At a wedding in Finland recently I met a previous Finnish tango world champion. He liked Iceland because we’d never invaded Finland. And even if he’s middle aged and overweight by now, watching him make his moves on the dance floor is nothing short of spectacular.
But the Finnish tango has a distinct history, evolving in it’s own idiosynctatic way. Finnish tango music reached it’s peak around the middle of the last century, where it was possibly the most popular music in Finland, but the tango is still very popular, with over a hundred thousand people attending the biggest tango festival.
And what are all those Finnish tango songs about? Well, they are all in Finnish, so I’ll just have to rely on Pekka Gronow, the head of the gramophone library of Yleisradio, the Finnish Broadcasting Company. Well, at least he was around 2001, when he said that „the central themes of Finnish tango lyrics are love, sorrow, nature and the countryside. Many tangos express a longing for the old homestead, or a distant land of happiness. The changing seasons of Finnish nature are frequently used metaphors: the spring breaks the hold of the winter, and flowers appear, creating new expectations. Autumn rains and dark evenings are symbols of crushed hopes.”
Reijo Taipale was probably Finnish tango’s biggest star, singing Satumaa, the most famous of all the Finnish tango song – and even Frank Zappa covered it once. Yet I’m going to share with you Liljakukka, not just because I prefer it and also because the accompanying video is spectacular, despite its limited quality. Not just Reijo’s rockabilly hairdo, but also how we see the audience members so well, this world of yesterday, all those people on the dancefloor who are probably grandparents now – if they are still alive.
Yet this was not the actual Friday song – just a long prologue to the real one. A song I discovered in a Youtube-after party in Malmö last year, where I heard this gorgeous melody, and it’s a little Swedish but still very Finnish, this is Finnish tango in Sweden, and simply one of the most beautiful songs in the universe.
The band is called Darya and the Moonligt Orchestra, Darya och Månskensorkestern. They started out making tango music, but it’s evolved and now it’s their own thing, more complicated, the tango is underlying but not all over it. The lyrics are about a poor couple, I don’t know much more except that this is a new years song, they always record a new song every new year’s day, and in 2017 the song was Tuhlajaat.
Text: Ásgeir H Ingólfsson