Värttinä is the crown jewel of Finnish folk/world music with a history already more than 30 years old (the group began as a children’s project in the village of Rääkkylä in 1983). Their international breakthrough followed the release of album Oi Dai in 1991. In an illustrious musical career, Värttinä has recorded for such labels as Nonesuch, Realworld, Rockadillo and Westpark Music, and collaborated with A. R. Rahman in composing the music for the theatrical adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, which played in Toronto in 2006 and London in 2007.
Värttinä’s trademark has always been razor-sharp harmonies sung by powerful leading ladies, currently the founding member Mari Kaasinen with Susan Aho and Karoliina Kantelinen. Viena is Värttinä’s thirteenth studio album and its music was inspired by the trip the group made to the Viena Karelian folklore villages in Russia, where they had unique encounters with the last surviving "rune singers" in the region. These singers are the last living connection to an ancient culture that is thousands of years old, and out of which Kalevala folk poetry tradition was born. During their journey, Värttinä enjoyed remarkable nature experiences, which have also inspired the album (as the natural world informs so much of their repertoire). The Viena album is a tribute to Värttinä’s Viena Karelian musical roots.
Mari Kaasinen – vocals
Mari is an original Värttinä singer and co-founder from Rääkkylä, Karelia. Her first public performance took place at the age of 2½. During her career she’s studied classical singing, accordion and fiddle and majored in folk voice in Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department. Partly because of her own North Karelian roots and dialect, she’s always been keen on Kalevala poetry and has become the main lyricist for Värttinä. She now maintains a career simultaneous with her life in Värttinä, teaching voice and kantele in Helsinki and participating in outside projects.
Karoliina Kantelinen – vocals
Karoliina Kantelinen is a singer and an ethnomusicologist from Helsinki who specializes in different ethnic singing styles. Her doctoral dissertation is on the old yoik tradition from Russian Karelia, formerly a Finnish territory. She currently teaches folk music at the department of musicology in the University of Helsinki. At this moment Karoliina is finishing her artistic doctoral studies at the Department of Folk Music in Sibelius-Academy..
Known for challenging the old established ideas and concepts of interpreting Viena Karelian yoiks, Karoliina uses the traditional Kalevala style as her inspiration for new contemporary folk-based compositions. With her distinctive broad-ranged voice, she is also known as a ‘lament singer’ whose unique ability spans a range of emotion from anguish to compassionate sensitivity.
Susan Aho – vocals
Playing accordion since the age of 13, she played accordion on Värttinä’s Vihma album before moving to vocals. Susan graduated from the Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department in 2008. Besides being a songwriter as well, she’s worked with the puppet theatre Sampo for over a decade. Susan is also now in the duo Kuunkuiskaajat with Johanna Hytti.compassionate sensitivity.