Finns Divas

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Over the next four days, in the run up to Eurovision, I'm going to feature some funky Finnish music. I'm starting today with two acts that need no introduction: Arja Saijonmaa and Katri Helena.

Arja Saijonmaa

Arja Saijonmaa is a fab Finnish singer, well known for her Melodifestivalen entries, having entered twice and twice in the Finnish Eurovision preselections. She was cruelly robbed in 1987 by one point into second place with the amazing schlager classic Högt över Havet. Even more amazing was Arja's shoulder-padded wrap-around electric blue number and strut to the front of the stage to begin the song.

Arja has starred in three Finnish movies, written a book about Finnish sauna culture and is a United Nations’s Goodwill Ambassador. She has released 14 albums in Finnish, 11 in Swedish and has recorded also in Norwegian, Greek, Spanish, Italian, French and German.

Arja worked with Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis to create Finnish versions of his Greek political songs. This can be heard in Jokainen Arkiaamu, a pleasant folksy song with hints of Greek folk and tango influences. Arja's vocals are as distinctive as ever.

Arja Saijonmaa - Jokainen Arkiaamu mp3 (right click - save as)

Arja was catapulted back into the spotlight by appearing in Sweden's Let's Dance, having an affair with her dance partner, posing naked with him and generally vamping it up big style. Fabulous! Arja came back to Melodifestivalen in 2005, but, er, came last in her semi-final after a dreadful vocal performance. Best not to dwell on that one. Here instead is her demo recording of another 2005 MF song, Om Natten. Jessica Folcker sang the final version, but I much prefer Arja - she rasps her way through the song with drama and passion.

Arja Saijonmaa - Om Natten mp3 (right click - save as)

Katri Helena

Katri Helena is another Finnish instituion, having performed at Eurovision twice. In 1979 she performed Katson Sineen Taivaan, and in 1993 came to Millstreet with the excellent Tule Luo. Whereas Arja is vampy and sexy, Katri is classy and sweet. Tule Luo is a brilliant melodic pop song with accordions. Katson Sineen Taivaan is a dramatic, rousing balladic pop song with swooping strings and a soaring chorus. Both songs are fabulous examples of the under-rated Finnish entries to Eurovision.

Katri Helena - Katson Sineen Taivaan mp3 (right click - save as)

One of the things that astounds me about Katri Helena is her unwavering ability to wear blue. It just suits her so much. Away from Eurovision, Katri Helena is a much loved Finnish star. She is the first singer in Finland to have sold more than one million albums, and this list of her albums is huge, reaching back to the 1960s. Here to download is Maailman pihamaat, a 60s sounding song in Finnish with hints of tango (they do love the tango in Finland!)

Katri Helena - Maailman Pihamaat mp3 (right click - save as)

Tomorrow... something a bit more hip and contemporary from Helsinki...


Jamie said...

Arja is a goddess and should have won in 1987 and 2005 in my books. I love the raspy husky quality of her vocals although she did murder 'Take Me To Your Heaven' during the Melodifestivalen 2000 interval act.