Music, Multiculturality and Finland

Project funded by the Academy of Finland 2014–2018

Research Plan


European colonialism and imperialism have scarred the world profoundly, to the extent that one can talk about global postcoloniality. Yet postcolonial power relations manifest themselves differently in different spatiotemporal contexts, and also the societies conventionally disregarded when talking about postcoloniality have been re-evaluated in relation to the effects of colonialist and imperialist practices and modes of thought. During the early years of the twenty-first century, this has been particularly evident in the northernmost Europe, occasionally related also to outbursts of extreme violence. In these accounts, the Nordic condition of postcoloniality has been discussed for example in terms of 'complicit colonialism' (Vuorela 2009) and 'Nordic exceptionalism' (Palmberg 2009; Rastas 2012), pointing especially to the tendency to deny the influence of colonial and racist ideologies in the region.

Within the region, the geopolitical and cultural position of Finland is a peculiar one due to its historical location in between the East and the West. In the analyses of Finnish postcoloniality, as it were, such notions as 'the periphery of the centre' (Lehtonen & Löytty 2007) and 'latent colonialism' (Raiskio 2002) have been utilised. These can be further juxtaposed with considerations over internal dynamics between different groups of people, whether most closely framed by issues of immigration, indigeneity, multiculturalism, post-socialism, racism or religion. An emergent strand of study pertains to the notion of Borealism, referring to the ways in which the North has been exoticised and stereotyped in literature and other forms of transnational media (Schram 2011).

Questions about cultural identity at the outskirts of 'Fortress Europe' point to multiple directions. Boosted by the waves of both global migration and economic crisis, debates over multiculturalism and racism have increased tremendously in the twenty-first century Finland. Yet music is largely absent in the debates, despite racialised genre classifications, exoticism in cultural industries and the contradiction between strong associations with national traditions and the assumed ability of music to transcend cultural boundaries.

The racialising and Orientalising tendencies in the musics of Finland have been noted, but the focus has been on historical rather than contemporary phenomena. Also, the bulk of research is textual rather than ethnographic in nature, and the most recent ethnographic accounts date back a decade now. Furthermore, while Roma and Sámi minorities are dealt with in the recent historiography of Finnish music, the last more comprehensive take on the musics of the ethnic minorities in Finland was published more than thirty years ago now. In the accounts on expatriate Finnish communities, in turn, the focus has been on historical phases, changes in language, and integration in general, with little or no attention paid to the role of music in the processes. Therefore, in terms of national scholarship, there is an apparent need to examine and assess the relations between music and contemporary minority identities in Finland and in relation to Finnish-ness. Furthermore, as the discussion about multiculturalism and right-wing 'immigration criticism' is closely tied to various definitions of national identity, a scrutiny of the value-laden ideas about Finnish-ness is called for, with or without adhering to geopolitical frontiers. Also the ways in which Finnish-ness constitutes a source for exoticism when perceived from elsewhere, remain an uncharted area. To address these issues means inevitably, too, both taking part in and critically questioning the tenets of global scholarship on postcoloniality and multiculturalism.

Debates over multiculturalism, with emphasis on national belonging and the importance of preserving and combining different cultural traditions, are also linked to explicit religious practices and to a general discussion about post-secularity, ie. the possibility to broaden the ethics and values of modernist secular states through world's religions and traditional cultures. In the field of music, both the cultural and economic value of contemporary religious music has been recognised and subjected to scholarly investigations in recent years. Also the religious and spiritual dimensions of popular music have been scrutinised, for instance in terms of 'pop cults' (Till 2010). Within religious studies in turn, much attention has been paid on redefining 'the sacred' by focussing on popular cultural phenomena (Lynch 2007). In both fields of study, however, one may note a trend towards taken-for-granted utilisation of the notion of 'popular culture', with unproblematised references to mass-production, everyday life, consumerism, leisure and media in particular.

