According to the programme published online in April, Kaija Pohjola was scheduled to appear at the Tangomarkkinat but Arja Koriseva was not. Fortunately Arja was at Iisalmi on the previous Sunday. What to do in the intervening two days? Something called the Humpparalli was at Raatala on 4-10 July. Raatala is 3 km from Kuusjoki in south-west Finland. I could not find any details of buses or trains. I asked on Facebook, and was advised to get a train to Salo and then a 20km taxi ride to Raatala. As the train journey from Iisalmi to Salo takes 6 hours, I decided it wasn't worth it.
I arrived at Tampere on 4th July. As a change from the Omena Hotel, I stayed at the Kauppi Hotel in Kalevalan Puistotie. It is €64 per night. In the room was a fridge, microwave, and coffee machine but no coffee. There is a sauna and swimming pool but neither is open weekends. There is a convenience store next door where I bought piimä and salmiakki. In the evening I went to the Tähti Nightclub/Iskelmäbaari, which opens at 22:00. The Tähti is basically the same as the old Hämeensilta and the Iskelmäbaari is a small bar off it with karaoke and a tiny dance floor. Entrance is €14 for both. Keikki Koskelo was the performer. His band came on at 23:00 (records were played before then) and the man himself at midnight. There was good attendance, with a youngish crowd; and very hot. I left at 1, got a hot dog from a kiosk, and walked back to the hotel.
The train journey to Iisalmi took 4½ hours, with 3 changes. I checked into the Sokos Hotel Koljonvirta, which is in Savonkatu leading off from the station. Arja was performing in the Kyllikinranta, where I have been before, in July 2011. The taxi fare there is €14. I arrived when it opened at 19:00 and the band was already playing. No records tonight! Minna (seen her before, don’t know her surname) was singing. Arja came on at 21:00 wearing vertiginous heels.
Her repertoire included Kevätvalssi, which she has recorded before, and Kellä kulta sillä onni (Everybody loves a lover) which she has not (It was included in the tv programme Iskelmäprinssi). I had not heard her sing either of them live before. I felt quite old when she sang Hymyhuulet (Lucky lips) as I well remember Cliff Richard’s hit two years before Arja was born. Two completely new humppas followed. I mean they were new to me: I don’t know when they were actually composed. She finished with a very boisterous version of Tutti frutti, taking off her shoes to dance. I was able to speak to her after the performance and said I was looking forward to her biography coming out.
The following day I looked round Iisalmi, visiting the brewery museum and stamp museum (admission free).
The Kuappi describes itself as the world's smallest restaurant but really it is a hut in the grounds of a much larger eaterie. There is a very nice wooden pavilion from the early 20th century, but I couldn't get a decent picture because a naked man was sunbathing on one side and there was an overflowing rubbish bin on the other. There were no dance places open that I could discover, and on the following day (Tuesday) went on to Seinäjoki.
The first day of the Tangomarkkinat was Wednesday 8th. I bought a pass, which is now €105 from the Tangotoimisto. The printed programme was very poor. It showed the times of opening of the various venues, but not even the names of the stars who would be appearing, let alone the times. There was also no map, which didn’t bother me but then I have been coming here for 14 years. The information was printed in the local newspaper, but this is a lot more inconvenient to carry about. Kaija Pohjola is not now appearing. I went to the secondhand record shop and bought the LP Kiskot soivat (the rails ring): 12 train-related tunes, some by Toivo Kärki.
Posters advertised a musical about Rauli Badding Somerjoki, and the Seinäjoki hiphop festival in September.
In the afternoon there was a concert of wartime songs at the military museum. Teemu Roivanen, Maria Tyyster, Heidi Pakarinen and Kyösti Mäkimattila performed, accompanied on harmonikka by Taisto Lunkka and Samuli Jokinen. There was some good virtuoso boxsqueezing from Taisto Lunkka during Tuulisuudelma (El Choclo). Ecstasy was included, though it is not a wartime song. Jose Belmonte (Philip Green) wrote it in 1953. It was starting to rain by the time the Tango Parade started. There is a new smarter marching band (called the Puolustusvoimien varusmiessoittokunta) but they still can’t march and play at the same time.
I fell into step beside Heidi Pakarinen, Piritto Venho, and Tiina Pitkänen and they gave me signed postcards.
t was raining quite hard by the time the Tangomarkkinat started. Most people went to the pavilion where the finallists performed in turn. I caught sight of Little Irja, but she was with her husband. I danced tango with Pirjo, who told me she was originally from Seinäjoki but now lived in California.
Me: That’s Piritta Venho singing now. I’m hoping she will be Tango Queen.
