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Finland's biggest folk fest draws 47,000 to Ostrobothnian village

Kaustinen Folk is a sprawling event involving 4,000 performers from as far afield as Argentina and Kenya.

Yleisöä areenan täydeltä Kaustisella
The main events are held in the Kaustinen Areena. Image: Raila Paavola / Yle

The Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, which kicks off on Monday afternoon, swells a small Ostrobothnian town into a musical metropolis for a week.

Last year this central Ostrobothnian town of 4,300, north-east of Vaasa, drew 47,000 people for a week of music and dance events. This year the 52nd annual event includes 1,600 concerts, not counting impromptu sessions in pubs and on sidewalks.

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Kaustisen kansanmusiikkijuhlilla tanssittiin purppuria.
Folk dance also takes pride of place at Kaustinen. Image: Kaustisen kansanmusiikkijuhlat

There are some 4,000 performers from 23 countries, including Argentina, Cyprus, Italy, Kenya, Morocco and the US as well as neighbouring Russia and Sweden.

Fiddle-driven

The programme centres on the region's traditional fiddle-driven folk music known as pelimanni (spelman in Swedish). Last year 518 pelimanni groups appeared, including some made up of local schoolkids. This year's regional focus is Savo in eastern Finland.

The best-known Finnish folk acts on the bill are Tallari and accordionist Antti Paalanen, but there are also plenty of non-traditional domestic acts. These range from close-harmony sextet Rajaton to pop singers Samuli Edelmann and Vuokko Hovatta (formerly of Ultra Bra), sign-language rapper Signmark and indie-rock band Vesterinen yhtyeineen.

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Pelimanneja kävelee Kaustisen kansanmusiikkijuhlilla.
Musicians arriving for the festival. Image: Antti Kettumäki / Yle

The first day's events are all free, as are many of the smaller less-formal gigs during the week. Some 450 local volunteers help run the festival.

After a period of financial turmoil, the festival has been arranged since 2012 by the Pro Kaustinen association, which took over as programme producer the previous year. The town arranges in-home accommodation for visitors, as the few local lodgings book up far in advance.

Founded in 1968, Kaustinen is one of Finland's oldest music festivals just behind Pori Jazz (1966) and the Savonlinna Opera Festival (1967).

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