cathedral but this was such a nice sunny day I didn't. The service was relayed outside on a very tinny speaker. I rang Eine-Liisa and said I hadn’t seen her at the Kellari and she replied that it was because she wasn’t there. I asked if she would like to go to the Helsinki Pavilion that afternoon and she said no, but she would be at the Kellari on Tuesday.
An old tram runs round Helsinki on Sundays, at 5 euros for a 20 minute round trip. Tourist tickets not accepted.

In the afternoon I got the no 731 bus from outside the station to the Helsinki Pavilion, known universally as the Pavi. In fact if you call it anything other than the Pavi, people will not know what you mean. The Pavi is not clearly visible from the road, so if you go there ask the bus driver to shout when the bus gets there. Also the Pavi is outside Helsinki city limits, so a tourist ticket is not accepted. I got there a little early and there were lots of people waiting. CD’s were sold in the foyer, and I bought a Kaija Pohjola compilation called Tosirakkautta. I have most of the numbers already, but the CD includes Kaija’s first ever recording, made when she was 18. Here it is, taken from the original vinyl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfjKI-V6w6k The CD has better sound quality. Two bands played alternately, and there was no break in the music and no records. I danced nearly every dance and was asked all the time in the naistenhaku.

Monday morning I was up at 8:30 and went to the harbour to have coffee and pulla with Havis Amanda. At least I had the coffee and she stood on her plinth as usual. I had a look in the Helsingin Sanomat to see if there were any dances (I already knew the Vanhan Kellari is now closed on Mondays). There weren't any advertised. I once went to a Senior Dance on a Monday, but I seem to be out of luck today. I went to the Linnanmäki amusement park and had a ride on the monorail. This cost 7 euros.

There were some very disturbing figures outside the snack bar. The humanised sausage putting sauce on himself to make himself taste nice was bad enough, but the humanised bag of chips was eating his own brains.


In the afternoon I went to the flea market, where I could have bought a Danish field telephone, an aluminium bust of Lenin, or a typewriter with Finnish and Danish letters; but I resisted the temptation. On the tram I was sure I saw Marita Taavitsainen. I spoke to her, but she insisted she wasn't Marita. Back in Helsinki centre, I saw two girls playing German bagpipes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRx42G4wGLY
Next day I had another coffee with Havis Amanda. There was a party of Japanese tourists, all wearing face masks, even though Helsinki is the world's cleanest city. The Popangel second hand record shop is now closed but in its place is A.H. Records, advertising themselves as vinyl specialists. Unfortunately they are closed Tuesdays. I went to Stockmanns and bought two CD’s: Anne Mattila’s latest and one by Yona. Her real name is Johanna Louhivuori, and she is one of the Tangomarkkinat finalists. The CD is rather avant-garde and includes the tango Vaadin kyyneleeni takaisin (I demand my tears back) and the humppa. Panssarivaunu. In the afternoon I went to the same wood sauna I had visited on my first visit to Finland in 2001. It is quite expensive - €20 entrance, €3 for towel, €6 for vasta. They let me have the lot for €20. In the evening I went to the Vanhan Kellari, which is records only on Tuesdays. Hilkka was there - I had not seen her since July 2010. We danced some tangos together, but Eine-Liisa was not pleased. “I don’t share my man with anyone” she said. But I’m not her man. We just dance together sometimes when I’m in Helsinki. Her man is Esko, and he is at home in Vantaa with a slowly emptying bottle of Koskenkorva. At the end of the evening I escorted Eine-Liisa to the bus station, bought a hot dog from a kiosk, and returned to the hotel.

Wednesday was much cooler, a better day for travelling to Seinäjoki. Seija was not at the house, as she was camping with some of her grandchildren; but her daughter and family were there to let me in. They said they had been to Southend, where I originally come from. Seija had left me some rye bread, some piimä, an Arja Koriseva pen and a magazine with an article about Satu Silvo, including a nude picture. After they left I went to get my pass, which is still €100 and is now a nice woven ribbon. The Tango Parade was a big disappointment. There was a different, rather amateurish marching band, who did not play while marching, were not marshalled by height, had no fancy uniforms, and had no sousaphone. While they were marching music was provided by two blokes playing harmonikka on the back of a truck. I had long been trying to get some video of the original band, and had been intending to buy one of the new gyroscopic camera stabilisers from gyroscope.com; but they weren't ready in July. Just as well. Heidi Pakarinen was in the parade and I was able to speak to her.

