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(2020 - Nordic Notes - Germany)

Founder of the Finnish-Bulgarian vocal ensemble Finno-Balkan Voices, Emmi Kujanpaa (a graduate of Sibelius Academy, and the University of Helsinki) this uber talented singer, composer, kantele player, and folk music artist presents her debut solo 'Nani'. Her previous work with the new generation of 'Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares' choir shows up brilliantly here. She writes all the music but the inclusion of that said, Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares Vocal Academy:  Dora Hristova (choir conducting, bells), Mirela Asenova, Violeta Marinova, Stanislava Bobeva, Elizabet Janeva, Lubomira Pavlova, Maria Krusteva, Polina Paunova, Boryana Vasileva, Maria Georga, Radostina Nikolova, Elichka Krastanova / along with the composer herself, Emmi Kujanpaa: vocals, 11 and 40 string kanteles, jewelry percussions /  Eero Grundstrom: Harmonium, vocals / Jarkko Niemela: Trumpet, vocals / and Sauli Heikkila: Tuvan throat singing, Morin khuur, all make for one lush and richly ornamental, alternating with bare soul haunting solo voice and sometimes 40 string kantele (Finnish folk zither), not without episodes of deep trance Tuvan throat singing, ritual air exhale, choral heights only angels flutter around in, and the delicate otherworld of her kantele performance.

These are songs describing life for women, all the strong and sure emotions including joy, dreams, desires, sadness, hurt, pain, and the result of a now well known #meetoo movement. On 'Milenkalle : A Song For Milenka' (track #5), a mournful ballad of unequal beauty is produced with the exquisite trumpet and added male vocals of Jarkko Niemela. It is such a touching reverberation, it is like birth. With the many emotions in 'Nani' they all contain one common precious character. That one thing is radiance. The gorgeous music has a sacred adornment, authentic soul display, and the scope of the most daring mountaineer. All of Emmi's music is done with full sincerity and care. The physical format of compact disc is presented in a 6 panel digipak, with booklet, picture disc, and info inside.

The fusion of styles is quite stunning as with 'Sirkus Savonia' (track #8) that brings in polka, happy bouncing folk and has energy galore. Oh such smart writing and intertwine of genres. It keeps getting better. And knowing Kujanpaa's resume will have the listener understanding her total errant but fully captivating and ultimately impeccable compositions. She works in Celenka, a traditional 3 piece outfit that composes and plays music from Karelia to Balkan. She conducts Kukuvitsa, a large 14-member choir performs Bulgarian vocal music, but also traditional village songs from other Balkan countries and Finno-Ugric folklore regions. She stays busy doing lectures and classes on the kantele. We are blessed to have this solo, which is one fantastic platter. We can only hope she makes more solo albums. She clearly has an abundance of talent, and makes music that ranges from melancholy, joyful, spiritual, and that is filled with suffering, then celebration, all touching the hearts of the audience. This easily makes my TOP CHOICES OF 2020 list. A HUGE RECOMMENDATION!

 Reviewed by Lee Henderson 3 - 30 - 2020
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