Thus, the post-secular belief systems and musics provide a context for not only challenging conventional notions of popular culture as a secular sphere of activity on the basis of its apparent commercial framework but also for emphasising the economic imperatives of institutionalised religions in general. In addition, a specific area of inquiry is constituted by Muslim musical practices, whereby 'western' prejudices against Islam and conceptualisations of freedom of expression emerge as pertinent topics to be addressed.

The present project is an outcome and amalgamation of interests and questions I have been dealing with, in different guises, for the past fifteen years. I have focussed on issues pertaining to representations and construction of ethnicity in 'audiovisual media music' in my doctoral dissertation as well as in numerous articles and book chapters, many of which have been published internationally. In more recent years, I have been involved in two research projects and two research networks that form a direct basis for the proposed one especially with respect to issues of postcoloniality, multiculturalism and freedom of cultural expression. In 2009–2011 I worked as Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher with a personal project entitled Popular Music in Postcolonial Finland, and in 2012 I participated in the project Regulated Liberties, also funded by the Academy of Finland, with a personal topic centring on Censorship of Arts in 'Post-Soviet' Finland. Since 2009, I have taken part in the planning and activities of the Nordic Network on Researching Music Censorship, and in 2010, I instigated a research network on the study of music and belief systems, called UskoMus. In 2013, I received a grant for producing a Finnish-language non-fiction book in on the topic of the project, on the basis of the scholarly articles I have already published in English and Finnish.


The project centres on how migrant groups negotiate national and cultural identity through musical practices. Thus at issue is how canonised notions about nationally unique music are challenged by migrant groups as they construct their cultural identity through music. At issue are the ways in which the values and beliefs associated with conventional conceptualisations of national identity in music are maintained, challenged and complemented by different minority groups, both through verbal statements and non-verbal actions.

As the national context of the examination is Finland, the project is built on two interwoven themes which involve, in the first instance, unearthing the ideological premises of the conventional ideas about Finnish music, and second, juxtaposing these ideas with the empirical reality of minority groups. The focus is on both groups in Finland and expatriate Finns. With respect to the latter, the aim of the project is to further postcolonial theorisation by focussing on different discourses and realities of multiculturalism as they are manifested in aspects of less well-known emigration from Finland, in the form of musical activities of the Finnish communities in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. On the basis of this, the detailed research questions that guide the project may be formulated thus:

  • how are ethnic and racial dynamics represented and valorised in relation to national belonging in the historiography of Finnish music, or, music in Finland?
  • how do people with recent immigrant background embody and conceptualise 'their' music and relate it to the notion of Finnish-ness?
  • how do 'Antipodean Finns' embody and conceptualise Finnish-ness in their musical practices and relate it to other local national and ethnic groups?

Theoretically, the aim is to re-evaluate the concept of 'the popular' through the category of 'the sacred'. Disputes over 'national' culture provide a useful starting point, as they are loaded with assumptions about popular communality that is worth preserving. At issue are the ways in which 'national' musics are related to global flows of migration and mediation, and how historiography sanctifies ideas about nationally unique expression, especially in terms of art, folk and popular cultures. This alleged uniqueness is directly linked to issues pertaining to freedom of expression, as ideas about national traditions form an effective mechanism of self- and market censorship. The project is furthermore explicitly political in nature, as it is aimed to increase the awareness, knowledge and understanding of cultural differences in contemporary Finland and in relation to the notion of Finnish-ness as well as to the construction of national identity in 'neo-European' settings in general.

