News & dates – Runoja  Rewiew / 06. October 2004

Runoja – A real masterpiece

Sinikka Langeland is a singer and player of the 39-snared concert-kantele from south-east Norway.She did attrack my attention with beautiful CD’s like “Har du lyttet til elvene om natta? (1995) and “Lille Rosa” (2000). Her latest CD “Runoja” is a very special one. The word “Rune”is a Germanic word for secrets, or magic. So, singing rune songs means singing magical songs. These songs are the cultural heritage of the Skogfinns, Finnish settlers who came to the Finnskogen area roundabout 1600. Incantations (loitsu) were the most prevalent type of rune “songs” used by the Skogfinns. Not really “songs” because they don’t have melodies in the usual sense. They were chanted or read with intense emotion and power and used for protection or healing. The person who knew how to use these incantations was called “tietäjä”. Another name for “tietäjä” is “runoja”.

Sinikka Langeland uses melodies from Finland en Karelia as a basis for new musical settings for these old rune texts from Finnskogen. Because improvisation is a key concept in performing rune songs as well as in the ancient kantele history, Sinikka Langeland wanted to work with musicians with ex- perience in improvisation. Bjørn Kjellemyr (bass), Pàl Thowsen (drums) and Arve Hendriksen are important musicians in the Norwegian jazz-scene (check the ECM-catalogue). So, improvisation, not for the sake of it, but because it’s a natural part of this music. No endless “freaking out” but “controlled” improvisation with a clear vision that makes sense. Hypnotizing, fascinating vocals (sung, but also spoken in the form of a formula e.g. in “Tirun Lirun”) with lots of respect for the tradition but far from old-fashioned. Listen to “Paleneva” which sounds like a modern “rune-rapsong”. Lots of emotion in the singing of Sinikka Langeland: loving, lamenting but also shrill, defiant and fierce. Always with great passion and power (e.g. in “Vinterrune”). A perfect illustration of this brilliant fusion between traditional and modern music is “Steinrune”. A traditional opening with voice and kantele joined by drums and bass which give this song a lovely, natural swing. And listen to the trumpet of Arve Hendriksen. Very smooth and light.. It feels like a gentle breeze, enjoyable and refreshing. Very intelligent drumming by Pàl Thowsen. Never a dull moment, dynamic (“Ulverune”) and with”swing”. Combined with the rich, dark sound of the bass of Bjørn Kjellemyr this duo forms a world-class rythm-section. Beautiful contrast in “Amplainen” between the high kantele-tones and the dark bass. The same bass that gives “Voi Veikkonen” it’s enormous boost.

A very impressive and important CD. I call it a real masterpiece. Rating: 9+

Paul van de Wiel

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