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Finland

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Kardemimmit

Kardemimmit is a Finnish folk music group formed by four young women: Maija Pokela, Jutta Rahmel, Anna Wegelius and Leeni Wegelius. They are singers and players of the kantele (the national instrument of Finland) in its 15 and 38 stringed forms. The group's repertory consists of modern folk music mostly composed by the members themselves. The music of Kardemimmit is fresh but it's strongly foundationed in Finnish tradition from both Eastern and Western regions featuring e.g. reki-style of singing, Perhonjoki valley kantele style, Karelian small kantele and runo-song traditions as well as archaic improvisation.

The group's roots go back to the music school Juvenalia in Espoo, southern Finland where all of the members have studied. Kardemimmit has played together for over ten years. This long history can be heard as a unique sound in both the group's singing and playing. As a kantele group Kardemimmit is a foregoer: in the year 2004 the Kantele Association chose the group as the kantele group of the year and the next year it won the national kantele group contest in its league. Kardemimmit was the group of the year in the Uusimaa-region in 2009 and 2010.

Kardemimmit has made plenty of performations during its career. In Finland the group has played over a hundred concerts. They have performed on e.g. the Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, the Haapavesi Folk Festival, the Folklandia cruise as well as the Athletics World Championship gala.

The group's debut album Viira was published in December 2006. The second album, Kaisla, came out during fall 2009. Kaisla was also re-released as a bonus disc of The Rough Guide to the Music of Scandinavia in 2012 as Introducing Kardemimmit (www.worldmusic.net/scandinavia). On their third album Autio huvila Kardemimmit continues with their original musical style combining song and the kantele. Autio huvila was released in June 2012. The album was chosen as the Folk Music Album of the Year 2012 by the Finnish Folk Music Association.

At the moment Anna and Leeni study folk music pedagogy in the Central Ostrobothnia University of Applied Sciences, whereas Maija and Jutta study in the folk music department of the Sibelius Academy. Each studies with kantele as main instrument.

The Kantele
The kantele is the national instrument of Finland and a symbol of national identity often depicted in national romantic art. It's not closely related to the harp although there are similarities. The closest relatives to the kantele can be found e.g. in the Baltic countries and Russia. The instrument has been estimated to have existed for some 2000 years. The earliest forms have probably featured a small amount of strings -perhaps five. The five stringed kantele still remains the basic form of the modern kantele.

The kantele is a diatonic instrument. This means that the instruments have been tuned to a certain key or mode. Notes that don't belong to the key can thus not be played without re-tuning the instrument. An exception for this is the concert kantele with a mechanism to produce all missing half steps by turning special metal slides. Normally a kantele is tuned so that each note of the key can be found in correct order. E.g. an 11 stringed instrument's lowest string would be tuned to a whereas the higher ones would be tuned respectively to h, c#1, d1, e1, f#1, g1, a1, h1, c#2, d2.

Small kanteles which feature some 5 to 20 strings are usually played with the shortest string closest to the player. Picking is the most common tehnique which can be used to play melodies often added with accompanying notes. In this technique both hands of the player have an equal role producing both melody and accompaniment notes.

Chords can be played by pulling multiple strings with the fingers of the right hand or a plectrum. The left hand is used to mute strings that don't belong to the chords.

The big kanteles which feature over 30 strings are played with a different technique. They are played eather from the short side with the shortest string facing the player or from the long side with the longest string facing the player. The string is not picked upwards as one would pick the string of a small kantele but it's rather pulled towards the player with the finger ending up on the string next to the one being sounded. Each hand has a special role: usually the right hand playes the melody whereas the left hand plays chords. Big kanteles (a.k.a box kanteles) were developed during the 19th century when the kantele players begun to want more strings to be able to play modern music. At this point the building technique had to be improved also. Whereas small kanteles were usually built from a single piece of wood big kanteles require construction from several pieces of board. The kantele with halftone mechanics was developed by Paul Salminen in the 1920's. This made the use of kantele possible in e.g. classical and pop music. The ambitus of a big kantele nowaday ranges from C to c4.

The sound of a kantele is quiet compared to modern instruments like violin or accordion. In earlier days the world was not as noisy as now and instruments were not required to be loud. This is a reason why kantele was in danger of extinction when new instruments became popular. Nowadays kanteles are often miked to reinforce the sound in concert situatuons.

In Perhonjokilaakso of the Finnish Ostrobothnia the traditional stlye of playing the big kantele has been preserved to these days but the tradition of the small kantele has been revived much relying on archive tapes recorded in the beginning of the 20th century in Eastern Finland and Karelia. Nowaday the kantele, however, is alive and well. There are thousands of kantele players and tens of professional kantele musicians in Finland and the instrument has friends abroad also.

Kardemimmit play 15 stringed instruments which have 4 stringed mostly used for accompaniment (D, d, a, a) and 11 normal strings (a-d2). These instruments differ from the traditional small kanteles which don't feature special accompaniment strings. In most of the tunes at least one 38-stringed concert kantele is also used, often as a bass instrument.