Biography

1983

Sari Kaasinen starts Värttinä together with her mother Pirkko to continue the work of the Tsupukat poetry reading group in Rääkkylä, North Karelia. The band had thirteen young members back then. In addition to Sari and Mari, there are Pauliina Luukkanen, Minna Rautiainen, Kirsi Kähönen and Janne Lappalainen as the only boy in the band, among others. Värttinä visits an art event in Kajaani. They bring home diplomas of poetry reading, which received both the band and Sari, as a solo artist,

1984

Värttinä receives a commendation in the folk music category in a national art event.

1985

The amount of people in Värttinä grows. The little brother of Sari and Mari, Jussi, the Varis brothers Olli and Tapani, and the Lorge’ siblings Tuomas, Johanna and Lassi join the band. Värttinä participates in the folk musicans’ Finnish championship competition in Sepäsoitto, held in Mäntsälä. Värttinä plays a wash board and scissors, and it’s not actual folk music, but because the kids’ performance is so energetic and compelling, it’s awarded a special prize . Värttinä visits the Kaunisten folk music festival for the first time.

1986

The first performance abroad, in Rättvik, Sweden.

1987

The breakthrough year for the old Värttinä. Värttinä is chosen as the band of the year in the Kaunisten folk music festival. There, the band’s future manager sees Värttinä for the first time. Värttinä releases its first album, Värttinä, as a self-published record. They have more than hundred performances during the year. Värttinä goes abroad to Turkey and again Rättvik, Sweden, this time to the Rättvisdansen event.

1988

Having gigs. The highlights of the year are the first visit to England, Swaledale, and to the Soviet Union, the island of Kizi in Russian Karelia. The band meets the group, Marij Pamash, which Sari eagerly videotapes.

1989

Värttinä makes its second album, called Musta lindu. The album is relased by a small record company specializing in folk music, Olarin musiikki. Värttinä’s size has grown and it has 21 young musicians. During the year the band visits Kaunisten, among other places, where guitarist Tommi Viksten and bassist Tom Nyman notice the band. Viksten replaces the bass player, Tapanivaris, in Austria.

In August, Värttinä is in Marenhamn with replacements. On their journey back, they find out that Värttinä’s current composition breaks up . Someone of the band members continue their studies in Helsinki, younger members stay in Rääkklylä. Värttinä’s new vision is started during the autumn. From the old composition, Sari andMari Kaasinen, Kirsi Kähönen and Minna Rautiainen continue as singers , a new singer is Sirpa Rantakangas. Instrumentalists are guitarist Tommi Viksten, bassist Tom Nyman, fiddle player Kari Reiman, accordionist Maria Kalaniemi, mandocello player Petri Hakala, percussionist Christer Hackman, and the old saxophonist and bozuki player Janne Lappalainen.

1990

The first gig with new composition is in March, in an opening of a furniture factory in Kitee, North Karelia. The band visits the Soviet Union when it goes to a folk music festival in Joskar-Ola, Marimaa and is an official representative. That means official and wet eatings, drunkenness and the hangover that inevitably follows from it and militia convoys, which take the band from one place to another. The tour’s highlights are a prision turned into a hotel and a factory making sugar pieces that look like Finnish candy, which are advertised by a woman with bare breasts.

Värttinä visits the Soviet Union in Sortavala, in a event called Maailnat kohtaavat (worlds are meeting), which is connected to the Jensuun laulujuhlat festival. On their way home, the leader of the Talking Heads, David Byrne, gets excited about the band. Byrne praises the band to the press, and the whole thing is eagerly told forward.

During the summer, both Maria Kalaniemi and Petri Hakala leave the band because its music does not match their musical ambitions. Kalaniemi is replaced by Riitta Potinoja, Hakala is not replaced. The band starts to prepare their next album, in which music is arranged by Tommi Viksten and singing is by Sari Kaasinen.

1991

The year of Värttinä’s final breakthrough.

Värttinä records the Oi dai album at the turn of 1990. The producer is Riku Mattila, and the album is released at the end of May. Mattila, just like the band, does not expect the album to be great success. Television and newspapers have already noticed Värttinä during the record process.

Christer Hackman is expelled from the band because his percussion don’t work with the rest of the band.

Miinan laulu makes värttinä the number one name of the big audience. The band has become a sensation in Finland. The critics praise the whole album, a big audience gets excited by Marilaulu and Miinan laulu and especially by its naughty lyrics. In Finland, Värttinä gets what is asked for, partly unwillingly. The band is a new phenomenon in the Finnish music genre, and it sells with an equal female energy without thinking about it. Värttinä’s success is unheard of for a folk music group. The band’s gig both in Tavastia in Helsinki and in  Tullikamari in Tampere are sold out 2 nights in a row, and those places are mostly know as rock clubs.