The goal of the project is also to further theoretical discussion in two areas in particular:

(1) The materiality of musical multiculturality: 'postcolonial melancholia' meets Borealism

The project draws primarily from postcolonial studies, ethnomusicology, popular music studies, cultural studies, comparative religion and philosophy of history. The project is predicated on the idea of embodied culture and otherness (Ahmed 2000), which in essence refers to examination of cultural practices as lived systems of meaning-making that defy the separation of the discursive and non-discursive realms. Here, a central theoretical framework is provided by the basic tenets of ethnomusicology in that the mutual effects of concepts, behaviour and musical sound to each other are acknowledged, and that music is approached as culture, "soundly organised humanity" (Blacking 1973; Merriam 1964). Also the premises of anthropology and sociology of religion are fundamental here in directing the analysis towards the amalgamation of ideological, social and material dimensions of the sacred (Angrosino 2004; Lynch 2007; Anttonen 2010). Informed by popular music studies and media studies, these points of departure are complemented by genre theories, whereby the interwovenness of aesthetic, material, commercial, political and ideological dimensions of music are further emphasised (Frith 1996). Genres may be further conceived in terms of Foucauldian notions of dispositif and biopower, which entail paying specific attention to the institutionalised and thus ritualised dimensions of exerting power on human bodies. This, in turn, connects the analysis to the Williamsian formulation of cultural materialism with its emphasis on the inseparability of culture from the rest of society and its material existence, as well as on the importance of ethics of agency. The latter aspect becomes particularly pronounced in the context of migration, as an 'immigrant' is virtually by definition a person whose presence, abilities and credentials are constantly and systematically challenged and even negated. In the light of this, the musical practices under scrutiny are examined as fundamentally political in nature.

The focus on migrants entails further a strong reliance on postcolonial studies whereby emphasis is laid on hybrid cultural identities, diasporic settings and essentialist historiography (Featherstone 2005). The most pertinent questions in this respect are intimately connected to issues of displacement and diaspora. In other words, at issue is not only the discursive construction of ethnic identity, but also its undeniable embodiment in the voluntary or forced movements and resettlements of people – in other words, its symbolic and material constructedness as a dispositif. A particular aspect of this dispositif is the way in which many of these movements and settlements are surrounded and conditioned by xenophobia and outright racism. Thus the analysis is linked to the notion of 'postcolonial melancholia' that is a result of realising and recognising the diminishing centrality of Europe and the difficulties in accommodating and accounting for the continent's colonial dimensions (Gilroy 2004). In addition, it is imperative to acknowledge here the economic imperatives behind racism and racialisation, and the way in which these imperatives are channelled into contemporary practices through conceptualisations of ethnic, national and cultural traditions, as well as through cultural industrial incentives to maintain ethnically demarcated genres and marketing segments. This connects the analysis also to questions about the utilisation of intellectual property rights as practices that regulate cultural expression.

The geopolitical and cultural location of Finland allegedly in between the East and the West brings forth additional questions about historical circumstances and valorisation of encountering ethnic otherness, especially in relation to the notions of 'the postcolonial North' and Borealism. This involves first of all considering the ways in which colonial structures of knowledge operate in the North-Eastern corner of Europe, for instance with reference to theorisations over latent or complicit colonialism. Also, analyses of Nordic exceptionalism, meaning the assumption that Nordic countries would not suffer from an inherited colonial, racist ideology, provide crucial tools for a nuanced investigation into the ways in which Finland, among others, has been and is implicated in the legacy of European colonialism and imperialism. Importantly, on the flip side of the coin there is the equally racialised and exoticised impression of the 'Northern Mongol troll', to use the 1930s parlance. More recently, the concept of Borealism, as an appropriation of Orientalism, has been introduced in order to account for the stereotypes of the nationalities of the global north. In these analyses, it has been pointed out that the north is repeatedly characterised through extremes, be they utopian or dystopian. More often than not, however, the representations of the 'Northern fringes' have been framed by exoticism, denigration and inferiorisation, not to mention accusations of barbarism even. (Schram 2011; Davidson 2005.) As the discussion on Borealism has focussed on visual and verbal representations, a need to develop a distinct theory of 'musical Borealism' emerges.

