Sami Kurppa - The conductor of the closing festival introduces himself

The Sámi Music Academy festival concludes the semester of Sámi music students in 29th August in Utsjoki. During the closing festival, Sami Kurppa, a versatile music professional, holds the beat stick.

Many different aspects of music are familiar to Sámi Music Academy festival conductor Kurppa, both in terms of technology and tour life. He still learned a lot during the first collaboration in Utsjoki, when the Helsinki music scene changed to winter landscapes and new moods. The cold weather surprised, but otherwise there was an open-minded freelancer musician on the move.

“January was really cold! The Deep North has its own world, even musically, and it is eye-opening to get things done here. I came to Utsjoki without expectations. I jumped straight to the deep end of Sámi music, and I didn’t know what kind of mood was going on. Everything went really well. The first working break lasted only five days, so we had really busy days, ”says Kurppa, adding that he is already looking forward to the next session, which will be held just before the closing festival.

Tradition and pop

In the conductor’s job description, doing telework is a familiar thing. Now, during the corona period, work groups turned into remote meetings and communication with the students of the Music Academy is handled through the Zoom program. Through a remote connection, Kurppa shared his matching ideas with students and exchanged ideas while sitting at home. Kurppa works mainly from his home in Helsinki, and a lot of preliminary work was done before his January study trip. “Before coming to the music academy, I made arrangements for students’ songs from the south. The students have chosen the songs themselves: there are composed songs, traditional yoik or llvđe and tradition and pop. Part I reconciled myself and some made together with the student. Now I am much wiser than at the beginning of this job. At that time, I still didn’t know what to offer and what kind of stuff to suggest to the songs, ”says Kurppa. “Utsjoki is a unique place and it’s great to get to work in the north. Students are experts in their own story. It is confusing that students know much more than they could ever imagine themselves! ” laughs Kurppa and continues: “I offer suggestions and ideas from a general musical perspective and students bring in traditional knowledge and style. I learned at least as much as they did. ”

Professional musicians Sara Puljula and Janne Lappalainen have joined in with Kurppa to Utsjoki, when the arrangements of the songs are finalised. The musicians have trained the songs independently during the summer until at the end of the ensemble come together. The Lappalainen playing in the band is familiar from Värttinä and the Ànnámáret Ensemble led by Anna Näkkäläjärvi-Länsman. Kurppa has also played on the latter’s album. Puljula, on the other hand, is one of Finland’s most employed theater musicians and has collaborated with, among others, jazz star Marzi Nyman and Rinneradio. In addition, she works in several different bands and teaches at three music schools. Thus, at the August festivals, professionals with an iron sense of rhythm play to support the students.

Kurppa himself has been the keyboardist’s successor on the Solju tour led by Hildá Länsman and Ulla Pirttijärvi. Kurppa has just got in touch with Sámi music through the Ànnámáret Ensemble.

More tour life and high-class productions Kurppa has been able to taste as a member of the band of Saara Aalto. Jaakko Laitinen will also come from Kurppa’s hometown, Rovaniemi, with whom the conductor of the Music Academy has played in the straps of the band Väärä Raha. His career also includes producing, recording, working as a freelance musician and teaching. The coming summer and autumn will be spent in the whirlpool of theater music. “I graduated from the Sibelius Academy in 2014 with a master’s degree in music. I first studied another field for a few years, until I felt strongly that music was my own thing, ”Kurppa explains.

There are enough jobs, but are there enough musicians?

Kurppa has been bustling in various bands and ensembles since his youth. Bands and not so many artists were admired and, enthusiastic about the common favorite band, it was easy to grab the instruments together with the friends. “Music education and upbringing starts with a little nazi. It is important to arouse interest. It would therefore be essential for both traditional and contemporary music that the Sámi Music Academy be a permanent institution, ”Kurppa reflects.

At the same time, he shares surprising rumors from the metropolitan area. “There is a trend in the music industry in Southern Finland that music is of even less interest. Band playing is no longer fashionable. In many schools, there are not enough applicants, at least on the basis of a hearing, ”Kurppa wonders. There is a shortage of band musicians, while producing and acting as an independent artist and making music on a home computer attracts many. However, the nature of the musician’s work has changed in one fell swoop with the corona epidemic, and the work patterns of many have become completely new. However, Kurppa reminds that sudden changes in the schedule are not exceptional at all in the work of a musician. The Music Academy moved the festival to August instead of May, but in other ways the plan will remain the same.

At the Music Academy, the whole palette of musicianship is well represented, with students acting as both soloists and musicians in the background. “These support each other. For example, playing an even more foreign player in a concert may surprisingly open up the playing of the main instrument. Admittedly, at the upcoming festival, students won’t play quite as much in each other’s backing bands. They already have quite a bit of adoption already in their own set, ”Kurppa reassures.