Bomfunk MC's, Darude and HIM getting company
Finnish attempts to conquer the world music scene depended mainly on heavy metal, that uniquely Finnish dance music humppa and zaniness until quite recent times. Bomfunk MC's, HIM and Darude are the first artistes to make it big in Europe, although 22-Pistepirkko, Jimi Tenor, Apocalyptica, Eläkeläiset, Amorphis, Stratovarius, Nightwish and many others have long had substantial cult followings in their respective genres.
BMG Finland's production manager Asko Kallonen, his counterpart at Sony Music Marko Alanko and producer Hiili Hiilesmaa are pretty well in agreement when they assess the present situation in Finnish music. The skill of Finnish musicmakers is, as such, of much the same standard that it has always been, but lashings of professionalism have been added on to that. The Slavic cultural inheritance has also been supplemented by new cultural influences through international music channels, commercial radio and the Internet. All three agree that Finnish music has something unique to offer international audiences.
"Bands in Finland are given space to mature. I believe that a Finnish band makes a good cooperation partner for a record company, because it is able to work systematically, has its pride, but is also humble enough," says Hiili Hiilesmaa.
"At its best, a Finnish band gets across its own view, which is not too different, but contains something that is distinctly the band's own and odd. Our export successes have been able to combine distinctiveness with ordinariness. HIM's "love metal" and Bomfunk MC's' own hip hop dance stuff are good examples of concentrating on one's own style and adding some of the Anglo-American musical tradition and the sensibility of rock," says Asko Kallonen.
"People in the business are keeping a closer eye on Finland. Early this summer, for example, we sent three singles to Sweden to be presented, and now they've told us they're going to release all of them. That's never happened before. It means that prejudices against Finland have been replaced with an appetite for all things Finnish," confirms Asko Kallonen.
Marko Alanko has noticed a similar development. "Demos with a Finland logo on them no longer evoke a negative basic attitude."
All three see the biggest challenge facing the Finnish music industry as being that of how to guarantee continuity. Individual stars have a limited shelf life, but there is a steady stream of new talent to replace them. Whether or not the new hopefuls burst into the awareness of a wider audience depends largely on how well the present generation of artistes and record company people are able to maintain the reputation and network of connections they have built for themselves. "The next wave of artists get a different reception.We'll have to be able to continue to send artists that are at least as good as and possibly better than the earlier ones out into the world," muses Asko Kallonen.
In a musical culture where trends change quickly, it is difficult to predict just what names will succeed. Marko Alanko trusts his own company's artistes, mentioning for example that Fintelligens, which does Finnish rap, has attracted a surprising amount of interest in Germany. He also believes that his protégé Bomfunk MC's will have a long life. "Everything is possible. Bomfunk's mixed broth of hip hop, rock and electro is credible in its own style and there is no other similar band. Yet the situation is challenging, because Bomfunk made its breakthrough with the biggest hit in Europe so far in the 21st century and now has to try and come up with something even better."
"There are many stars at the 'bubbling under' stage right now, such as Crash, Kemopetrol and Lab. HIM and Bomfunk will soon be releasing their next albums and it will be interesting to see how things will go after that. Success like that always brings on new talent, the kind of people that might up to then have been more interested in something like, say, putting the shot," ponders Asko Kallonen.