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”Shava, Shava!” The Sound of Finnish Bhangra

What do you get when you fuse Finnish rap style chanting with Punjabi folk rhythms and Indian dancing? Finnish bhangra (Suomi-bhangra) is the answer that you’ll get from singer-songwriter Kiurelu Sammallahti, who heads up the ensemble Shava.

Intialaisia vaikutteita esityksissään viljelevä Shava-yhtye.
Image: YLE

The band’s song, “On siisti ajaa Hertzigassa aamubussissa” throws together an entertaining mix of content – birch trees, concrete inner city views and bus rides, and a few words in Hindi – into a cross-cultural stew strongly flavoured by the catchy bhangra rhythm from India’s Punjab region.

But the song is about much more than its simplistic lyrics suggest. Band members agree that it also tells the story of the ability of love to overcome boundaries – pretty much in the same way that the morning bus acts as the lifeblood of the Helsinki suburb of Herttoniemi.

The band members say they’re completely at home with the cultural cocktail. “The Finnish film industry and Bollywood aren't really that far apart,” Sannallahti declared during a visit to YLE’s Aamu-TV morning programme.

As far as he’s concerned the music coming from the two worlds share the same basic ingredients: the emotionality and melancholy of Bollywood hit music is similar to home-grown pop songs. While Sammallathi studied folk music at the Sibelius Academy, he has close ties to India.

“I’ve spent over one year in India altogether, like many members of the band. You can’t learn some things from books, you have to absorb them directly on the spot,” he explained.

Visit the website to find out more about Shava and their music.

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