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Maija Kauhanen

Nordic Notes
Review by Chris Nickson


Meneet, the long-awaited follow-up to Maija Kauhanen’s remarkable 2017 solo debut, Raivopyörä, might well be even more satisfying that its predecessor. No other musicians this time around, it’s simply her on various kanteles, both natural and prepared, along with all the voices and percussion, including “stuff from flea markets.”

Working alone is demanding, but Kauhanen has been careful and precise with the arrangements wile still allowing space to work up a real fire. That’s most apparent on the deviliish “Käärme” (“Snake”) where she spits out the words like venom over the heavy bassline from the kantele, and a rising crescendo of instruments, erupting in a snake charm chant that pulls from several historical texts. The evil slithers along, insidious, dangerous and deadly, and the track becomes a musical battle. Who wins? Well, you’ll just have to listen to find out.


On her last release, Kauhanen included one out-and-out pop song, and she does it again here (she’s also a member of the pop band Malmö). “Linnunrata” (“The Milk Way”) is an airy, breezy, old school pop tune, building through the verse to a ridiculously catchy chorus. In this stripped-down form, with no programming, no synths to flesh out the sound, the pureness of the melody and voice have a proper chance to shine. Warning: it’s the kind of tune that will pop into your head a day or a week later and you’ll wrack your brains wondering where you heard it.


But Meneet isn’t all straightforward songs. There’s ample chance for Kauhanen to experiment with her music. The lengthy “Jää” (“Ice”) gives her voice time in the spotlight, and it’s a pleasure to hear. It’s a remarkable instrument, clear and ringing with siren tones, creating sweet melodies while she explores the sonic possibilities of the kantele, turning it into a small orchestra. On the title track, a driving, twanging bass riff on the kantele becomes the foundation for delving into a musical forest before emerging into the perfectly-titled calmness of “Turvapaikka” (“A Safe Place”) closing the disc with soft, bell-like, peaceful tones.

On her webite, Maija Kauhanen aptly bills herself as a one-woman orchestra. She’s absolutely right, and Meneet is her great symphony.

Find the artist online.

Further reading:
Mari Kalkun and Ruronorun

Photo by Antti Kokkola

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