(2) The national/popular/sacred triangle

'The national' is also central for understanding the dynamics of the popular and the sacred in contemporary societies. Regarding the debates over multiculturalism in Western societies in particular, it becomes paramount to scrutinise how the dispositif of national identity, as well as its counterpart ethnic identity, in their various formations, are implicated in institutionalised religious ideologies, most notably Christianity and Islam. Here, one is wise to recognise too that both religions and national ideologies are popular by definition, yet they are commonly excluded from the definitions of popular culture which for its part is ostensibly characterised by transnational secular entertainment. 'The popular' is however an extraordinarily fluid and ambivalent concept, as it conventionally may refer to sociological favour, economic success, mass production and consumption, mass media distribution, certain (allegedly lower) aesthetics, and everyday practices of lower social classes (Storey 2003). Also the global impact of especially North American and West European media products has been recognised and discussed in terms of cultural identity formation in various locales. Indeed, the world-wide cultural, economic and political effects of especially Western cultural products should not been underestimated. In the realm of music, these are intimately tied with the activities of transnational music industry, primarily in two ways: on one hand, the high level of conglomeration needs to be addressed especially in relation to questions about cultural homogenisation and the viability of local cultural production, and on the other, the pervasiveness of the marketing category of World Music requires a closer scrutiny with respect to exoticising tendencies and other imbalanced power relations between the Western centre and its peripheries. Both these aspects are essential when dealing with the cultural expression of migrant groups.

Within both social scientific and theological strands of religious studies, an increasing amount of attention has been paid on the interconnections between religion and popular culture. In these accounts, there has been nevertheless an exclusive tendency to redefine 'the sacred' on the basis of rather monolithic and intentional definitions of popular culture as everyday life. This body of research, however, through its emphasis on material practices and conditions of agency, contributes also to re-evaluating 'the popular' through the category of 'the sacred'. While an obvious area of inquiry is constituted by the ways in which the popular and the sacred are intertwined in the musical practices of institutional or otherwise organised religious movements, it is important to recognise the broader implications of the notion of the sacred, especially in relation to identity construction.

Moreover, the interrelations of the popular and the sacred in general point to the dimensions of humour and seriousness in conceptualisations of cultural identity. This aspect is closely linked to the idea of ridicule as a social force (Billig 2005), whereby attention is paid to the ways in which given musical events induce contextual positions of laughing with somebody at somebody else. At issue is thus the social politics of ridicule, the way in which laughter can both unite and divide social groups. Here, the social norms of laughter lay a foundation for the analysis of the sacred, inasmuch as at issue are the appropriate objects, contexts and modes of laughter and ridicule. An apparent object of inquiry in this respect is constituted by the ('popular') satirical or parodic treatments of diverse ('sacred') authorities. This does not entail a focus only on deliberate parodies of canonical genres or historical events for example, but also acknowledging the possibility of parodic interpretations regardless of production intentions and thus addressing the broader cultural politics of parody. One may investigate also the more fundamental levels of funlandisation (Kärjä 2011), meaning the ways in which especially national cultural identities are constructed and maintained as equipped with a more sophisticated and less vulgar sense of humour than "other cultures".

Following anthropology of religion, 'the sacred' marks the inviolability of the boundaries of a social entity and is maintained and manifested both ideologically and materially (Anttonen 2000 & 2010; Lynch 2007). Thus, the sacred may materialise in the scriptures, bodies, sounds, artefacts and environments of various ideological domains and in the ways in which human bodies in particular are conditioned and restricted within these domains. While in the classic sociology of religion the emphasis has been on different prohibitive measures and mechanisms that become pronounced through the distinction between the sacred and the profane within religious systems (Durkheim 1965), here a more inclusive conceptualisation of the sacred is adopted. Thus, the violations on an entity's boundaries may pertain just as well to cultural others as to the rationality of everyday economic activity. This entails recognising also that 'the sacred' brings forth various interwoven belief systems where explicitly religious tenets mix inextricably with for example political, nationalistic, economic and subcultural modes of thinking. This is furthermore to subscibe to an Althursserlian conceptualisation of ideology, stressing the importance of various institutions and the material practices these institutions condition in a ritualistic manner.

