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Smiles of a summer night: 10 tantalising Finnish music festivals

As Finland gets set for summer, attention shifts to the festival season. We've picked out ten of the most interesting festivals taking place over the warmer months.

Sideways Festival 2017, Helsinki
Helsinki's Sideways Festival moves to a bigger venue this year. Image: Petri Anttila / Sideways Festival

The festival season weds two of Finland’s strong points – music and nature – though summer festivals are increasingly urban and cosmopolitan. Of hundreds of summer music events, here are 10 picks to suit most tastes.


6-10: Silence, Kittilä

Your summer could start with contemporary classical and circus performances in rough-hewn buildings and idyllic outdoor spaces in and around the village of Kaukonen, western Lapland. Some events take place in the home of visionary painter Reidar Särestöniemi, who died in 1981. Särestöniemi is the inspiration for a work featuring trapeze artist Matleena Laine, singer-cellist Anni Elif Egecioglu and trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, while Mexican clown Gabriela Muñoz performs to music by Dominican electronic producer Ernesto Paredano and violinist Pekka Kuusisto performs with live poetry at Kittilä Church.

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Bandoneonisti Henrik Sandås.
Bandoneón player Henrik Sandås at Silence Festival Image: Uula Kuvaja

8-10: Sideways, Helsinki

Challenging the larger Flow Festival with a similar line-up of urban and indie-rock music, street food and side events, Sideways sidles into the big time with a larger location, Nordis, in and around the Ice Hall. Some 75 acts include US headliners The National, Warpaint and rediscovered ‘60s folk-rocker Rodriguez along with politically-charged rappers Silvana Imam (Sweden), Young Fathers (Scotland) and Sleaford Mods (England).

From Finland, there are strong singer-songwriters Mirel Wagner, Yona and Suad as well as ambient-oriented sounds from Lau Nau, ‘70s prog pioneer Esa Kotilainen and Timo Kaukolampi, who also rocks out with his German ‘70s-influenced band K-X-P.

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A sampling of Finland's many summer music fests Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka


9-15: Kaustinen Folk

This half-century-old festival in an Ostrobothnian village keeps the focus firmly on Finnish folk this year, with little ‘world music’ beyond Portuguese electro-folk band Omiri, Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser and some Finnish-Irish musicians and dancers. Wasel & the Weasels play lively Finnish remakes of American old-time and hillbilly music, while accordionist-singer Maija Kauhanen explores a new genre of avant-garde folk, and pop-rockers Egotrippi stop by on their 25th anniversary tour.

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Nuori pelimanni Essi soittaa ukuleleä
Kaustinen Folk Festival in Ostrobothnia Image: Minna Mustonen / Yle

13-15: Ilosaarirock, Joensuu

Prefer a traditional lager-driven rock fest? Eastern Finland offers a more offbeat line-up than the larger mainstays of Provinssi in Seinäjoki and Ruisrock in Turku – and was founded just a year after Ruisrock, in 1971. This year there are few big international acts beyond Jack White and Gogol Bordello, but fans of Finnish metal and hard rock will flock to see Nightwish, Amorphis and Stam1na. Many of the domestic names playing the other big rock fests, such Atomirotta, Apulanta, Circle, Saimaa, Von Hertzen Brothers, Cheek and K-X-P, also appear – plus more unusual offerings: rapper/activist Paleface teaming up with folk-pop band Värttinä, progressive rock veterans CMX with the Joensuu City Orchestra and punk-jazz trio Mopo.

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Ilosaarirock in eastern Finland's lake district Image: Ville Vedenpää / Yle

14-22: Pori Jazz

Despite the name, this west-coast megafest’s headliners have long been pop and rock stars – this year Canada’s Alanis Morissette, Australian-born Nick Cave, British pop singers James Blunt and Katie Melua, and American R&B vocalist Aloe Blacc, known for his work with the late Avicii. Age-wise, they range from 20-year-old UK singer-songwriter Jade Bird to 90-year-old US pop composer Burt Bacharach.