At its best, Oi dai is the third in the list of the Finnish radio channel Radion Mafia, and at the end of the year, it had sold more than 30000 copies, which is a big number in the Finnish music world. As a whole, Oi dai sells more then 50000 copies in Finland. The critics of the rock magazine, Rumba, award Oi dai the title album of the year.

During a year, Värttinä performs in Finland more than a 100 times and has tens of TV and radio gigs on different channels. As the band’s manager works Chip Convingot, in the background is the director of Maailmanmusiikin keskus, the Center of the World Music, Anu Laakkonen. Both want to take Värttinä in coming years to world music festivals organized by WOMAD.

1992

At the beginning of the year, Tommi Viksten and Minna Rautiainen announce they’re leaving the band. Tommi is fed up both with Värttinä and with Sari Kassinen’s way of taking care of the band’s public image. Minna Rautiainen realizes music won’t be her profession for the rest of her life. It’s better to step aside sooner then too late.

It’s Kari Reiman’s idea that the band asks Reijo Heiskanen to be their new guitarist. He is the original guitarist of Hassisen Kone, the band from Joensuu led by Ismo Alanko. After raw rock, Heiskanen has gotten excited by Django Reinhardt type jazz, but in this case also new folk music works. Minna Rautiainen isn’t replaced, and Värttinä continues with 4 singers. Chip Covington moves back to the USA and Anu Laakkonen becomes Värttinä’s manager along with her own job. During the summer, the band performs abroad in world music festivals in Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and England, among others, in addition to domestic festivals.

In August and September Värttinä records its fourth album Seleniko, which differs musically from Oi dai’s rakish rekilaulu tradition. Ben Mandelson, whom Anu Laakkonen found at the last minute, works as a producer. He belongs to the inner circle of the music world and is known from the band Three Mustaphas Three.

Seleniko is relased in November, and Finnish rock critics aren´t as excited about it as they where about Oi dai. Hype is followed by a hangover, and Värttinä is seen as annoying hollering.

The same month, Värttinä receives an award from Valtion säveltaidetoimikunta, together with conductor Juha Kangas. At the end of the year, Seleniko is number one on the list of European music journalist, Tom Nyman announces he’s leaving the band.

1993

In February, Värttinä has its tenth anniversary tour in Finland in more than 20 places. Tom Nyman is in the band until spring. A new thing at gigs is Reijo Heiskanen’s drum machine. Its rhythms are heared in Pihi neito and in Lemmennosto. Värttinä has a gig in the USA in Austin, Texas, in the South by South West event. Philip Page is also there, who gets excited about cooperation with Värttinä. Anu Laakkonen leaves her job as Värttinä manager.

In May, Värttinä goes to Paris. The gig is bassist Tom Nyman’s last, and he’s replaced by Pekka Lehti, who has the first drunk test in Värttinä’s history. The test’s purpose is to see what the person is like drunk, to avoid more damage in the future. Lehti passes the test, just like everybody else after him. In the summer, Värttinä tours European world music festivals and domestic events. After the summer’s busiest touring session, Reijo Heiskanen announces he’s leaving the band. He’s replaced by Pekka Lehti’s friend Anto Varilo.

After changing guitarist, Värttinä goes on its first American tour: touring for more than 2 weeks in 13 states and doing 14 concerts. Both local media and audiences have a positive response to Värttinä. Spin magazine chooses Seleniko as the best album of the year in the World Best category.

1994

Sari Kaasinen moves from the capital area back to Rääkkylä together with her husband Heikki Kemppainen. In September, Värttinä goes to studio to record the Aitara album. The producer is Janne Haavisto. Drums are played on the album by Anssi Nykänen, but when the album is released at the end of the year, Marko Timonen joins the band on their tour and he becomes Värttinä’s steady drummer and percussionist.

1995

In February, Värttinä has its second American tour, during which pregnant Sari Kasinen gets sick and has to return to Finland in the middle of the tour. In practise, Värttinä tours the whole summer without Sari, despite the gig at the Kihaus festival in Rääkkylä.

1996

In the USA Aitara is awarded the Indie Award as the best music album of the year. The album gets the same title from CD Review magazine. Värttinä’s  third, the almost three weeks long tour is in North America, in the USA and Canada.

Sari Kaasinen’s final separation from Värttinä becomes real. The band tells Sari they can’t assume Sari to be at gigs sometimes and sometimes not. The manager, Philip Page, has negotiated a deal for Värttinä with the record label Nonesuch, which is owned by Warner. Värttinä goes to the studio to record the album Kokko, which still has three of Sari’s songs on it. Kari and Sirpa Reiman take more responsibility over the album’s material than before. The producer is again Janne Haavisto. The album is released in October, but the record company has changed the song order, which Värttina doesn’t like . The album’s reception is positive but not frantic.