In the evening there was dancing in the pavilion to the finalists, including Heidi Pakarinen. Little Irja was there with her husband, as were Oskari and Lasse. I danced with a lot of familiar partners, and Sisko, whom I had met last year, invited me to dance. I eventually returned to the house at 1.

I was up at 7, had a sauna, and went to the square for coffee and strawberries. I saw Little Irja with another woman, I think her sister-in-law. She ignored me. I went to the second hand record shop but didn’t find anything I fancied. When I returned to the square Irja greeted me, her eyes sparkling, her pretty face lit up. We went to the bar for a drink, and then to the mall to hear the finalists. At 12:50 she announced she was going to the pool for a swim. Although it would be nice to see Irja in her bikini, I went to the pavilion to see my other favourite blonde, Kaija Lustila. She remembered me, said thank you for the Christmas card, and gave me a hug. She did two spots, finishing with Rotunainen. She was not doing any more this Tangomarkkinat, and said "see you next year".

When I returned to the square Irja was there eating pyttipannu (sliced sausage and diced potato). She didn't offer me any. She said her husband was picking her up and she might be about tomorrow. Soon Big Irja appeared. She is still not in good health. We went to the tangokatu and danced to Mervi Koponen and Terhi Matikainen. She could only do the slow numbers, but we reminisced about the times we danced energetic humppas and jives.

This year there was a return to choosing both a Tango King and a Tango Queen. There was no semifinal: separate finals were held for men and women. Heidi Pakarinen won, after stiff competition from Johanna Louhivuori. As usual, I did not go to the Areena to watch the finals, but saw them on tv later. Instead I was in the Tango Street, where Marita Taavitsainen was performing in full fruitloop mode. After this was Heidi Pakarinen’s first set as Tango Queen. I returned to the house at 01:30.

Next day I had my usual coffee and strawberries in the square and read the paper, which had a long article about Heidi. At 12:00 Mika Pohjonen entertained in the mall. He is Heidi Pakarinen's husband, and was Tango King in 1992 (Eija Kantola was Queen that year). He made a record with Dutch tango maestro Malando in 1994, which I have been trying unsuccessfully to get. These days he sings mainly opera. Today he sang tangos, though still in a very operatic style.

He was followed at 14:00 by Amadeus Lundberg. His repertoire included the old tango Särkyneita toiveita (Shattered hopes), and La Cumparsita in Spanish.

In the evening I was able to watch and dance to Johanna Debreczeni, Saija Tuupanen, Jenna Bågeberg, and Heidi Pakarinen. I was able to speak to Heidi and say congratulations on your win. Then at 22:15 was Arja Koriseva. You know how it is at gigs - the idol shouts out the fan’s name right? Not necessarily! Arja spotted me in the crowd, waved, and called out my name. Her performance, as always, was brilliant. She sang a new version of her old hit Sinun kanssasi tähtisilmä as well as various old favourites, including Vanhan veräjan luona, originally by Eila Pienimäki. Absolutely wonderful.

Afterwards I went to the Areena, where Saija Tuupanen was performing. Various nice partners, including a young Arja (not the same one, of course); and Sirpa, who was tall, black-haired, with a nice low cut dress showing off her best features during lively dances like the humppa.

Next day Antti Raiski and Jukka Hallikainen were in the mall. Jukka danced with some of his fans.

Jukka Hallikainen with one of his more outstanding fans

Jukka Hallikainen dancing with a fan

Sirpa was in the pavilion in the evening and I danced with her to the tangos of Maria Tyyster and others. Then into the Tango Street to see Lea Laven I had not seen her live before, and stood in front of the stage to watch.

Katari-Helena followed, but my legs were getting tired through standing still on asphalt, and I returned to the pavilion. Dancing on parquet is a lot less tiring for some reason. I was delighted to see Little Irja, and we spent the rest of the evening together. Sirpa waved as we went past, and Irja asked “who’s that”, to which I replied “just someone I was dancing with earlier”. “She’s very good-looking” said Irja, a bit miffed I thought. The new Tango King was announced: Kyösti Mäkimattila. We went out to the Tango Street at 1 in the morning to see Jari Sillanpää. There are 5 million people in Finland, and I think all of them were at the Tangomarkkinat that night.

At 2:30 Irja’s husband rang to say he was coming to collect her, so I escorted her to the gate. I returned to the house, wound down with a pot of coffee and the tv recording of the Tango King final, eventually going to bed some time around 4. This was the end of the 2013 Tangomarkkinat, and no events were scheduled for the Sunday. So it was the train to Helsinki and then home.  
Train related snacks at Seinäjoki station