Sara Pajunen – Finnish-American – and Teija Niku – a Finn – use their common musical heritage as a starting point for original “chamber-folk.” Together they create new sounds that reflect their differing contemporary cultures and shared roots.
One could say the duo AALLOTAR began already in the early 1900s, when Niku’s and Pajunen’s families lived in neighboring regions of Finland. But while Pajunen's ancestors crossed the Atlantic during 'Amerikan kuume' (American fever), Niku's ancestors stayed in Finland. This separation is the impetus for the music of Aallotar. How does tradition morph in an environment of assimilation - or in the same environment over 100 years’ time? How do two cultures grown apart add variation and depth to collaboration and artistic expression?
Niku (accordion/vocals) spent her Finnish childhood playing folk music on accordion and later received a masters degree from the Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department. Minnesota-born Pajunen (violin/vocals) studied classical music as her main focus, but also played Finnish folk music with a children's group that toured United States, Europe and Australia. Sara has earned classical music degrees in both the United States and Finland and currently studies in the Contemporary Improvisation department at New England Conservatory.
Aallotar released its debut album ‘In Transit’ (And Say We Did) in 2014 and their second album ‘Ameriikan laulu’ on June 15, 2018 (Nordic Notes). Since its formation in fall 2013, Aallotar has toured the United States seven times, including shows at Lotus Festival, the Cedar Cultural Center, Old Town School of Folk Music, and various Scandinavian related events. In 2015 Aallotar represented Finland at Folkelarm showcase festival in Oslo and the summer after they performed at all notable folk music festivals in Finland as well as Sounds of the North festival in Poland. In 2016 Aallotar was invited to the cross-genre project ‘Beethoven and Banjos’ in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with Decoda Ensemble from Carnegie Hall (New York), to create a unique program of Finnish folk and classical music.
Aallotar continues to explore the differences and similarities of Finland and Finnish America through their music, taking inspiration from tradition while pushing at boundaries. Their lithe instrumentals and beautiful vocal harmonies in both Finnish and English demonstrate how gracefully traditional and modern folk music can speak together.
'This one has that extra elusive appeal, its lightness of touch and melodiousness of repertoire matching the skill of (the musicians).... They play for musicality, not drive, and the charm of the singing isn’t drama or flash, it simply has warm, communicative naturalness.' fRoots UK
'Fresh, skillful and imaginative playing.' Kansanmusiikki Finland
'Aallotar’s contemporary chamber folk music is nested in technical prowess and held aloft by masterful arrangements, but the technique is tempered by subtlety and sensitivity, the arrangements add depth and space to the tunes, allowing them to expand into larger, more compelling forms.' Oregon ArtsWatch