"People are interested Jatko-otsikko, in our country, Jatko-otsikeven if ko, Jatko-otsikko, all they know is ourJatkootsikko, Jatko-otsikko, rally drivers. We tell Jatko-otsikko, them about what else there is in Finland." songs, they way they cast spells on men. In the old times, there was strong faith in spells and mysticism." Even today, the singers often hear themselves compared to witches, sirens or fairytale creatures. While the singers of Värttinä bring messages from past generations, they are full-blooded, contemporary women and hardworking ones, at that. The band is on the road for about 100 days a year, which requires flexibility on the part of their families. Concerts are scheduled on an on-and-off schedule. Mari Kaasinen has a one-year-old son and Johanna has a five-year-old son. In 2004 when Värttinä was asked to work on the Lord of the Rings stage musical project, she asked her parents whether they were onboard, too. The project took three years. "I couldn't have done it without their help," Johanna says. When Värttinä spent six weeks touring Switzerland, her son was along for a month. "Thirteen towns, 31 shows," says Johanna, toting up her son's tour experience. Mari, meanwhile, considers a three-week absence the maximum. "My energy level suffers if I don't see my family," she says. Värttinä has nine members, three female vocalists and half a dozen male instrumentalists. So how democratically does this big a group operate? "We have regular meetings and agree on the rules of the game. Everybody has an area of responsibility on a rotating basis," Susan explains. As a cooperative, Värttinä is like any workplace there is always plenty to be done, from updating websites and the band's journal to filing royalty reports, giving interviews, ordering discs, applying for grants, drawing up set lists and the minutes of meetings... Although Mari is one of the original founders of the group, she denies being its leader or mother figure. "If we had a leader, it would certainly be more efficient," Mari admits. "But we take decisions together. And when things get discussed and turned this way and that, of course it takes time. But everybody's voice gets heard." WANDERING LIFE Besides being a place to work, Värttinä is also a group of friends. "Over the past 11 years, I've been single, engaged and married," says Susan. "My bandmates have seen me in every stage of life and still like me! That's a big thing, and it has increased confidence within the group." Still, the months of touring take their 38 BLUE WINGS JANUARY 2008 Värttinä brings life to traditional Karelian songs. toll. "I noticed that my old friends stopped calling because they figured that I was always travelling," says Johanna. Susan says that travelling and performing have boosted her self-confidence. She was 22 when she joined Värttinä 11 years ago as an accordionist. Now, she says, the life of a wandering musician suits her perfectly. "I'm restless, I always want to be on the road," she says. And though you might not guess it from her blonde hair, she is part Romany on her mother's side. Returning to Finland after a long tour can bring surprises, she says. "On tour, I get used to being active, sociable and open. When I get home, I'm full of energy. But in Finland people tend to be introverted and I quickly revert back into my shell, too," says Susan. The Värttinä vocalists are lively and talkative. Small talk is important overseas, but in Finland it is some
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