- Cloud Valley Music website -
- Andrew Cronshaw website -

- Andrew Cronshaw MySpace -

- Back to Reviews Introduction page -

Written in fRoots issue 304, 2008

Phurane Mirits – Songs Of The Finnish Roma

Global Music Centre GMCD 0817 (2008)

On the recent Nordic Roma compilation Viser På Vandring I Norden Finland’s fine Roma singer Hilja Grönfors sang unaccompanied, but she seems happiest with an accompaniment, and her she is with an able and sympathetic backing band of young non-Roma musicians in her favourite songs, .
      Her singing has a very appealing and unassuming warmth, poise and musicality, and the sliding, song-embracing style that evokes the Scottish traveller singers such as the Stewarts of Blair and Balkan Roma sevdah singers - I can imagine her on a Balkan stage alongside the likes of Esma, the late Šaban, Ljiljana and Mostar Sevdah Reunion - but it’s also continuous with the sentimental yearning of Finnish tango and popular song. This is very Finnish, but also very Roma.
      For years she’s been ploughing a fairly lonely furrow gathering and performing these traditional songs in whatever context she can, not as an income but simply to continue her culture, language and music which otherwise has been disappearing. (As a young girl she made the decision to wear the typical and dramatically decorative Finnish Roma style of dress, a thing of lacy blouses and many layered, hip-padded long velvet skirts that, once a girl opts for it, isn’t a part-time thing, but worn every day however hot the weather. Colourfully wide-skirted Roma women are still a familiar sight in Finland’s city streets).
      Over the last few years Hilja has been encouraged and awarded by the Finnish folk music scene, whose young singers have often covered Roma songs such as Olin Sairas Kun Luokseni Saaviut, and from that connection has emerged this new band. Accordionist Kiureli Sammallahti, violinist Kukka Lehto, guitarists Valtteri Bruun and Roope Aarnio and bassist Sara Puljula, with guesting Olli Varis on mandolin, apply a fine and well-matched blend of colours from across northern, central and eastern Europe, with hints of US old-timey, sweetly surging and picking.
      The songs, which she sings in Finnish but the booklet also titles in the Roma language (and gives English translations), speak of sorrow and longing, foaming wine and poverty, white horses stirring flurries of snow, golden cups, pine forest, happy childhood turning to bitter tears, love cut off by the tolling bells of death. But it’s a beautiful sorrow, and the music floats and skips with the vitality and charm of a remarkable and striking woman.


© 2008 Andrew Cronshaw

You're welcome to quote from reviews on this site, but please credit the writer and fRoots.

fRoots -
The feature and review-packed UK-based monthly world roots music magazine in which these reviews were published, and by whose permission they're reproduced here.

Kansanmusiikki-instituutti (Finland's national Folk Music Institute).

It's not practical to give, and keep up to date, current contact details and sales sources for all the artists and labels in these reviews, but try Googling for them, and where possible buy direct from the artists.
Helsinki's Digelius Music record shop is a great source of Finnish roots and other albums.
CDRoots.com in the USA, run by Cliff Furnald, is a reliable and independent online retail source, with reviews, of many of the CDs in these reviews; it's connected to his excellent online magazine Rootsworld.com 

For more reviews click on the regions below

NORDIC        BALTIC        IBERIA (& islands)   



- Back to Reviews Introduction page -