"Ievan polkka" (Savo Finnish for "Ieva's Polka") is a popular Finnish song with lyrics printed in 1928 and written by Eino Kettunen to a traditional Finnish polka tune. The song is sung in Eastern Savonian dialects spoken in North Karelia. It takes the point of view of a young man, telling about a woman named Ieva (Eva or Eeva in standard Finnish) who sneaks out to where everyone is dancing to a polka, and dances all night. The song is often confused to be a traditional song but the lyrics by Eino Kettunen are still under copyright.
The melody of "Ievan Polkka" is very similar to that of Savitaipaleen polkka. However, the polka genre is of much later date. Polka was introduced in northern Europe during the late 19th century, which implies that the actual tune as it is known today originates from this era.
Owing to its viral exposure in popular culture, Ievan Polkka has become one of the most famous Finnish songs in the world.
Very popular after World War II, the song was almost forgotten during the late 1970s and 1980s. The song resurfaced after an a cappella performance by the Finnish quartet Loituma, which was first released on their debut album, Loituma, in 1995. The Loituma lyrics and arrangement are under copyright and published by Warner Chappell Music outside the Nordic countries. The album was released in the United States as Things of Beauty in 1998.
The a cappella version of the song acquired greater international popularity as part of an Internet phenomenon in the spring of 2006 when the Loituma Girl (also known as Leekspin), a looped Flash animation of anime character Orihime Inoue from the Bleach series twirling a leek, set to a scat singing section of Ievan Polkka sung by Loituma was posted in Russian LiveJournal. For the animation, only the second half of the fifth stanza (four lines) and the complete sixth stanza (eight lines) are used. It quickly became a global hit and the song soon enjoyed overwhelming popularity as a ringtone. Since then the song has been circulating and known under several misspelled variations of its original name or references to the animation, including "Ievas Polkka", "Levan Polkka" and "Leekspin Song" (the second of which being the result of similarity between the sans-serif lowercase L and uppercase i). After the animation was posted, Ievan Polkka became widely known worldwide, with a significant rise of interest and recognition demonstrated by the search terms popularity.
The Finnish folk song was also given popular covers by several Japanese Vocaloid singers, such as Megurine Luka, Kagamine Rin, and Kagamine Len. The most popular Vocaloid cover belonged to that of Hatsune Miku, garnering more than 5 million views on producer Otomania's official Niconico music video as of April 2020. Its popularity has lent itself to being used in the Vocaloid rhythm game series Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA, mainly as tutorial music. It has also been used in a commercial promoting the LG G5 smartphone.
In 2012, folk metal band Korpiklaani recorded a cover on their eighth album Manala.
Furthermore, mobile ringtones based on various mixes of "Ievan Polkka" gained a wide popularity among Russian and Commonwealth of Independent States mobile subscribers in late 2006. The tune is also the theme song to the Internet sitcom Break a Leg; it was remixed by musician Basshunter of Sweden, DJ Sharpnel of Japan, and Beatnick of Poland; and a version of the song performed by Anne Kulonen was part of a Ready Brek television advert aired in the United Kingdom.
In 2016, Erika Ikuta, a member of Japanese girls group, Nogizaka46, sang Ievan Polkka as a part of her private segment on a web TV Show titled Nogizaka46 Hours TV. This song then became well known among Nogizaka46's fans. She later sang it on several occasions such as "JUNK Bananaman no Bananamoon GOLD" radio show, "Nogizaka Under Construction" TV show which aired on TV Aichi & "Banana Zero Music" music program which aired on NHK.
In December 2018, a video of visually impaired Turkish street musician Bilal Göregen performing Ievan Polkka on a darbuka was uploaded on YouTube. The video received over 1.9 million views in one year. A version of this video posted on Twitter in October 2020, with "CatJAM" / "Vibing Cat" (a white cat rhythmically bobbing its head as if to the beat of a song) edited in, gained viral popularity as a meme template on Instagram and Reddit. On November 1, 2020, Göregen uploaded a version of this video to his own YouTube channel. As of October 5, 2021, the video has over 72 million views.
Loituma is a Finnish quartet whose members combine the Finnish vocal tradition with the sounds of the kantele. Loituma were selected Ensemble of the Year at the 1997 Kaustinen Folk Music Festival.
Loituma’s initial incarnation was in the autumn of 1989 as a septet called Jäykkä Leipä ("Stiff Bread"), born in the Sibelius Academy’s Folk music department. The original lineup included singers Sanna Kurki-Suonio and Tellu Paulasto, who later left for Sweden to join Hedningarna.
Over the years, the group has persistently followed its own musical path, incorporating diverse influences into its music. One of the cornerstones of Finnish folk music is the art of singing, through which the stories and feelings which comprise aspects of the Finnish heritage are conveyed, aided by backing musicians Martti Pokela and Toivo Alaspää. Another cornerstone of Loituma's art is a Finnish folk instrument called the kantele, which is featured in varied ways in their recordings.
Loituma members compose or arrange the tunes themselves, but often use improvisation. Lyrics come from many sources, including two main traditional sources: the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland; and the Kanteletar (Lönnrot's collection of Finnish folk poetry). The lyrics are in Finnish.
Loituma gained great popularity in 2006 when the Loituma Girl (also known as Leekspin), a looped Flash animation of an anime girl Orihime Inoue from the Bleach series twirling a leek, set to a scat singing section of "Ievan polkka" from Loituma's 1995 debut album Things of Beauty, was posted in Russian LiveJournal. The animation instantly became an Internet phenomenon and the song clip soon enjoyed overwhelming popularity as a ringtone, with most of the young urban population aware of the "Yak zup zop" lyrics.
»The Finnish Polka …seems to be Levan Polkka (Leva’s Polka) which was recorded as a song by a Finnish group called Loituma and has been rattling around the internet recently.«
Listen to Ievan Polkka / Finnish Polka from: Dan Beimborn, Sandy Brechin, DÁN, Katrien Delavier, Julia Dignan, Neal Hellman, Laoise Kelly & Tiarnan Ó Duinnchinn, Tschaika Watch Ievan Polkka / Finnish Polka from: Kevin Burke, Korpiklaani, Korpiklaani Guitar Cover, Loituma ('08), Loituma ('19), Loituma (2021), Otava Yo, Otava Yo (Live), Slack Bird, Tuuletar, Värttinä
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Date: October 2021.
Photo Credits: (1),(3)-(6) Loituma, (8) Kevin Burke, (9) Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn, (11) Otava Yo, (13) Laoise Kelly, (14) Tuuletar, (15) Sandy Brechin, (16) Slack Bird (unknown/website); (2) Ievan Polkka, (7) Finnish Polka (by ABC Notations); (10) Värttinä (by The Mollis); (12) Dán (by Walkin' Tom).