This summer a festival unlike any other, Sommelo is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Held on July 5–7, Sommelo is organized on both side of the borders of Finland and Russia. Selected five years in a row on the list of best international festivals by Songlines, Sommelo’s strength lies in preserving tradition. In celebration of the anniversary we asked a few questions from the festival’s Artistic Director, Taito Hoffrén.
Music Finland: Tell us about the background of Sommelo.
Taito Hoffrén: Before Sommelo there’s already been projects concentrating on folk music in Kuhmo, mainly organized by Juminkeko Foundation [the information center for the Kalevala and Karelian culture]. Kainuu is a historically important area regarding Finland’s oldest musical tradition, the archaic runo singing. In cultural-historical terms the border separating Kainuu and Dvina Karelia is a relatively new and insignificant matter – as a cultural area it’s more or less unified and one of the birth places of the Kalevala: here Elias Lönnrot gathered a substantial amount of runo singing tradition for his national epic.
Although the significance of the border feels large nowadays, the appeal of Sommelo festival is exactly the fact that concerts and performances take place on both sides of the border. The most special one is the village of Haiko. It’s like a living museum, a place where there’s still no electricity and the light is produced with an aggregate. The phone lines were installed just a few years ago.
An artist performing on a rock by the beach, the audience sitting in the grass, lake, smoke sauna and the nightless night – that pretty much sums up the most important offering of Sommelo. It’s truly the real exoticism both for the Finnish and the foreign visitor.
What can we expect from the programme of the anniversary year?
The programme is looking good! In addition to the small-scale events held on the other side of the border, Kuhmo will be filled with festival spirit in form of large concerts, programme for children etc. Kuhmo is a fine culture city with good concert venues. Our biggest effort this year is bringing the vast ensemble of Sibelius Academy Folk Big Band to Kuhmo. 40th anniversary celebrating Piirpauke is also on the programme. Despite a great line-up, the overall experience and bringing archaic tradition to the fore-front is still Sommelo’s greatest strength.
In the summer of 2015 Sommelo will be held 10th time in Kainuu and Viena Karelia. Sommelo celebration can be seen and heared around Kainuu and Viena Karelia. Main place will be Kuhmo as courses, seminars and most of the concerts of Kainuu will be arranged here. In addition there are art exhibition and activities for children. Three themes of this summers Sommelo are Kalevala 180 years, ethno music of Kainuu and celebrating 10th Sommelo Music Festival. Events arranged in Viena Karelia are also important part of Sommelo Music Festival. Sommelo is unique culture trip to trails of Arhippa Perttunen (runosinger from Viena Karelia), Ontrei Malinen (runosinger from Viena Karelia), runo songs and the landscape of Kalevala.
The article originally appeared on Music Finland News 8 May 2015.
Photo Credits: (1) Tuomas Rounakari's spirited performance in Sommelo in 2014, (2) Emilia Lajunen, (3) Suden Aika, (4) Piirpauke (unknown/website).