Monday, July 30, 2012

Finnish Folk Music

Falling in love with the music of my Finnish ancestry was easy. It is beautiful and many songs can be played on my five string kantale. The Finns are known for their rather dark sense of humor, but there is another way of looking at it. Marjorie Edgar was a collector of Finnish folk music in the first half of the twentieth century and she had this to say about it:

Finnish dance tunes are gay and Finnish humor is charming. The latter appears in many of the songs, and there are so many hearty rollicking tunes that one wonders if the usual American idea of "the gloomy music of the northern countries" Is not a misconception. Even the melancholy airs, of which there are plenty and among the most lovely, have no feeling of self-pity; they are rather detached in spirit and have a mysticism of a purely Finnish type, as unconscious of its quality as a stream or a spruce would be.
On the other hand, I personally have a tendency to get into some down moods. But it's not depression, I've decided, it's just my Finnish nature. It's taken me until middle-age to realize that it's OK when things don't go your way, and if you truly love something, keep at it no matter what. At the same time I need to be practical and pragmatic, but pursuing my love of zithers relentlessly is my ultimate musical goal. Another way of putting it is a uniquely Finnish term called sisu. From Wikipedia:
Sisu is an ability to finish a task successfully, as defined by Roman Schatz in his book From Finland with Love (2005), and decisiveness. Usually sisu means the will and decisiveness to surmount challenges against impossible odds.

I've never considered myself as disciplined, but rather stubborn and determined. Add to that a willingness to do the work, and I think I'm beginning to understand sisu a bit. I have goals, in that I want to share Finnish folk music and the Finnish folk instrument of the Kantele by writing some music books in the next year. To that end, I've begun learning a program to create tabulature for the Mountain Dulcimer, plan on learning the 10 string Kantele after I build it, and I just learned about Finnish music camp. I missed it this year, but I'll keep an eye on the website for next year. For more on Sisu and the Finnish mentality, check out this video on car racing. It makes me proud to be half Finnish.

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