Interview by Agel Goyanes
1.- Your album is published by the Sibelius Academy. Our first question is almost obligatory: Have you studied there?
Our album is not published by Sibelius Academy but Tsuumi Sound System LTD. Our CD is only a part of a CD release series run by Folk Music Department.
Production is completely our own.
Some of us have studied in Sibelius Academy. Pilvi, Hannu and Esko have studied in Folk Music Department and Tarmo has studied in Music Education and Orchestral Instruments Department. Esko, Tommi and Pilvi have also studied in Sibelius Academy Youth Department in their earlier years. The other guys have studied music in many different music schools in Finland and abroad, mainly in pop/jazz contexts.
2.- What approaches and objectives are developed curriculum at the Sibelius Academy? How has influenced this education in your music?
Of course our music studies in Siba and the other music schools have an influence on our music, but we think that the main thing in our sound is that we have known each other and have played together for so many years. The other important thing is that all our tunes are our own compositions and arrangements. Composing is also something that we all have been encouraged to do and it has also been a big part of our studies.
3.- The Finnish folk had a great development, with multiple bands of international success. What does TSS that has not been done before?
We have a strong, energetic rock’n’roll attitude on our stage appearance. This is something that has been seen in other countries folk scene more than in Finland.
Our group is also large in size, eight members is quite unusual when talking about a world music act from northern Europe. This also gives a huge and fat “Wall of Sound” that is very characteristic for TSS. Basically we aim to be a band that can be put to play in big festival stages as well as smaller concert venues. In Finland folk music bands are often very minimalistic and intimate, audiences must be very careful when listening. We mostly like to play for audiences who simply want to go wild with the music.
4.- We do not know your previous albums. But we see that in "Growing Up" there is not traditional songs, only your own compositions. Have you previously worked on traditional themes, or always on your own compositions?
Everyone of us have done a lot of work with playing and studying traditional music from Finland and all over the world. In earlier days of TSS we had a few trad-tunes also, but nowadays we play mostly our own compositions. We think that if you want to make something new you have to know your tradition.
5.- Do you consider yourself an international world music group, or are there elements in your music that you defined better as a Finnish folk group?
There are naturally elements from Finnish folk too but it has never been our primary goal to keep the sound purely Finnish. We ourselves like to talk about Finnish Urban Ethno because of elements that come from more modern and urban genres. TSS is also very much influenced by world music from other countries. In this light it would be more appropriate to talk of international world music.
6.- About purely traditional repertoire of Finland: Do you think that it is well exploited? Or in the other hand, is there material on which to work, without inventing new melodies?
Finland is probably one of the most colourful countries in what comes to tradition, the border between east and west goes exactly in the middle of Finland. That can also be seen in two different traditions, Russian influences in east and Swedish on the west coast. In north we have Saami people as an addition. This combination really makes Finland a melting pot of traditions.
Traditional material is very well collected in Finland as well. So there is definitely loads of material to deal with. Many people in Finnish folk scene like to deal with this material but in TSS the approach and the influences are a bit in other directions, such as various different world music traditions, pop- and jazz scene.
7.- What are the musical elements that define the work of TSS to renew the traditional music?
We think that best way to renew tradition is in creating something new, not only polishing tunes that have already been played. The elements and grooves from Finnish traditional music can be still found in our own compositions and arrangements of the tunes. Elements from other music styles are always strongly involved when we make music and that also makes a big difference to traditional way of playing folk music.
8.- What is the status of Finnish folk music? Is it alive, is it well known by the people of Finland?
People in Finland like to talk about a new wave of folk music and things are happening but very, very slowly. Tradition is well kept alive, thanks to good possibilities to study folk music. But when ever we play in Finland there usually are a lot of people who are amazed just because they didn’t know what folk music can sound like.
It is very difficult to get air play in Finland with folk music and that also leads us to the fact, that people really don’t know what’s going on in Finnish folk scene. The biggest names in Finnish folk play most of their gigs abroad, that’s the way it is also with TSS.
9.- We have seen influences of traditional music in many genres, even in the rock. Does it happen the same in Finland?
Today there are a lot of folkish elements in Finnish pop scene as well. There are a couple of folk heavy bands that have gained a big success around the world under the recent years. The most popular band in Finland has a violin in their line-up, they also take influences of Finnish folk poetry in their lyrics. Our Eurovision Song Contest act for this year is a folk singer duo. However, most of these groups have been very much produced away from pure folk tradition, which is a shame. It is difficult to be personal if you want to gain success.
10.- Listening to this work, we find reminiscences, air and influences of many kinds, from Pink Floyd until the most famous Scandinavian bands like Hedningarna. We would like to know what influences TSS acknowledges in his style.
People always ask what the influences in our music are and it is very difficult to say the most important ones, at least for us. Definitely there are a lot of things from Swedish folk music, we have been honoured to work with Swedish “Folk Guitar Hero” Roger Tallroth from band Väsen. He has produced our two latest CD’s.
We haven’t really ever been aiming towards some particular sound. The colourful backround of musicians in TSS and a lot of influences from all directions make a sound that is very unique. That is just something that has been born in long cooperation between musicians in the band.
11.- Initially you had Tsuumi name. Why have you changed? What means Tsuumi in Finnish?
“Tsuumi” is originally a dance company, which we were accompanying for several years. Last three years we have been doing gigs on our own and “Tsuumi Sound System” is the name just for the band. This is how we want to avoid audience getting confused about who is going to perform. The dance company is still working on their own and we are doing music on our own.
Tsuumi is how a zoom (for example in a camera) would be written if it was a Finnish word.
12.- Finally. Do you think coming to visit Spain?
We are very excited to come to Spain. We really hope that some of our negotiations will get some good results and we get a tour in Spain in the near future.
Answers by Hannu Kella & Esko Jarvela
article submitted by:Eric van Monckhoven, Tsuumi Sound System Ltd