At the end of the year, Värttinä has a tour in Finland. The biggest Värttinä-fuss in Finland is over.

1997

The accordionist Riitta Kossi has her maternity leave. She’s replaced by Susan Aho. During the year, Värttinä tours in Central Europe and also in the USA, Japan and Australia. The band has almost fifty performances abroad. Nonesuch doesn’t use it’s option for Värttinä’s coming albums. Instead, Värttinä has a deal negotiated by Philip Page, with the Wicklow record label, owned by BMG.

1998

At the beginning of the year, Riitta Kossi says she’s leaving the band for good. Susan Aho becomes the fourth singer, and her place as accordionist is taken by Markku Lepistö. Värttinä records its next album, Vihma, at the beginning of the year in Helsinki. Janne Haavisto and the representative of the record company, Richard Horowitz, work as producers. The album is released in August, and it gets unreserved praise from critics both in Finland and abroad. In October, Vihma is third on the list of the European radio journalists, and first on the ethno list of American CMJ magazine, among others.

1999

Sirpa Reiman leaves Värttinä. She’s replaced by Riikka Väyrynen. Performances from Central Europe to North America. At the end of the year, collection of material for the new album. There are enough songs for two albums and finally the producer, Hughes de Courson, known from the band Malicorne, chooses songs for Ilmatar on the basis of the demo tapes.

2000

In May, Ilmatar is released in Europe and Japan, and the album’s reception is more positive then ever before. Once again, Värttinä has made its best album. Along with the album release, Värttinä visits Japan and tours Central Europe, where the reception is wonderful, especially in Hungary.

2001

Ilmatar is released in the USA in February, and rises to number one on CMJ’s world music list. In January, the band performs in Brazil at the Rock in Rio event, where around 200000 people are watching. After this, singer Riikka Timonen, who married the drummer Marko Timonen, leaves the band. She is replaced by Johanna Hytti (Virtanen).

Later the same year, Marko Timonen also leaves Värttinä, at first only for an off duty period, later for good. Timonen’s substitute, Jaska Lukkarinen, is taken on as a permanent drummer.

In September, Like published Kimmo Nevalainen’s book about Värttinä called Korkeelta ja kovvoo, and at the same time Värttinä’s first live CD, 6.12., is released, which has been recorded the previous year at the gig in Helsinki on Finnish Independence Day.

2002

The bassist, Pekka Lehti, leaves Värttinä. The singer, Kirsi Kähönen, is fired and at the same time the fiddle player, Kari Reiman, leaves Värttinä. Pekka Lehti is replaced by Hannu Rantanen, and Reiman by Lassi Logren. Kirsi Kähönen isn’t replaced. The first gig with the renewed Värttinä is in the Savoy Theatre in Helsinki in May. The President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, is present with her spouse, Pentti Arajärvi.

Värttinä rehearses material for the new album in summer, and goes to record Iki in September. Once again their producer is Janne Haavisto. After Kari Reiman stepped aside, the biggest composing responsibility goes to Antto Varilo, lyrics are mostly written by Mari Kaasinen. A double-collection CD Double life, is released in Taiwan and it includes 6.12. live-recording and material from the albums Seleniko, Aitara and Ilmatar.

2003

Iki is released at the beginning of the year. The album gets positive reviews for example in Songlines magazine. Värttinä has its twentieth anniversary concert at the Aleksander Theatre in Helsinki. There are Värttinä fans from all over the world. The concert is filmed, and later it builds a framework for the Archive Live DVD, which also includes Värttinä’s old videos and recordings.

The Lord of the Rings composing project is made public internationally in October. It’s the most expensive musical in the world. During the year, Värttinä has thirty concerts, mostly in Europe, but the band also visits the USA in November for five concerts.

2004

Värttinä composes material for the musical. Durning the year, they have around thirty concerts, mainly in Central and South Europe. Popularity is biggest in Hungary and in the Czech Republic.

Värttinä’s Vihma album is number one on the world music list by the Finnish net store iTunes.

2005

Originally, the premiere of The Lord of the Rings musical is supposed to be in London in spring 2005. The opening night is changed to Toronto, Canada, in spring 2006. A collection album, Snow Angel, is released in the Czech Republic. The CD has songs from Iki, Aitara, Seleniko, Ilmatar and 6.12. albums.

In August, Värttinä performs at the opening of the World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki. Other Finnish top names are Nightwish, Apocalyptica and Leningrand Cowboys. Rain messes up the schedules so badly that the international boardcast is cut off before artist perform.

