Sata-Häme Soi, Ikaalinen 2009:
Sata-Häme Soi - Accordion Festival in Ikaalinen
23. - 28. June 2009
As the festival was on in the same period as the Norwegian Championship for Accordionists in Orkdal and also the National Folkmusic Championship at Geilo in week 26, we had difficulties deciding where to visit, but we do not regret our trip to Finland. Ikaalinen is located nearby a small lake about 200 km north-west of the capitol of Finland, Helsinki. The small town has a rural atmosphere with a population of 8.000. Ikaalinen is an old tourist attraction in Finland, and has Spa traditions which date back to the last century. Folk music, especially accordion music, is one - and still is - one of its traditions. This is also true in other places in Finland where several accordion manufacturers once established.
Since 1972 the musical traditions have been highlighted by arranging a festival - Sata-Häme Soi. The Finnish language is difficult to understand. That might be a reason why it has become kind of a secret what has been going on regarding accordion events. There are no linguistic or cultural barriers when friends of accordion music from all around the world come together in the beautiful Festival Park.
The main street in the town close to the Festival Park was closed down for cars and transformed to a market place with tents where food and drinks were served. Amateur orchestras provided continuously music on the stage arena in the middle of the park. We noticed that the dancing floor was in almost non-stop use -whether it was sad mood tangos, swing or old fashioned dance music. Another tent was placed on the opposite side of the street where they also had non-stop dance music. The warm and nice sunny weather made it pleasant to be outside, which we were told had not always been the fact.
The largest arrangements were held in the Ikaalinen Hall which can take over 1.000 persons. In addition the newly remodelled house "Oma Tupa" was used for smaller concerts in addition to a school and a church. The program was packed with interesting concerts and performances, and we had problems making a priority list. The Polish-Austrian quartet "Dobrek Bistro" served a combination of Latin American rhythms, Oriental music, jazz, the Parisian musette, music of the Balcans and more. The American legend of the jazz accordion, Frank Marocco, did his only performance in Finland this year at the Sata-Häme Soi Festival. With twelve musicians from Moldova, "Albotank", "Terem Quartet" from Russia and "Buzor Nenic Trio" with Balkan music, the festival had strong international characteristics. The winner of Coupe Mondiale 2008, Vladislav Pligovga from Belarus had to cancel his solo concert in the church, due to the fact that he was denied a Visa.
The Golden and Silver Accordion
The Golden Accordion is the Finnish Championship of entertainment accordion music from 11 years and up, and is arranged in co-operation with the national television Channel, TV2, the Sata-Häme Soi festival organisation, and the Finnish Accordion Association. Every year since the first competition in 1983, it has been broadcasted live on TV. This year it was 18 year old Katariina Ahjoniemi who won and represented Finland in the international Primus Ikaalinen accordion competition.
The Silver Accordion is arranged alongside the Golden Accordion Competition, and is for juniors up to 10 years of age. The atmosphere is relaxed and encouraging for the young musicians. The competition has been held since 1986, and it is s also broadcasted live on TV. The winner is decided by telephone voting. Eight year old - or young - Arttu Rajala put on his charm, played and became the winner of 2009.
The international accordion association CIA and the Finnish accordion archive
Even if accordionists in the other Nordic neighbour countries may not really have detected Ikaalinen, CIA has done so by gathering their archive by the Finnish Accordion Archive/Institute in Ikaalinen. It may also be a reason that Kimmo Mattila, the president of the Finnish Accordion Association, has been living in the area for many years. They have their own full time employed administrative manager Minna Plihtari and several part time workers, as well as volunteers and are financed by money from the Festival, the County and the Association. Kimmo Mattila is the person who has artistic responsibility for the accordion archive/institute and also musical director for the Festival. We must also mention that there is a wide range accordion museum by the practical high school that in a nice way keeps the documentation for the Finnish accordion manufacturers. There are also some Italian and German old accordion treasures that can be found in the collection. Even a small Finnish repair work shop has been reconstructed on the second floor.
One can for sure tell that the small town Ikaalinen is living for and along with the accordion when the Festival Office and the tourist information for the region is sharing office space with the full time employed and enthusiastic Festival queen, Sirpa Sippola.
We are both impressed and speechless about the wide range and the high level of musical talent. This is really a place accordion enthusiasts should visit!