How intrinsically bound is this Finnish alterna-folk duo? Well, imagine if Simon and Garfunkel named themselves Simfunkel, or Hall and Oates recorded as Haltes. Viivi Maria Saarenkylä and Hildá Länsman fused both their names and distinctive musical talents. In their native country it’s seen as one-of-a-kind fusion. To audiences abroad, their sound comes across as so complementary one can be forgiven for assuming that there must be dozens of bands just like this.
Viivi is a championship accordionist who can make her instrument whistle, wail, set tempo or take a breathtakingly wild solo. Hildá, who hails from Finland’s far northern Sámi community, carries on the centuries-old Indigenous tradition of yoik; an intensely nature-based and evocative form of singing, heavy with improvisation and spirituality. The singer and the squeezeboxer met while beginning to study global music at university in Helsinki — one get-to-know-your-classmates jam session, and they were transfixed with each other’s music. To their surprise, accordion and yoik paired well together. Well enough, in fact, that the duo’s talents won a 2021 Music Moves Europe Award.
Their latest album, Vildaluodda (Wildprint), paints a landscape of frosty winds, barren Arctic plains and thick forests, with enough energy left over for a joyous dance number or two. Hildá’s voice can go from contemplative moans to sensuous melody to rapid-fire yelps that almost mimicking her instrumentalist partner’s explosive bursts of notes. It’s no wonder that Vildá has another meaning: it’s the Sámi word for “wild."
Biography by Jason Markusoff