Duo Emilia Lajunen & Suvi Oskala’s Toisjalkainen

cover, ToisjalkainenThe duo of Emilia Lajunen and Suvi Oskala are known in their homeland and elsewhere around the globe as masterful interpreters of the historical fiddle repertoir of central Finland. Just by playing this music, both the well known repertoire and compositions they unearth while delving through archives, Emilia and Suvi are breaking ground as women performing music traditionally played only by men.

In addition to Finland and the Nordic countries, the duo has toured in China, South Korea, and India, among others and in 2019 they were among the showcase artists at WOMEX. In Finland they’re also known for their environmentally conscious touring practices; they’ve toured extensively by bicycle and when that’s not feasible by train. It’s a conscious choice, aimed at hopefully changing industry standards. “Traveling by bicycle or train to concerts is slower than flying, but in times of environmental crisis, environmentally conscious action must be the way forward for all of us,” they note.

Toisjalkainen is their third full-length release, and it finds them exploring six traditional pieces and two contemporary commissions. The first of these is the wildly entertaining “Sometimes It Snows In Spring,” composed by the American fiddler Casey Driessen. This expert in percussive fiddle playing was stranded in Finland at the beginning of the pandemic, and composed a piece specifically for the duo about the country’s surprising late snowstorms and wildly fluctuating weather conditions. It’s a beautifully evocative contemporary fiddle duet that perfectly shows off these inventive musicians’ skills and wit.

The other commission is “Balkanodemia” by Finnish accordionist Teija Niku. This two-part piece explores Niku’s beloved Balkan themes, one a pensive, sevda-style composition, the other an up-tempo dance (with a middle section for some impressive improvisation).

Lovers of the Finnish polska, don’t despair. There are a couple of lovely examples, the stately “Yxi kaunis papillinen polska” (One beautiful priestly polska), and the lively “Rahapolska from Kannonkoski.” The latter is a fine example of the way this duo beautifully combines and swaps leads on droning accompaniment and engaging melodic lines. You’d be perfectly in your rights to choose the title track “Toisjalkainen” as your favorite; it’s a perfect example of a modern arrangement of a traditional tune, showcasing the full range of playing techniques at the duo’s disposal. The title is translated as “The Different-Footed,” after the legendary one-legged central Finland fiddler Akseli Raatikainen. And very appropriately the album winds up with a polka, “Akkainpolkat,” which may mean something like “old crone’s polka,” which has a very old-fashioned sound to it, guaranteed to get the dancers onto the floor.

Duo Emilia Lajunen & Suvi Oskala has a few festival appearances already booked for 2024, and are sure to put up more on their website. If you have a chance to see them at one of these gigs, don’t miss it.

(Nordic Notes, 2024)

| Website | Instagram | Emi Lajunen website | Suvi Oskala website |

Gary Whitehouse

A fifth-generation Oregonian, Gary is a retired journalist and government communicator. Since the 1990s he has been covering music, books, food & drink and occasionally films, blogs and podcasts for Green Man Review. His main literary interests for GMR are science fiction, music lore, and food & cooking. A lifelong lover of music, his interests are wide ranging and include folk, folk rock, jazz, Americana, classic country, and roots based music from all over the world. He also enjoys dogs, birding, cooking, craft beer, and coffee.

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