Pirjo: I’m a singer too.
Me: Have you made any records?
Pirjo: Yes. I have some in my handbag. They’re 12 euros each.
It was raining hard when I left at midnight. Some brave folk were under their umbrellas in front of the Katulava, listening to Heikki Koskelo. My programme cut out from the paper was soggy and illegible, and my signed postcards spoilt.
Next say I showed Pirjo’s record to Seija the landlady. She said that she knew Pirjo from when she was a little girl (I mean when Pirjo was a little girl) and her father still lived in the house opposite. I went to the mall, where all the finallists were singing to Taisto Lunkka’s accompaniment. Rami Rafael sang to an old lady in wheelchair. Tiina Pitkänen was extremely pretty.
Piritta Venho revisited Kesän huumaa from when she was Tango Princess in 1998 alongside Taina Kokkonen. That same year Katri Aapalahti sang Sydän tuuliajolla. That was a good year - what a pity I wasn't there. But I couldn’t have gone, as I was still working then and would still have been stuck into the half-yearly accounts in early July. Juha Hautaluoma sang Rakautta ei se ollut (Liebe war es nie), an old tango I hadn’t heard at the Tangomarkkinat before. Outside a man was playing a small mechanical organ. Mainly German polkas and marches, but there was one tango: Guapita by the old Dutch maestro Malando (Arie Maasland).
On the way to the pavilion I passed a karaoke bar. I thought the woman singing was really good - far better than the usual karaoke singer. No wonder: she was Johanna Debreczeni. She recognised me, or at least pretended to, and we exchanged a few words. In the pavilion were Heidi Pakarinen, Maria Tyyster, Kyösti Mäkimattila and others. Some old tunes were heard: Väliaikainen, Haaveita tanssilavan luona, Oi Annabella, amongst others. The new Tango Queen was announced: Susanna Heikki, who had been Tango Princess in 1997. No sign of Little Irja, but I did have some nice partners. After a particularly good tango I was on the verge of leaving, but Maria Tyyster started on a humppa and I had not heard her sing humppa before. After that I waited for the next tango, then left for the house. It had stopped raining, so I picked some birch twigs on the way.
In the morning I made a vasta and had a sauna. After some strawberries in the square I went to the mall where Leif Lindeman was performing. One of his numbers was Kesän tango (Summertime tango) by Toivo Kärki, another old one. Saija Tuupanen was in the pavilion. Mervi, whom I had met in the Vanhan Kellari in October 2013, was there filming her. On the katualava Maia Castro from Uruguay was singing Uruguayan tangos and milongas, all unknown to me, and one of Maia's own composition, to bandoneon and digipiano accompaniment.
She was followed by Marita Taavitsainen who gave an excellent energetic performance as usual.
It had started to rain again so I made my way to the pavilion. I was delighted to see Little Irja there and we spent the rest of the evening together with many wonderful dances in the packed pavilion. Irja’s husband came to collect her at 1:30 and I returned to the house.
On the Saturday morning I went to the mall to see Maria Tyyster. After that I went to the Epstori, a second mall near the Cumulus hotel. This had not been used for tango performances before, and is not really suitable as there is no balcony and nowhere for dancing. Kyösti Mäkimattila was performing and Mervi filmed him. Then back to the original mall for Teemu Roivanen, who got rapturous applause for holding the last note of Hopeinen kuu (Silvery Moon) practically for ever. In the evening Mira Sunnari was performing some very avant-garde stuff in the TangostYle theatre. That is the correct spelling - Yle (short for Yleisradio, or Public Radio) is the Finnish equivalent of the BBC.
There were a lot of wheelchair users in the pavilion, including a young couple both dancing in wheelchairs. Many performers including Marko Maunuksela, Hanna Talikainen, Teemu Roivainen, Jouni Keronen, Maria Tyyster, Jaana Lammi, and Jukka Hallikainen who danced with a fan as usual. Irja wasn’t there, but I did get nice dances with other partners. The new Tango King was announced: Aki Samuli.
Sunday as usual was wind-down day. The new Tango Royals performed in the mall, accompanied by Taisto Lunkka. I got stuck in to the recordings of the competitions. Tiina Pitkänen sang a tango which was new to me: Palaa luokseni, which is an Italian tango Torni Piccina by C.A. Bixio. It is an old Olavi Virta hit.
Back home I received a message from Kaija Pohjola’s son. He said Kaija had been taken ill and was not able to attend the Tangomarkkinat, but was now recovering. Mira Sunnari also sent a message: nice to see you at the Tangomarkkinat.