In terms of more detailed analysis, a central point of departure is provided by focussing on the situations in which different protective, distancing and ritualistic measures manifest themselves for example in the forms of 'sacred personage', sacred artefacts and emblems, 'shrines', rituals and 'cults', and the relationship to the material environment (Angrosino 2004; Lynch 2007; Till 2010; Anttonen 2010). These general notions may be juxtaposed with the following musical phenomena:

  • how certain individuals, whether alive or dead, become and are hailed as guardians, gatekeepers, carriers, embodiments or revitalisers of a musical tradition;
  • how certain musical instruments, tunes and movements are taken to represent something essential about a community;
  • how the 'old/lost/imagined/mythological homeland' is looked upon and visited as a source of the authentic musical tradition;
  • how seasonal and national holidays and festivals constitute occasions for culturally specific musical performances, especially in relation to explicitly religious feasts; and
  • how the musical practices are conditioned by and in interaction with the material environment, for example in relation to performance venues and financial concerns.

Methods and material

The project is divided into three focal areas, which rest on institutional definitions in that they are constituted by the activities maintained by different institutions, organisations and communities, in order to avoid any personal prejudices. In this case, the institutions represented are the publishing industry, municipal administration, and non-profit cultural associations. The focal areas, materials, methods and detailed analytical points of interest in terms of the popular/sacred dynamics are summarised in Table 1 (below, on p. 6) and explicated at lenght in the following subsections.

(1) Canonisation of Finnish music: historiography

Canonised national identity in music will be defined through metahistorical discourse analysis of the eight-volume Suomen musiikin historia ('History of Finland's music'; 1995–2006), where the vicissitudes of art, church, popular and folk musics are accounted for. This recent series of books serves as an influential point of reference as due to its comprehensive aim it constructs a 'grand narrative of Finnish music' against which various forms and styles of music in Finland are measured. The book series will be juxtaposed also to other historiographical material dealing with music of/in Finland.

Metahistorical discourse analysis refers to an qualitative analytical approach that examines various historiographical discursive statements with respect to their underlying power relations and ideological presuppositions. Thus, 'history' is perceived as an utterly ideological and political construct that needs to be considered in the framework of its intended and possible usages rather than its alleged objectivity and truth-value. (White 1974.) The metahistorical stance is tantamount to the critique expressed within postcolonial studies towards "the Artifice of History" (Chakrabarty 2000), meaning the colonising and essentialising forms and modes of historiography. Moreover, when considered in relation to the emphasis on national belonging and cultural hybridity within postcolonial studies, it becomes crucial to acknowledge the fervent legitimating power historiography holds in terms of national identity. This is evident also in the realm of music historiography, as the general routine is to produce histories of music of (and, imporantly, not in) a certain independent country – a tendency I call the 'prepositional politics of historiography'. In the global condition of transnational immigration, multiculturality and postcoloniality, the banal, customary nationalism (Billig 1995) of most music historiography indeed becomes banal, in the more pejorative sense of the word. This issue has been plausibly criticised within postcolonial studies, whereby different ways and reasons to remember and forget are forcefully put forward, with a specific emphasis on the interwovenness of history, knowledge and power.

The metahistorical analysis of the grand narrative of Finnish music builds on the ways in which both individual and institutional agency in constructed and emphasised and thus connected to questions of value. In a more detailed fashion, the analysis of the 'sacred personage' leads to examination of valorisation of given individuals, especially composers, performers and producers, and the way in which these individuals are connected to issues of national culture. Regarding 'emblems', at issue is how certain genres and styles are constructed as more national in character than others. The question of 'homeland' in turn entails paying attention to the alleged fundamental constituents or founding traditions of national music and to the role of national mythology as a point of reference for claims about authenticity. The focus on 'rituals' means here investigating the value given to certain historical events and their anniversaries. 'Environmental' issues for their part pertain in this case to ostensible links created between music and national nature, but also to the more concrete effects of and resources demanded by educational and performance institutions, as well as the more general importance given to certain types of music with respect to national economy.