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Pori Jazz -yleisöä jatsiyleisöä jazz-yleisöä 2017 jatsijammailua jazz-musiikkia musiikkitapahtuma Pori Kirjurinluoto Kirjurin areena
Pori Jazz crowds in Kirjurinluoto Park Image: Tapio Pukkila / Yle

Pori’s jazz offerings, on smaller stages, remain strong with a welcome focus on women including Britons Yazz Ahmed and Zara McFarlane plus Finns Iro Haarla and Aili Ikonen. US pianist Carla Bley, 82, has cancelled her appearance due to poor health. Norwegian guitar trailblazer Terje Rypdal, Indian-American pianist Vijay Iyer and Manchester funk-jazz trio GoGo Penguin all return to Pori, as does contemplative Finnish pianist Joona Toivanen, who recently won this year’s coveted Teosto Prize.

26-28 Jazz on the Beach, Raahe

Further up the coast, this small, friendly event celebrates its 30th anniversary with rambunctious French band Papanosh and chanteuse Claudia Solal, along with the cream of contemporary Finnish improv including Mopo, electronic project 3TM, fusion trio Virta, two bands featuring no-holds-barred saxophonist Mikko Innanen – as well as ‘90s pop-hiphop outfit Don Johnson Big Band.

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Tommy Lindgrenin luotsaama Don Johnson Big Band villitsi DBTL -yleisöä torstaina.
1990s favourites Don Johnson Big Band Image: YLE / Simo Kymäläinen


10-12: Flow, Helsinki

After a ho-hum 2017 line-up, Flow is back with something for everyone into urban and electronic culture, from films and art installations to DJ sets and multi-cultural dining.

Along with hiphop, rock and pop heavyweights such as Kendrick Lamar, Patti Smith, Arctic Monkeys, Fleet Foxes, St Vincent, Lykke Li, Alma and Bonobo, there's also punk, children’s music, contemporary classical and ambient from pioneers Terry Riley, Suzanne Ciani and Tangerine Dream.

Flow is also just about the only festival booking any music from outside Europe and North America this summer, besides Helsinki Festival’s Huvila tent (17 Aug-2 Sep). Flow spotlights Japanese, Turkish and Australian DJs, while its Balloon Stage features Nigerian saxophonist Orlando Julius and Congolese electro-traditional collective Kokoko! along – with the return of US saxophone giant Kamasi Washington for two sets.

17-19: Weekend, Helsinki

Launched in 2012 in Espoo, the festival now moves to its third location, Hietaniemi Beach, following persistent noise complaints during its years in Kalasatama. With a ‘recommended’ minimum age of 15, this event packs in some 70,000 youngsters for a heady mix of house, techno, EDM from the likes of Axwell & Ingrosso (ex-Swedish House Mafia), David Guetta and Tungevaag & Raban plus rap from Macklemore and the UK's Stefflon Don – one of only three female artists out of some 70 acts – as well as domestic mainstays JVG and Elastinen. Also on hand: ‘90s UK big-beat veterans The Prodigy – perhaps broadening the festival’s youthful demographic.

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Weekend-festivaalin lava iltavalaistuksessa.
Youthful crowds at Weekend Festival Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

1-5: Elojazz, Oulu

This northern festival showcases two of Finland's most delightful vocalists, Aili Ikonen and Johanna Iivanainen, along with the most exciting jazz band of the moment, Mopo. Rounding out the list are Europe-wide favourites such as pianist Aki Rissanen, trumpeter Jukka Eskola and saxophonist Timo Lassy, backed by the mighty Ricky-Tick Big Band brass section.

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H2Ö Ruissalon telakka-alueella 2014
Ruissalo Shipyard Image: Marjut Mäntymaa / Yle

9-22: Turku Music

This mostly classical-affair in Finland's former capital stars Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais (with Yle’s Radio Symphony Orchestra) and English organist Keith John, playing “Pictures from an Exhibition”. There’s also easy-going jazz with pianist Iiro Rantala and Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius at Ruissalo Shipyard, an intimate ‘home concert’ with pop/rock singer Anna Inginmaa, who is about to release her debut album – and even a talk by US crime novelist Donna Leon.

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