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Sattuma, the folk band from Petrozavodsk in Russian Karelia...

Sattuma, the folk band from Petrozavodsk in Russian Karelia, has released a new CD called "Palapeli." The album's name is defined as "puzzle", but the notes point out that "peli" can mean "game" or can refer to playing an instrument, so there are multiple meanings to the title. The group is still comprised of the long-time musical comrades Arto Rinne and Dmitry (Dima) Demin, as well as Arto's daughter, Eila, and Dima's son, Vladik. The "kids" in the band appear from one of the photographs to have grown up considerably since last they appeared in my part of the world–but why should that surprise me?

As usual, Sattuma here dishes up a tasty smorgasbord of Finnish and Karelian songs and tunes in a number of styles, from very traditional-sounding folkloric pieces to "acoustic-folk-rock" that brings folk music into a more contemporary setting. Also as usual, this old curmudgeon prefers the more traditional approaches, and I am pleased to report that they dominate the recording.

One of my favorite cuts on the CD is "Pirileikki kun aljettiin", a minor-key mazurka-tempo song with Arto on accordion and lead vocal, the youngsters on fiddles, and Dima on clarinet. It is presented in a straight “pelimanni”-style, but very subtly arranged with the instrumental choruses played in a different key from the vocals, nice use of plucked fiddle strings for background, and harmonious clarinet lines. Arto's voice does some great storytelling, even if, like me, one can't catch all the words.

There is a fine version of Konsta Jylhä's "Sukkalapolkka" that uses the Ostrobothnian fiddle sound with nice interplay of clarinet and accordion. Arto gets very bluesy on harmonica for his original tune called "Mennelle ystäville."

"Melkutus" is an ancient-sounding jouhikko melody played most skillfully by Eila. She also sings very sweetly a Russian-language song called "Candle," with accompaniment from the Demins on fiddle and clarinet, and from Arto outlining the chords on plucked bouzuki. "Hilpea kurttupolkka" is translated as "Joyful Button-Box Polka", and is another Arto Rinne original, with Arto on the eponymous squeezebox, one of the Demins playing what sounds like the type of birchbark whistle-flute that Dima makes, and the fiddle joining in. Although the melody dives into a minor-key section at one point, it does live up to its name.

Other songs bring in kanteles, more folk wind intruments, the jouhikko, And even an African djembe for drumbeats. I am continually impressed with the level of musicianship, composing, and arranging skills of our cousins on the Russian side of Karelia–not to mention the efforts that have gone into preserving the folk music of this little-known part of the world. Congratulations to Sattuma on another fine job!

By the way, Sattuma has some videos, apparently from a Russian folk festival held this past summer, on Youtube. As far as I can tell, only one or two songs from "Palapeli" are included in these videos–all the Youtube information is in Russian. However, the videos show clearly that Vladik is now as tall as his father, and that Eila has become one of those calm-eyed beauties one sees in the Finnish lands.

Sattuma also has a MySpace web-page where samples of their music might be available. Sherry Merrick of Merrick Music International is handling sales of "Palapeli", and can be reached at sherry@MerrickMusicInternational.org or by calling (802) 333-9004.

Music, Etc., with Tikkanen,
by Oren Tikkanen
September, 2008, “New World Finn”

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