Saturday, June 06, 2015

Vanhan Kellari closed

The end of an era: Helsinki's Vanhan Kellari closed at the end of May 2015. It had been running at a loss for some time. It was always well attended every time I went there, but I suspect they all went there to dance and listen to the superstars and didn't spend enough on drink to make the place profitable. I am sorry to see it go: I spent many happy evenings there and listened to some really great singers.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Tangomarkkinat 2015

Internet voting for the 2015 Tangomarkkinat has now started. Click on this for men:
And this for women:

Click on the thumbnails to hear a short clip. Vote by pressing the green Äänestä. Votes are accepted from outside Finland. You  can also leave a comment. Comments can be in English, but you will have to prove you are not a robot by answering a question. It will be something like "how many fingers does  a human being usually have?" but will be in Finnish.

Familiar names include Piritta Venho and Sanna Arell. Sanna was the one who made a big impression on me in 2010 with Boulevard of Broken Dreams. I sent a Facebook message to her. She replied that saying she remembered me and accepted my friend request immediately. What a nice lady. I also sent a message to Varpu Virta to say I was sorry she was not competing this year, and she also replied.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Hit me Arja one more time

A new music competition called "Tähdet tähdet" is on Finnish tv on Sundays. Here is Arja Koriseva performing an old Britney Spears number:

Monday, October 06, 2014

Arja's 25-year concert

On 29th September Arja Koriseva gave a concert in Tampere celebrating 25 years as Tango Queen. I wasn’t able to go, but Anna Hiltunen sent me this description (translated with her permission):
It was a truly wonderful concert! It was a small tour, going to Jyväskylä, Tampere, Helsinki, and possibly other places. Arja was accompanied by the Riku Niemi orchestra, a very popular orchestra which has performed by itself and also collaborated with other artists. The same orchestra accompanied Arja in her tango album Tango Illusion in 1996. The orchestra has many string instruments and wind instruments (a lot of different instruments) so that the songs sounded really great! The concert opened with a tango potpourri comprising Kultaiset korvarenkaat, Tango Illusion, Yksin, Sä oot mun tangoystäväin, and Muista minua. Among the tunes known to me Arja sang Enkelin silmin, Rakastunut nainen, Tuulen värit, Huomiseen, Kun tunteet kuljettaa, Tuhon tietä kuljen [I‘m a Fool to Want You], Rannalla, Näkemiin, Muisto (Memory)... Of course there were songs from musicals; Arja was here in the Turku Summer Theatre in My Fair Lady  in 2000 and commemorated it by singing snippets of On the Street Where You Live, Wouldn't It Be Loverly, and I Could Have Danced All Night - all in Finnish. Arja had the same hat and sunshade as she had in the musical! During Wouldn't It Be Loverly she threw chocolate bars into the audience, but I didn’t get one, even though I was in the front row. Other old friends followed. Particularly wonderful were the title song from Myrskyluodon Maija and the operetta number Itke en lemmen tähden. All the other numbers were familiar to me, except Kun paljon antaa, which Arja mentioned in her new online diary on her official website. It has marvellous words, and I hope Arja will record it, as she said she might when we talked after the concert. Arja told me that she had listened to the song a lot when she was a child, an it had been important to her; and now at last the time had come to include it in her repertoire. It was amazing to think about the passage of time, when I mentioned that I had first met Arja 22 years ago! I was 11 years old. The concert atmosphere was really fantastic, and when Arja sang Kuningaskobra as an encore the whole audience came to their feet and clapped along. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any pictures, or I would have sent them.

