Honkahovi Art/Mänttä Art, June 10-Aug 31: The town of Mänttä, midway between Jyväskylä and Tampere, celebrates (mostly) Finnish art at several venues. Honkahovi, a 1930s mansion, spotlights two unusual fantasy artists: Kalervo Palsa (1947-1987), a hermit who created outsider art in a small village in Lapland. At times disturbing, shocking and sexually graphic, it speaks to humanity’s most primordial drives and fears. He bequeathed his work to his friend, Maj-Lis Pitkänen, one of his few supporters during his brief life. Now her daughter Veera Pitkänen, a 28-year-old from Espoo, displays her gothic illustrations alongside Palsa’s. These extremely detailed black-and-white pen drawings obsess on skulls, ravens and horses. Running nearby on the same dates is the Mänttä Art Festival, showing work by some 35 artists from Finland, Turkey and Switzerland. Meanwhile the Mänttä Music Festival focuses on classical piano, with performers from Malaysia, Germany, Russia as well as the Israeli–Arab Piano Duo.
Savonlinna Opera Festival, July 5-August 4: Even if you’re not an opera fan, seeing an over-the-top epic like Aida or The Magic Flute performed inside a fifteenth-century castle is an unforgettable experience. The festival is honouring its centennial – although the original incarnation that was started in 1912 by the colourful soprano Aino Ackté fizzled out after a few years. The modern festival began in the late ‘60s, helping to put Finland on the opera map with a mix of classics and new works.
Kaustinen Folk, July 9-15: Despite a string of financial troubles, this long-running festival returns to a welcoming small town in Ostrobothnia. The main emphasis is on Finnish and Scandinavian folk played by the likes of Frigg and Maria Kalaniemi. But the programme is broad enough to encompass Appalachian fiddler and banjo player Bruce Molsky, eccentric Finnish troubadour MA Numminen, children's folk band Ammuu! and the Finnish instrumental band Alamaailman Vasarat with their distinctive hybrid of klezmer, metal, jazz and tangos.
Faces, Raseborg, July 27-29: At this cosy, small-scale multi-cultural festival, a feeling of communality, freedom and tolerance is more important than star performers. Tucked away in a seaside forest 90km west of Helsinki are a children's arts-and-crafts centre, chill-out hammocks, a handicraft market and food from many lands. Performers include accordionist Maria Kalaniemi, Ugandan-Finnish soul man Mad Ice, Algerian-born guitarist Mad Sheer Khan and electro-didgeridoo artist Robin de Wan.
Flow, Helsinki, August 8-12: For fans of electronic and indie music, this is the event by which all others are measured. Besides music in a wide variety of venues in the old Suvilahti gasworks, careful attention is also paid to design, food, drink, ambiance and environmental impact. This year's stars include Icelandic multimedia diva Björk, Canadian indie-pop fave Feist and a lot of Americans, from folkie Bon Iver to soul legend Bobby Womack (depending on his health) and R&B-tinged indie rockers Black Keys. Lesser-known names include reggae crooner Horace Andy, a frequent collaborator with Massive Attack, Malian desert-rock band Tamikrest, glitchy electronic producer Flying Lotus, critically-acclaimed jazz pianist Jason Moran, and DJ sets by Four Tet & Caribou. On the domestic side there's space-rock band Siinai, retro electronicists Pepe Deluxé, jazz trumpeter Verneri Pohjola as well as Gracias and Jukka Poika.
Huvila Tent (Helsinki Festival), August 17-September 2: Though the acoustics aren’t great, this cosy venue always hits the mark, often booking world music, pop, jazz, folk and rock artists just before they break into international stardom – along with long-time masters deserving of greater attention. This year’s bigger names include American guitarist Bill Frisell, whose trademark watery, impressionistic sound draws on jazz, folk, blues and rock, and the Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, who are inspired by flamenco and heavy metal. Bubbling under are South African soul singer Simphiwe Dana, American jazz and folk chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux, the multi-cultural Zap Mama and Imagined Village, the latter featuring English folk icons Eliza and Martin Carthy. With light meals and drinks served in a stylish separate pavilion, this is an essential end-of-summer gathering point for culture vultures.
World Village, Helsinki, May 26-27: The season blasted off with this free, multi-cultural extravaganza of food, discussion panels, NGO presentations, children’s events, films, dance and of course music. This year’s headliners in Kaisaniemi Park included Natacha Atlas, a Belgian electronic performer of North African and British descent, the Tuareg band Kel Assouf, Yemen Blues, Sabreena Da Witch, a Palestinian rapper from Israel. Finnish acts included Gracias and Noah Kin, two rappers with African roots, Liljan Loisto, who combine Karelian folk, reggae and flamenco sounds, reggae popster Jukka Poika, electronic dance pioneer Jori Hulkkonen and the Northern Governors, who mix funk, jazz and Afrobeat into a tasty brew.
Kuopio Dance, June 14-20: A conservative provincial town in eastern Finland might seem to be an odd location for the flamboyant, cosmopolitan choreographer Jorma Uotinen to lead a dance festival. Yet over the past 11 years, he has managed to strike an appealing balance between the avant-garde and the accessible, assembling talent from the worlds of ballet, flamenco, and street dance. This year’s guest ensembles include the drag troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Brazil's Cia Sociedade Masculina, the Manipuri Cultural Arts Troupe
of India and the Polish National Ballet.
Midnight Sun Film Festival, Sodankylä, June 13-17: Founded by the filmmaking Kaurismäki brothers back in 1986, this round-the-clock cinematic marathon has become a cult favourite, with many movie buffs never missing it. Aki and Mika Kaurismäki have the connections and good taste to bring some of the world’s most fascinating directors and actors to this remote village to chat, watch – and drink – with the film faithful. This summer’s special guests include two veterans of the silver screen: Harriet Andersson, who starred in many Ingmar Bergman classics, and Finland's Taina Eng, who acted in Hollywood films in the 1950s with the likes of Gene Kelly and Lana Turner.
Tuska Open Air, June 29-July 1: Finland is a hotbed of heavy metal – or should that be a forge? Anyway the country’s premier event is this annual gathering of black-clad moshers, now corralled into Suvilahti, a former gasworks in the Sörnäinen district. Now celebrating its 15th anniversary, Tuska (‘Agony’) began modestly at the Tavastia rock club, moving on to the late lamented VR railway warehouses for a couple of years before heading to Kaisaniemi Park for a decade. Last year, the first at Suvilahti, drew 28,000 people, down by 5,000 from the last year in Kaisaniemi. This year organisers hope to correct that situation, booking 30-year-old American megabands Megadeth and Ministry, Finnish export faves Apocalyptica and Sonata Arctica, Estonian metal-folkies Metsatöll and many, many others.
Pori Jazz, July 14-22: By now jazz makes up a fraction of the music on offer in this west-coast town. Yet a new, youthful team of artistic directors have been making long-awaited moves to give domestic jazzers pride of place. This year they also moved the focus more firmly onto nu-soul and R&B. There were several stars from this territory: Norah Jones, D’Angelo, Emeli Sandé and Janelle Monáe. There was also a Jamaican Legends show starring Ernest Ranglin – a charming virtuoso who did most of the soundtrack for the Bond film Dr No and reportedly taught Bob Marley how to play – along with keyboardist Tyrone Downie and the world’s most prolific – and funky – rhythm section: Sly & Robbie. Giving them a run for their money was Nigerian drum legend Tony Allen.
For info on these and dozens more, check out the Finland Festivals portal.
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