Monday, October 28, 2013

Tanssii tähtien kanssa - Finnish tango

Tami Tamminen and Susa Matson had the courage to attempt a real Finnish tango in last night's Tanssii tähtien kanssa:

Judge Jenni Haapalainen said "If this was Social Dancing with the Stars, you'd get a 10, but you're not on the same planet", and gave them a 4. None of the other judges liked the dance either, and they got a total of 12 points. I was hoping they would be saved by the public vote, but they weren't. On the plus side, the lovely Sari Havas is still in the competition.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Autumn with Heidi and Arja

Arja Koriseva's official fansite said she would be doing a concert of songs from old Finnish films in duet with Hannu Lehtonen. One of the venues was Tampere, but that turned out not to be the case. But she was performing in Turku on 5th October, and Heidi Pakarinen was at the Vanhan Kellari on 3rd. So that made my mind up. There was a dearth of dance venues in Turku at this time. The Galax has now shut, its place taken by Venus Nightlife, which is not a ballroom venue. The Uittamon pavilion was closed for the winter, and the VPK had been closed for the summer. only reopening on 13th October. So I decided to remain in Helsinki on 4th. Another piece of news was that Åke Blomqvist had died on 18th September, at the age of 88.

I arrived in Finland at 15:00 hours on a bright sunny day. As I left the airport, the airline bus was just driving away, so I got on the no 615 to Helsinki city centre. It is cheaper than the airline bus at €4.50, and is a nicer bus as the windows are not obscured and you get a good view. On the other hand, it stops everywhere. I checked into the Omena hotel, and the Vanhan Kellari opened at 18:00. Neither Eine-Liisa nor Hilkka were there, but I met some nice partners. One was a solemn young blonde named Mervi. Actually I call her that for identification purposes: she didn’t tell me her name, or indeed anything else. She didn’t say a word. But we danced some good jives, cha-chas, and humppas together. I avoid the more intimate dances with a younger partner. Heidi Pakarinen was marvellous, as you would expect from a Tango Queen. I stood in front of the stage and watched, rather than dance. Mervi did the same, videoing Heidi with her phone, and blossoming when Heidi smiled at her. Heidi gave me a signed card, and I asked her if she had a record coming out, and she said soon.

Me with Heidi
I left the Kellari at 01:00. There was a poster of Heidi in the vestibule, and I hoped to snaffle it. But the doorman was getting it down for Mervi. Well, she is a dedicated fan and deserves it. “Heidi was wonderful, wasn’t she?” I said as I passed. Mervi didn’t answer, and I hurried away in fear of being seen a crazed stalker.

Next morning I had coffee and pulla with Havis Amanda as usual. I looked in the Helsingin Sanomat for dance advertisements, but there was only one - for the Vanhan Kellari. Either minor events are no longer being held, or advertising in the HS is too expensive for the organisers. I went to AH Records to ask if they had Tangomarkkinat 7 or Mika Pohjonen with Malando. I no longer need Tähtijahti 1969 as the track on it that I wanted has been reissued on CD. The man was very helpful, even ringing the Tampere branch, but he didn’t have them. I went to Stockmanns and asked if Tangomarkkinat 2013 had been released yet. It hadn’t. This is annoying: previously the year’s album has been available at the Tangomarkkinat itself. Still, I was able to get Anneli Saaristo’s Kissan mieli, or Mind of a Cat. Also on sale was Olavi Virta’s complete back catalogue - 601 songs on 24 CD’s. Yours for 99 euros.

To the Vanhan Kellari as usual in the evening. Again no sign of Eine-Liisa or Hilkka, but some nice partners all the same, including blonde Kerttu and plus-size Eila. DJ Kirsti played records till quite late, though she did play a very nice German language version of Kielletyt leikit by Mireille Mathieu. In fact I later tracked down a copy on ebay and bought it. Eventually, at 23:00, much later than usual for the Kellari, the soloist Marti Servo came on. Quite honestly he wasn't worth the wait. He played everything, including the tangos, in a strange rhythm of his own that was difficult to dance to. It's not just me - Eila agreed. Eventually I left, and as I was getting my coat I heard the band stop and records start again. The tune was XL Nainen by Anita Hervonen. A fine thing when the records are better than the band, I thought, but left anyway. There were some good acts at the Kellari the following week: Kaija Lustila on the 10th and Lea Laven on the 11th. Unfortunately I won't be there to hear them. I bought a Megadog from a kiosk and returned to the hotel.

Next morning I got the train to Turku. I had a reservation at the Omena Hotel there, and they texted me the room number and door code. You don’t get these at the time of booking. Earliest check-in time is 16:00, so I had a look round the town first. I saw a large bunker-like structure with “Louhi” written over it in large letters. A woman was driving a car out. I had always thought that Louhi was the feared Witch of the North, a mythical character from the Kalevala; but is seems she is living in 21st century Turku:

Louhi, Pohjola’s great Mistress,
She the gap-toothed Crone of Pohja
Stuffed her handbag full of money
Generated by the Sampo;

Climbed into her fabled war-cart:
Headed for the House of Stockmann
Full of all the finest treasures.

In the evening I made my way to the Konserttitalo for Arja’s concert, the highlight of this trip. After visiting Finland for 13 years, I am familiar with many Finnish easy listening tunes, but here was a concert of tunes I hadn't heard before, apart from the tango Täysikuu. A really excellent show. Afterwards I waited in the lobby to see Arja. Also there was Anna Hiltunen, whom I have mentioned before in these ramblings. She is a lifelong Arjaphile, and we have corresponded for some years, mostly about Arja, but had never actually met before. Arja knew her, and she knew me; but she didn’t know we knew each other. I told Arja how much I had enjoyed the show, and how most of the tunes were unfamiliar; she said she might be making a record of them.

Arja and me

Arja and Anna

The following week at the Konserttitalo was Figaros Bröllop, the Swedish version of the Marriage of Figaro. Somehow I just can’t take the Swedes seriously. They call a strawberry a Jordgubb, which sounds like some sort of maggot. And there is a very expensive Swedish fashion house called Acne.

Sunday was my last day in Finland. There was time for a last look round Turku before returning to Helsinki to catch the plane. There were some very strange statues under the bridge.

The old trams had stopped for the winter, but there was a Silakkamarkkinat, or herring festival, in Helsinki harbour.