I'm currently on a short vacation in my home country of Finland, and even through the relative isolation of a television set at my parents' summer cottage, have been reminded of the country's famed musical heritage. Last night's television news depicted Tuska-Festival, an annual gathering of metal bands in Helsinki, while the night before, the nation's cultural headlines focused on—yes—accordions.
Sata-Häme Soi is an annual festival in the small town of Ikaalinen, Finland, dedicated entirely to the art of the accordion. Although the instrument's bouncy, melancholy twang can still be occasionally heard on Helsinki's street corners, the accordion is also often associated with a fading tradition. If the international crowd at Sata-Häme Soi is any indication, however, the esoteric art form is alive and well. Yesterday's winners of the annual Primus Ikaalinen-accordion competition included young musicians from Italy, Russia and France, in that order.
The local TV news even featured a 17-year-old girl who is part of a musical movement to modernize the instrument; her repertoire includes nontraditional arrangements of old pieces, as well as foreign compositions. The youngest accordion prodigy this year was a seven-year-old.