One of Arja’s songs come particularly to my mine, namely Jokainen hetki, from her record Kun aika on. Arja is giving Christmas concerts this year, with Tango King Amadeus Lundberg, but I will not be able to go, as The Turku concert will be very near Christmas, when I will be in Mikkeli celebrating Christmas with my parents.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tanssii tähtien kanssa 2014

The new series of Tanssii tähtien kanssa has started. One of the sponsors is Expressbus, and the introduction shows footprints dancing the Letkajenkka into a bus. Ten couples are competing, and I haven't heard of any of them. One of them has the distinctly un-Finnish name of Cristal Snow, who was a candidate for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2008, but in the event Teräsbetoni was selected to represent Finland. His professional partner is Kia Lehmuskoski, and they share the same taste in lipstick:
Helena Ahti-Hallberg has left the judging panel. I shall miss her, for two reasons. But her place has been taken by the lovely Krisse Salminen, who you will remember won in 2012 with Matti Puro.
Jukka Haapalainen and Jorma Uotinen remain as judges, and a guest judge will appear every week. The first one was the very glamorous former Minister of Finance, Jutta Urpilainen:
So far Sinikka Sokka and Topi Viermaa have been eliminated. We have seen the cha-cha, jive, waltz and quickstep. Tango, foxtrot, rumba and samba next week.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tangomarkkinat 2014

According to the online programme for the 2014 Tangomarkkinat, Mika Pohjonen would be attending. I had by now managed to track down his CD with the Malando Tango Orchestra, so I packed that hoping to get his autograph. Also Taina Kokkonen would be returning (as an announcer, not a performer), so I took one of her CD's along as well. Kaija Pohjola and Arja Koriseva were both due to appear on the Friday (at separate venues, not as a duet - that would have been great) so there was a big decision there. Big Irja had told me that she would not be attending due to illness.

I arrived in Helsinki on a blisteringly hot Tuesday. Check in time at the Omena hotel in Lonnrot Street is 16:00, so I went to Stockmanns to see what new records were available. Heidi Pakarinen and Yona had both issued new CD’s, which I bought. Tangomarkkinat 2013 is still not available. I had some strawberries and ice cream in the park until I was able to check in. I stocked the fridge with piimä and Käärme (snake) salmiakki, which is flavoured with chilli as well as ammonium chloride. The supermarket now had a self service checkout, but it was not much used and was card only, no cash.

The Vanhan Kellari was sparsely attended, probably because of the heat, and also it was records only on Tuesdays. Neither Eine-Liisa nor Hilkka were there, but a very nice lady asked me for a waltz. I eventually left after a tango with the most popular lady there.

I got up at 8:00, and it was already very hot. I had some coffee and strawberries with Havis Amanda before going to the station. I arrived in Seinäjoki at 13:15, and went straight to Seija's house. She plied me with coffee and cakes. You will recall that last year she was camping at the time of the Tangomarkkinat. I went out to get my pass, which is still 100 euros. Johanna Pakonen and Amadeus Lundberg were in the office, almost unrecognisable in their civvies. I picked up a programme, which was different to the one that had been published online. Good news: Kaija Pohjola is not appearing at the same time as Arja Koriseva. Bad news: she isn’t appearing at all.

The Tangomarkkinat proper started with the Tango Parade, led by the Korikan soittokunta, the same rather disappointing marching band that took part last year. They couldn’t play and march at the same time, the music being provided by two men playing harmonikka on the back of a truck. To compensate, Arja Koriseva was taking part in the parade, and I fell into step beside her for a while. I was also able to speak to Heidi Pakarinen, who signed my new CD insert, Piritta Venho, Tommi Soidinmäki, and Johanna Debreczeni.

Me with Arja Koriseva

Me with Piritta Venho

Me with Heidi Pakarinen

Me with Johanna Debreczeni
All the finalists performed in the pavilion. My particular favourites were Leif Lindeman and Piritta Venho. Here is Piritta:
Little Irja was there with her husband. Also Anja was there with a new partner. I hadn’t seen her since 2007, when we hit the hotspots of Turku: (5th paragraph). They had come from the US, stopping at Denmark, Sweden, and Estonia. It was very hot in the pavilion, but I had dances with Maija. who thought I was Swedish, a lively jive with Kateriina, who seemed to have bricks in her handbag, and many others. I went back to the house at 1:30, picking some birch twigs on the way.

