Scandinavian Music Group / Kerkko Koskinen

It’s 3-3 in the playoffs between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators and the final and deciding match will be shown in Finland live at 02.00. Risto and I are going to stay up to watch it, and if I am still awake at 05.00 (I certainly will be) I might very well be interested in playing an on-line game of Scrabble with someone in Eastern Standard Time 🙂

On Saturday night I attended the concert by Scandinavian Music Group at Helsinki’s famous Tavastia Club. This is the same group, at the same venue, that I saw on 12 March last year.

I went with my new good friend Leslie. She was very interested in seeing a Finnish pop group, and I was more than happy to introduce her to one of Finland’s biggest and best bands.

Antti Lehtinen (SMG drummer) and Joel Melasniemi (guitarist) kindly put me on the guest list and Leslie and I walked in to the stage area. The club was filling up fast, and it was going to be a full house.

A few minutes after 23.30, SMG took the stage and performed almost all the songs off their new album, Nimikirjaimet ( = Initials). I had just bought the album the day before so I was only learning the songs. I was very happy to hear several songs off their previous album, Onnelliset kohtaa ( = Good Things Happen) as well as their song from the movie “Nousukausi” ( = “The Boom”), “Letitä tukkani” ( = “Braid My Hair”). As always, they closed with “Jos osaisin” [1] ( = “If I Could”).

Antti kept the audience laughing with his run at the mike between songs. Terhi Kokkonen (vocals) and Joel even played harmonica [2] during two songs.

There were three encores and the show ended at 01.00. In no time at all, Joel came out to greet the audience and hang out with his friends. I talked briefly with bassist Anssi Växby, saw SMG former bassist Tommi Saarikivi, and waited for the crowd to thin before approaching the other band members. I recognized Pauliina Kokkonen, sister of Terhi. Pauliina had joined the band on stage to provide some backing vocals. I spoke with her mostly in Finnish.

I saw Antti and chatted at first in nervous Finnish then switched to English. He offered his condolences on the death of my budgie Kelly. Wow–someone actually reads these posts! It touched me that he would say something so sensitive. I know it will be hard to go home to a much quieter house, now that I only have two budgies (named Caatinga and Kakapo). Joel came up to me and I handed him two Canadian flag patches that he had asked me to bring him from Canada. It’ll be a battle of the sewers [3] to see who has the other guy’s national flag sewn onto his coat or backpack first, when we meet again in Rovaniemi!

Rovaniemi? The capital of Lappi (Lapland)?

Yes, I am going to catch the band on tour. On Friday 23 April I am taking the train to Rovaniemi to see SMG at Tivoli club. Rovaniemi, a ten-hour train ride due north, is one of my favourite Finnish cities. I have been there both in the middle of the summer and during the dark of January winter. It will sure be a BLAST to see one of my favourite musical groups in Rovaniemi along with their Arctic fans. The following day, 24 April, I catch the train to Jyväskylä, birthplace of a dear Scrabble friend, to catch my third SMG gig in a week. I am going to have such a good time at these shows. Now tell me–what chance do I have in seeing this band perform in Canada? Zero. I figure, I am on holiday, they just so happen to be on tour, so I’m going to see a few gigs.

However before I head up to Rovaniemi, I will see another of my favourite Finnish groups, Värttinä in concert just down the street at the April Jazz festival in Espoo [4]. Värttinä are about as far away from a jazz band as you can get–howcum they’re playing this festival anyway? (Not that I’m complaining 🙂 )

After I chatted with Antti and Joel, I returned to the Tavastia bar and I noticed none other than Kerkko Koskinen. Kerkko is a musical hero of mine; in fact I raved about him in a post last year after I had bought his solo album Rakkaus viiltää ( = Love Stings. It translates literally to Love Cuts but that doesn’t mean anything in English).

I was apprehensive about approaching him, since he was with a woman friend and a man had just taken up a long time chatting to them. Kerkko and his friend (who I later found out was his fiancĂ©e, Pihla) then took a seat at a table. I stood before them and introduced myself and spoke entirely in Finnish. I had heard a rumour that Kerkko did not like to talk in English so if he and Pihla wanted to be alone, they couldn’t really get mad at me for speaking in English as well.

Kerkko motioned for me to join him and Pihla and we spent the remaining time while the club was still open talking about music and the love we have for each other’s country. Kerkko and Pihla visited Vancouver and Toronto last October (he is a big NHL fan and caught some games) and Kerkko would like to spend his honeymoon in Toronto.

I was so thrilled to meet him, a composer not only of most of Ultra Bra’s music, but also for films, like “Nousukausi”. The instrumentals Kerkko wrote for “Nousukausi” are worth the price of the whole CD. That’s why I bought it; the movie’s theme always puts me in a bouncy mood.

Kerkko and Pihla, if you honeymoon in Toronto, call me!

Thanks Antti, Joel, Anssi, Terhi and Kerkko for giving me such a friendly welcome. SMG, if I can travel across an ocean to see you play, I can travel across your country too. Let’s Rock in Rovaniemi!

[1] Grammatically abhorrent in English yet absolutely perfect in Finnish, the song title literally translates to “If I Could Have” as in “If I could have (gone to the party)”. One uses the conditional conjunction as well as the conditional verb. Thus the jarring English monstrosity “If I would have seen the movie” literally translates to the grammatically flawless Jos olisin katsonut leffaa. (Please say “If I saw the movie / If I had seen the movie / Had I seen the movie”.)

[2] In Finnish, a harmonica is huuliharppu. A Finnish harmonikka is an accordion.

[3] Homonym alert! For the Finns who read this, “sewer” (rhymes with “lower”) as in ompelija, not “sewer” (rhymes with “doer”) as in viemäri.

[4] Pronounced ESS-poe

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