South Ostrobothnian and fiddlers from the French west coast meet at the Keskipohjanmaa Arena in Antti Paalanen's grand accordion parade. Photo: Henri-Kristian Kirsip

Festival of the Year 2024! Cultural Haven of the year! That's what Kaustinen Folk Music Festival is all about this year, 8-14 July. The first programme was celebrated at the "Long Live Folk!" gala on the Folklandia cruise on the Baltic Sea on Saturday 12 January.

Musician Antti Paalanen's grand accordion parade will unite a large group of French and Ostrobothnian musicians at the Keskipohjanmaa Arena. The lineup also includes Piirpauke, Ánnámáret, Club for Five, Viitasen Piia, Sväng, and Miljoonasade.

– The accordion parade is a magnificent example of this year's theme, "In the Village." In July, people come here not only to perform but also to encounter representatives of different cultures and traditions, describes Programme Director Anne-Mari Hakamäki.

Since its founding in 1968, Kaustinen has been one of the central events in folk music events in the Nordic countries and Europe. This was affirmed by Finland Festivals in their selection of the Festival of the Year 2024 last fall. Kaustinen also received the Cultural Haven of the Year award at the Finnish Cultural Gala.

– The recognitions are already visible in pre-demand for tickets. We hope they inspire new first-time attendees to join the festivities. The festival's opening day on Monday is, as usual, free, and ticket presales have been staggered into two phases, says Executive Director Valtteri Valo.

Celebrating Milestones

The main stage at the Keskipohjanmaa Arena will feature both perennial favorites and rising stars. Piirpauke, blending folk music, jazz, and progressive rock, was founded in 1974. The renewed ensemble, under the leadership of its original member Sakari Kukko, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

For the first time, Kaustinen will host the Saami joiker Ánnámáret, who has traveled the world from Nuorgam. They will have two concerts, one of which includes an impressive audiovisual experience.

Festivaaliviikolla nähdään aina pyöreiden vuosien juhlia, mutta ensi heinäkuussa niitä on poikkeuksellisen paljon Piirpauken lisäksi. Maria Kalaniemi juhlii 60. ikävuottaan ja 40 vuoden takaista etappia Kultaisen harmonikan voittajana ja liki kulttimainetta nauttiva huuliharppukvartetti Sväng tuulettaa 20-vuotissyntymäpäivää. Lisäksi Kansanmusiikki-instituutti täyttää 50 vuotta.

Viitasen Piia has previously been seen on smaller stages in Kaustinen, but now the band will be seen for the first time on the stage of Keskipohjanmaa Arena. Photo by Ulla Nikula

Regional Theme: South Ostrobothnia

Miljoonasade continues their tour initiated by the new album. Led by Heikki Salo from Lapua, the band that embarked on a global journey fits well with this year's regional theme – South Ostrobothnia.

Playing their unique indie folk, Viitasen Piia has previously performed on smaller stages in Kaustinen, but now the band ascends to the Arena for the first time. The ENKEL ensemble, Year 2019 Band of the Year, won last year's Konsta Jylhä Competition.

A rich programme of folk musicians will be published during the spring. Last year, over five thousand musicians, singers, and dancers participated. The family-friendly festival will once again organize Children's Kaustinen, with daily programming run by the children's tent's own Tradilinnut house band. Guests include Tuija Rantalainen, Vahtikoira Veikko, and the children's music group Soiva Siili.

Abundance of Young Performers

The festival stages will see an exceptionally large number of young talents from both Finland and abroad. According to Hakamäki, internationalization has strengthened since Kaustinen's fiddling tradition was recognized by UNESCO two years ago.

A group of Taiwanese students is enthusiastic about collaborating with the professional ensemble Tallari from the Finnish Folk Music Institute. They plan to study kantele and jouhikko playing in remote workshops this spring before performing at the festival. Students from the Kokkola Conservatory, acting as ambassadors, have visited Härnosand in Sweden, from which young performers are expected to reciprocate.

A unique ensemble, the Finnish Music High Schools Folk Music Orchestra, will grace the Keskipohjanmaa Arena. Alongside Kaustinen College of Music, Savonlinna Senior Secondary School of Arts, Sibelius Upper Secondary School in Helsinki, and Madetoja Music Upper Secondary School in Oulu have already confirmed their attendance, with more high schools expected from various parts of Finland. As the program is built around the preferences of young musicians, expect lively international music with more wind instruments on stage than usual.

In addition, art education institutions offering folk music in the capital region have found a common path to Kaustinen. The folk music department of Käpylä Music Institute in Helsinki hosts an arena concert, inviting other music institutes providing folk music education to participate.

Musician Anna Näkkäläjärvi-Länsman, residing in Nuorgam, combines traditional joiks with modern soundscapes with her group. Photo: Maija Astikainen

Following in the Footsteps of Konsta Jylhä

The spirit of the legendary Konsta Jylhä is strongly present at the 57th Folk Music Festival, as this September marks exactly 40 years since his passing. Especially for first-time festival visitors, it is advisable to head to the Keskipohjanmaa Arena for the cavalcade concert to delve into Konsta Jylhä’s legacy.

Mauno Järvelä and Antti Huntus produce a musical survey that examines Yleisradio's role and significance in making Kaustinen fiddle playing known after the 1940s. The cavalcade will also present lesser-known compositions by Konsta Jylhä, performed by Kaustinen's fiddlers, dancers, and singers.

The Folk Musician’s House and the Finnish Folk Music Institute organize the Konsta Jylhä Competition as a solo competition. This time, the theme comes from the annual theme of the Folk Music and Folk Dance Promotion Center – "Off the Top of My Head." The competition involves a programme based on improvisation and variation. Additionally, the performance must have a strong link to the folk music traditions of Finland and/or neighboring areas.

Kilpailu on tarkoitettu Suomessa asuville muusikoille, ja siihen osallistutaan vain akustisella soittimella (ei laulua). Palkintoina tuomaristo jakaa 6000 euroa. Kansanmusiikki-instituutti avaa haun alkuvuodesta, ja kilpailuun voi osallistua 30. huhtikuuta saakka.
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