Table 1. The summary of the focal areas, materials, methods and analytical points of interest.
epistemological setting historiography empirical reality
institutional setting publishing industry municipal administration non-profit cultural associations
practical setting Suomen musiikin historia book series (1994–2006) Ourvision Singing Contest (2009, 2013, 2015) the Finnish societies in Auckland, Melbourne, Otago and Sydney (2011, 2014–2015, 2016)
primary research material historiographical literature field notes, interviews, media coverage field notes, interviews, audiovisual recordings, media coverage
methods metahistorical discourse analysis systematic observation, thematic interviews, media discourse analysis systematic and participatory observation, thematic interviews, media discourse analysis, audiovisual production
points of interest in terms of popular/sacred dynamics a) personage composers, artists, producers; Jean Sibelius star figures, cultural icons community leaders, star figures; Jean Sibelius
b) emblems genres, styles, instruments genres, instruments; World Music genres; folk dancing
c) homeland 'mother traditions': folk, church, classical, popular local vs. global; commemoration vs. individuality; religious regional vs. national; commemoration vs. individuality
d) rituals events, anniversaries ethnic, national, religious national events, anniversaries, holidays
e) environment national nature, education, economy music industry, city branding cultural and physical resources

(2) Music and immigration: the 'new Finns'

In order to access the ways in which immigrants in Finland conceptualise Finnish music, as well as their 'own', the focus will be on the biennial Ourvision Singing Contest, organised by the City of Helsinki primarily for people with recent immigrant background. The contest provides a gateway to more nuanced ethnographic analyses of the participants' musical practices.

In this case, specific weight needs to be laid on the implications of diaspora and displacement. This means paying close attention to the ways in which the flows of physical migration are interrelated with the global movement of music through mediation and how these two different forms of movement affect the reshaping of musical practices in response to different social and historical circumstances. In other words, at issue are the ways in which immigrant musicians, frequently as racialised subjects, are governed by different societal and industrial sectors. In the case of Ourvision, for instance, the importance of the latter sector becomes pronounced through the participation of a record label as one of the organisers of the event – although it should be noted that Ourvision itself is a registered trademark of the City of Helsinki. This connects the phenomenon to questions of city branding and creative economy in more general.

In terms of more detailed analysis, a plausible point of departure is constituted by the ways in which national epithets, sung languages, physical appearances and musical genres are interconnected in the performances. What is the importance of music made famous by international star musicians, for example, as an expression of immigrant identity? Or, to what extent does the prevalence and relative weight of international and 'foreign' styles in the musical repertoire of 'new Finns' refer to emblematic features of the cultural group in question? As the experiences of displacement are rather recent in the case of 'new Finns', the temporal distance to the assumed source of cultural authenticity is relatively short, yet complicated significantly with the global marketing category of World Music as through it virtually all non-Western 'homelands' are conflated with each other. Also, the conditions for economic viability become paramount, especially through juxtaposing music industry concerns and cultural protectionism. In other words, crucial questions pertain to the interrelations between exoticising exploitation and conscious conformity, as well as to the ways in which intellectual property rights are implicated in protecting, preserving and promoting cultural expression in the form of music.

Particular attention will be paid to the performances that are explicitly associated with Muslim societies and cultural practices. A specific point of inquiry is constituted by the issues pertaining to freedom of expression and by extension to the definition of 'music' to begin with. Here, a central point of reference here is the framework proposed by al-Farūqī (1985) about the interpretations of mūsīqā and non-mūsīqā, on the basis of which the ethnographic fieldwork with the Muslim participants centers on the ways in which their vernacular (or emic) categorisations and classifications relate to the institutionalised (or etic) ones. The situation also gives grounds to explore more carefully claims about Christianity as one central part of 'western' Euro-American cultural heritage.

This entails also acknowledging the role of religious systems as sets of regulative practices whose undercurrents are forcefully linked to ethics and moral judgements. By this token, an explicit connection is created to discussion over the freedom of expression in the context of popular music in general, as many genres throughout the decades have been criticised and even doomed due to alleged violent and sexual implications. This leads directly also to theorisations about the shifts and relations between church, state and market censorship.