Along with composing the musical, Värttinä rehearses material for the new album, Miero. Värttinä goes to the studio in August. Their producer is Aija Puurtinen. At the end of the year, Värttinä receives the Suomi award from the Ministry of Education, together with eight other artists or groups.

2006

Miero is released in January by Peter Gabriel’s world music oriented Real World label. Värttinä performs in the Midem music festival. The premiere of The Lord of the Rings musical is in Toronto in March. The musical’s reception is contradictory, and they stop performing it after six months, in September. At the same time, it’s told that the London premiere will be in June 2007.

During the year, Värttinä has fifty concerts. A new field is Värttinä’s symphony concerts: a series of them start in Joensuu, together with conductor Hannu Koivula. Orchestral arrangements are done by Tapio Tuomela. At the end of the year, Värttinä does a tour in Finland called Miero.

2007

The European premiere of The Lord of the Rings musical is in London in June. The musical has been shortened and tightened and the proportion of music has been increased. The reception is more positive than in Toronto, but it’s still partly contradictory. The drummer, Jaska Lukkarinen leaves Värttinä. He’s replaced by Toni Porthen, who has covered for Lukkarinen during his studies.

The collection album, 25, is released in September. It includes one new song, Vipinäveet, which was left out from Miero. Otherwise, the album covers Värttinä’s whole career and it includes songs from every Värttinä studio album. There are more than thirty concerts durning the year, both on the new and old continents.

2008

The cast album of The Lord of the Rings musical is released. The musical ends in London in July. New versions are being planned. At the beginning of the year, Värttinä has a series of 12 concerts in Finland to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary. Janne Lappalainen and Markku Lepistö decide to leave the band from the beginning of 2009, when Antto Varilo also starts his year off duty. The remaning group of six decides to continue the work with a smaller composition.

2009 – 2010

Värttinä have pause in their career.  In late 2009, Lassi Logren and Antto Varilo departed the band. Accordionist and keyboard player Matti Kallio joined Värttinä.

In 2010, Susan Aho and Johanna Hytti (Virtanen) represented Finland at the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo as Duo Kuunkuiskaajat. Their song Työlki ellää finished 11th in the semi-final.

2011

Reactivation on Himos Folk festival 2011. Värttinä has given concerts in i.a. Japan, Poland, Belgium. Drummer Toni Porthen departed the band. Värttinä recording of the long awaited new studio album UTU, took place in Helsinki in August-September, and the album – produced by band member Matti Kallio – was mixed in Reykjavik, Iceland.

2012

New album Utu was released on Feb 1st, gathering positive reviews both in Finland and abroad. The album rose to nr. 1 on the European World Music Chart, having previously made it to nr. 12 on the Finnish pop chart. Track ‘Ruhverikko‘ from UTU is on the compilation album ‘The Rough Guide To The Music Of Scandinavia‘.

Värttinä won the WOMEX 2012 Artist Award. WOMEX is important international professional market of world music of every kind. This international fair brings together professionals from the worlds of folk, roots, ethnic and traditional music and also includes concerts, conferences and documentary films. It contributes to networking as an effective means of promoting music and culture of all kinds across frontiers. Värttinä donates WOMEX Award contribution to Unicef Haiti. UNICEF will support music students in the south of Haiti through workshops mixing styles from classical to Haitian songs.

Late Summer singer Johanna Hytti (Virtanen) was discharged from the band.

Värttinä’s album Utu has been nominated for Emma Gaala Awards 2013, for The best ethno album (Ethnoalbumi) category. The Emma Gaala is a Finnish music gala arranged yearly by Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland, awarding the most distinguished artists and music professionals of the year.

At the end of the year new singer Karoliina Kantelinen new drums palyer Mikko Hassinen joined the band.

Utu album was 2012 year’s all best all best albums Number 10 in Netherland.

2013

Band has received Emma-gaala 2013 award for the Best Ethno Album of the Year.

Värttinä released single “Lasetus” with new line-up. Videoclip for the song was recorded on studio by Jussi Meling.

(From “Värttinä – On the Wanderer’s Road and the Red Carpet”, Kimmo Nevalainen and varttina.com)

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3 thoughts on “Biography”

  1. Just want to add a note, specially important for myself. It was in July 2001, at the Bardentreffen in Nürnberg, Germany, when I first saw Värttinä performing the main stage at the central market place, in front of 10000 listeners. After concert I met the Värttinä singers selling their CDs. This was the start of my steadily growing admiration and love for Värttinä and it’s music.
    My friendship to Johanna will not be shattered from what has happened actually!

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