Squeezebox Brutality: Murder Ballads From Finland | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Squeezebox Brutality: Murder Ballads From Finland

Play associated audio

Murhaballadeja features a striking photo on the cover: Two beefy, big-jawed men with cruel eyes are in prison garb, shackled with heavy chains at the neck, wrists, knees and feet. Turns out they're legendary 19th century murderers from Finland. These are the kinds of characters you'll find in a collection of murder ballads from Kimmo Pohjonen.

Pohjonen is kind of a punk accordion renegade. He sports a mohawk, and his other projects mix accordion music with wrestling, or farm tools and animals. It's all songs about murder, which he says are deeply embedded in Finnish culture: "There's even a saying that if there was a wedding and three people were not killed, it wasn't a good wedding."

The Finns have a dark sense of humor, to say the least.

"These murder songs are, at the same time, they are frightening and they are also fascinating," Pohjonen tells NPR's Melissa Block. "Sometimes there is admiration towards the murders. It's a true fact that we have songs that are sung a funny way, and we're putting less fear there."

Finns like to sing these songs at great length, some closing in on 12 minutes long. That's a lot of murder. Pohjonen says he actually shortened these songs, because some of these murder ballads go on for hundreds of verses.

"Our national epic, 'Kalevala,' is something like 23,000 verses or even more," Pohjonen says. "In old days, people were singing for days and days. That's why the stories used to be really long."

Why glorify brutality and murder like this?

"I think we have beautiful, sunny days. We have sometimes very ugly days," Pohjonen says. "And, of course, murder — that's something really, really extraordinary. But as a musician, I think that it's great to make music that is beautiful. But on the other hand, I want to put something interesting about those other days to music, also. I think, for example, my music is like Finnish weather — it can be sometimes ugly and sometimes very beautiful."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

As Publishing Industry Courts China, Authors Speak Out Against Censorship

Chinese writers and publishers are being celebrated this week at BookExpo America — the industry's largest trade event in North America. Free speech advocates are supporting silenced Chinese writers.
NPR

Cod Comeback: How The North Sea Fishery Bounced Back From The Brink

A decade ago, fishermen trying to catch North Sea cod were coming up empty. Now, thanks to strict fishing rules put in place to halt the decline, this fish tale looks headed for a happy ending.
NPR

Former House Speaker Hastert Indicted In Probe Into $3.5M In Withdrawals

The Illinois Republican is accused of taking the money out in chunks of less than $10,000 to evade reporting requirements, and of lying to the FBI about it.
NPR

FCC Chairman Wants To Help Low Income Americans Afford Broadband

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposes to reboot the Lifeline phone-access program. The plan recognizes that everyone needs to study, apply for jobs and make social connections online.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.