In the morning I had a sauna, using a vasta I had made with my birch twigs:
Then I went out to enjoy a coffee in the square and look round the town. I saw a very butch delivery woman, wearing shorts and a hi-viz bra, casually swinging a large steel box in one hand. You will have to take my word for it - I didn’t dare take a picture. I ran into Seija and Matti-Pekka, who said a reporter from the local paper wanted to interview me back at the house. I said this was my 14th Tangomarkkinat, I had visited Finland over 40 times, my favourite singer was Arja Koriseva, and I was impressed with the clarity of the words on Finnish tangos, as compared with the nasal mumbling too often found with Argentine singers. After this I went to the mall, where the finalists were performing; but I had missed most of them because of the interview. Johanna Debreczeni, Marko Maunuksela and Jukka Hallikainen were in the pavilion. It was a bit cooler than the previous day, more suitable for dancing. I had one foxtrot with Anja. Jukka Hallikainen danced with one of his fans. At 16:00 I returned to the house. Tommi Soidinmäki greeted me by name as I passed the church.

In the evening Tarja Lunnas was in the Tango Street. I hadn’t seen her live before. She was due to appear at the Tangomarkkinat in 2005, but was ill and was replaced by Eija Kantola. I have seen her on tv singing a very familiar old song:
After that I went to the Tanssitalo, but it was even hotter and stuffier than the pavilion, and not well attended. Oskari and Lasse were there, and greeted me in a friendly manner. Johanna Pakonen sang Uno in the original Spanish:

This is a tango written by Enrique Santos Discé polo (1901-1951) who is credited with saying "tango is a sad thought that you can dance to". Uno is often heard in Finland, but always in Finnish under the title Yksin. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t get the kudos it deserved. I returned to the pavilion. Anja and her partner were there. I would have liked to have another dance with Anja, but I didn’t want to butt into what I suspected was a new relationship. Never mind - there were lots of beautiful ladies waiting for dances. But the most beautiful (and smallest) of them all was Little Irja. Our bodies melted together in a tango, with an intimacy unknown in anything else. Johanna Pakonen appeared with the same programme as in the Tanssitalo. I called out “Muy bueno” when she sang Uno, and then wondered if it should have been “buena”. I never learned Spanish. All the Spanish I know came from old cowboy films. The new Tango King was announced: Teemu Roivanen. He has long shaggy hair and a beard, and looks a bit like the Lion King. He came to the pavilion to do a spot. At 2:00 Irja got a text message: her husband was at the gate waiting for her. She kissed me hard on the lips and rushed off. That’s 2 kisses in 8 years.

Next day (Friday) my interview was in the paper. Copies were free in the mall, so I picked up six.
Eija Kantola was in the pavilion. It was extremely hot, and somebody had put out a lot of chairs, probably assuming there would be more listening than dancing.
Eija Kantola
Next was Johanna Pakonen, wearing a very pretty Spanish dress. I asked if she would sing Uno again, and she did. In the evening Taina Kokkonen was announcing the acts in the katulava:

Taina Kokkonen
A galaxy of brilliant Finnish stars followed: Amadeus Lundberg, Tommi Soidinmäki, Saija Tuupanen in a very pretty dress. Marita Taavitsainen gets madder every year and ended her act by flinging a bottle of water over the audience. I mean just the water, not the bottle itself.

Saija Tuupanen

Marita Taavitsainen

The dance teachers came on to do a salsa demonstration. The Blomqvist family are not doing it this year, and are replaced by Susa Matson (one of the professionals from Tanssii tähtien kanssa) and some other young teachers I didn’t know. The highlight of the evening was of course Arja Koriseva. She did a brilliant foxtrot medley:
and yet another version of the classic Enkelin silmin. This included a yelp when she noticed someone bungee jumping from a cherrypicker. A lady in the audience recognised me from the paper. Then back to the pavilion. the chairs were now gone, leaving plenty of room for dancing. I took full advantage. Amadeus Lundberg came on and performed some very avant-garde numbers. I returned exhausted to the house at 2:15.