(3) Music and emigration: the 'Antipodean Finns'

A comparative take from an opposite stance on ideas about Finnish music is provided by an investigation into the musical practices of expatriate Finns in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. With respect to this, the starting point for closer ethnographic research is formed by the activities of the Finnish Societies of Melbourne and Sydney (FSM, FSS), the Auckland Finnish Society (AFS) and the Otago Scandinavian Club (OSC). Particular attention will be paid on the folk dancing (tanhu) activities of FSM and AFS by focussing on the vulnerability of cultural continuity and tanhu as a repository of cultural expression.

Instead of recent experiences of displacement, the focus here is on the more long-term transformation processes and on the significance of Finland for the different generations. Furthermore, Finnish-ness itself is positioned as a minority identity from the outset and thus juxtaposed differently in relation to other ethnic categories, most notably those of local indigenous populations both in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. Alongside Indigenous Australians and the Maori, the dimensions of 'Antipodean Finnish-ness' will be examined in relation to the noticeable presence of (South-)East Asian minority groups as well as of Pacific Islanders.

A specific weight is given to scrutinising the ways in which Finnish-ness and Nordic-ness in more general constitute exotic identity categories. With respect to this, an intriguing point of examination is constituted also by the extent to which non-Anglophone Northern European identities are lumped together in a Borealist manner. On the basis of geographical distance, linguistic difference and political insignificance, as perceived from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, one can address the emergence of a peculiar stance towards Finnish-ness as constituting 'the periphery of the centre'. Here, not only different forms of European folk music form important points of comparison, but also the pervasiness of both Anglophone popular music and Euro-American art music need to be taken into account.

In terms of 'sacred personage', the role of various community leaders is of primary interest, but also the significance of visiting national star figures need to be acknowledged. Here, the figure of Jean Sibelius as the unofficial national composer par excellence emerges: to what extent is Antipodean musical Finnish-ness, as it were, constructed around the works of Sibelius? With respect to emblematic features, in turn, the tanhu practice provides multiple points of departure in the form of musical repertoire, attire (so-called national costumes) and dance formations. Given the vulnerability of the practice, at issue is also the extent to which cultural commemoration operates at the expense of individual creative expression – and of total extinction for that matter. The shrine-like 'homeland', for its part, needs to be inspected both concretely and figuratively: to what extent are the Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand articulations of musical Finnish-ness based on material correspondence between the two sides; or are they more ideological in nature, reliant on more or less petrified notions of national culture as the ultimate source of authenticity? Given the possibility of Borealism, music with the epithet 'Finnish' must be studied also in relation to the category of World Music.

The annual public holidays of Finland constitute a primary point of departure in terms of analysing the ritualistic musical practices of the 'Antipodean Finns'. The nationally codified holidays – and holy days – need to be related to local national holidays as well as to minority and indigenous celebrations. Finally, 'environmentally' speaking, questions about the ecological viability in the sense of the most appropriate use and distribution of scarse cultural and physical resources become paramount, for example in the very mundane terms of maintaining regular folk dancing practices.

Due to the emphasis of non-verbal embodiment through music, corporeality and material circumstances, a central research technique is constituted by the production of audiovisual recordings. With respect to this, crucial methodological points of departure are provided by the premises of anthropological and ethnomusicological film-making in general and so-called observational cinema in particular, whereby emphasis is laid on the minutiae of everyday life as well as on the interrelation between filmmakers and their subjects, rather than on any dramatic or cinematographic aspirations. The utilisation of such a technique and methodology has a direct bearing also on the dissemination of the results of the project, as a major part of them will be published in an audiovisual format, tentatively both as YouTube shorts and a feature-long documentary to be circulated in relevant conferences and festivals. Thus the audiovisual production serves a dual role as both research material and a form of publication.


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Antti-Ville Kärjä