On Saturday I didn’t wake until after 10. Seija and Matti-Pekka came to the house to water the plants. They said I was now known to 60,000 people. I asked Seija where the broom was, as the sauna was now filled with leaves from my home-made vasta. In the afternoon a concert was held in the church. I went half an hour early, but people were already going in. Entry was 20 euros, and I made straight from the front. I remembered that last time my view was restricted by the piano, so this time I sat in the middle. Unfortunately Kirsti Ranto was playing her own compositions on the piano and was almost invisible behind the lid.

Other performers were Marko Lämsä, Mika Pohjonen, who sang Panis Angelicus without a microphone, Elena Vettenranta and Mira Sunnari. These two sang a gospelly duet at the end. Religious records by Kirsi Ranto and Elena Vettenranta were sold in the vestibule, and they signed them for me. Mika Pohjonen signed the Malando CD, and I was able to speak to Mira Sunnari. I said I remember her being Tango Queen the first year I came to the Tangomarkkinat.
Mikd Pohjonen

Me with Elina Vettenranta

Me with Mira Sunnari

When I left the church it was much cooler and starting to rain, though it didn’t persist. Amadeus Lundberg was singing Argentine tango in the katulava:
He was followed by Heidi Pakarinen, and then I went to the pavilion. Jukka Hallikainen was singing humppa. I saw Mira Sunnari in the crowd and asked her to dance. She said she couldn’t dance. Difficult to believe for a Tango Queen. Perhaps she thought I couldn’t do humppa. Anja was there with her partner and said we should dance the next tango. Johanna Debreczeni and Jouni Keronen, accompanied by harmonikka player Taisto Lunkka, played old Finnish dances: polkka, jenkka, and masurkka:
Johanna played the spoons. I had never seen the spoons as a musical instrument outside London before. Then I caught sight of Little Irja, and we spent the rest of the evening together. So I never got my tango with Anja, who seemed to have disappeared anyway. The new Tango Queen was announced: Maria Tyyster. Jari Sillanpää was performing at 1:15 but the place was packed out and Irja couldn’t see. I tried picking her up but she was surprisingly heavy for such a tiny person. She must be all muscle from all the swimming she does. Fortunately Jari was visible on a big tv screen. Eventually Irja’s husband came to collect her (no kiss this time), and I remained in the Tangokatu. The new King and Queen came on at 2:40 and sang Satumaa, after which I went back to the house.

Next day was the last day of the Tangomarkkinat. Maria Tyyster and Teemu Roivanen performed in the mall:
I was surprised, and pleased, to see Big Irja there. She said she had felt well enough to come after all, and had not told me as she was with a new male friend. nevertheless we danced a lovely tango to Ecstasy together. She is a very accomplished dancer in spite of her illness, and I was sorry when her partner came to reclaim her.

There was nothing on in the evening so I watched the recording of the Tango Queen finals. Piritta Venho and Maria Tyyster dominated the competition from the beginning. They were the oldest and youngest competitors, though there was only 12 years between them. They were the only two left at the end and each had to sing El Choclo with Lion King Teemu Roivanen. Though I am a big Piritta fan, I had to admit that Maria was the best, with far more interaction.

On Monday I got up at 6:15 and got the train to Helsinki. As it was an early flight I didn’t go all the way but got off at Tikkurila, the nearest station to the airport. The no 61V bus leaves from right outside the station and the fare is 3 euros. The girl at the baggage drop inspected my passport and then said “Buenos dias”. Perhaps she was confused about what language is spoken in the UK.

I never did get the Tangomarkkinat 2013 CD, and the 2014 one hasn’t been published either. I mentioned on Facebook that I wasn’t able to get Taina Kokkonen to sign her CD, and the lady herself sent me a message: bring it to the Kiuruvesi Iskelmäfestivaali. I replied that I was already back in Britain, and she replied, never mind see you next year. That’s promising!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Piritta Venho and Taina Kokkonen

I have just had a message from Taina Timucin, formerly Kokkonen: "Yes - Piritta was Princess the same time as me, in the year Kirsi Ranto was crowned." I love it when a celebrity writes to me! Paljon kiitoksia Taina!