/

“Finland Fest: World Music Showcase”

by Eija Niskanen

Special To The Japan Times

Since 2006, The Finland Fest has catered to a loyal Japanese fan base by bringing over the best bands their Nordic homeland has to offer. This year’s showcase has been split up into two portions — the “World Music Showcase” and “Metal Attack.”

Two acts appearing at the “World Music Showcase” being held at Shibuya’s Club-O are Varttina and Alamaailman Vasarat. Varttina consist of three female vocalists who specialize in pop-infused folk. They sing in Karelian, a dialect from the eastern Karelia region of Finland, so lyrics may be a little difficult to understand. However, the band make up for that with strong harmonies that need little translation.

The six-piece Alamaailman Vasarat (Hammers of the Underground) take from a much broader world-music palette in their performances, mixing everything from Hebrew klezmer to progressive rock and even heavy metal. The band describes their music as “kebab-kosher-jazz-film-traffic-punk music.” Alamaailman Vasarat are known for a specific type of humor in their music, an odd style that is representative of their country. Event promotor Yoko Nozaki thinks this should go down particularly well with Japanese audiences.

“Finns have a really interesting sense of humor,” says Nozaki. “It’s not the same as the American or British style. It’s somewhat eccentric and closer to the Japanese sense of humor.”

Over at Liquidroom, things get a little louder. The “Metal Attack” showcase features four Finnish acts and Japanese band Outrage. Among the visiting headbangers are Korpiklaani, who look a bit like a group of extras from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” As opposed to other metal bands, Korpiklaani started off as folk musicians and gradually moved into playing metal. They have thus described their music as “metal for old people.”

Moonsorrow aim for pagan imagery in their lyrics, with their music sitting somewhere between black and folk metal. Finnish pagan metal, which draws from the nation’s medieval legacy, should not be confused with Norwegian Viking metal, as Finns were never Vikings. Rounding off the roster, MyGrain’s songs vary between hard thrashing and lighter melodies, while Lapko play even softer (though, the term “soft” might be a bit misleading) than the other bands and even lean toward alternative rock.

“Finland Fest: World Music Showcase” takes place at O-West in Shibuya, Tokyo, on May 28 and 29 (6 p.m.; ¥6,500; [03] 5784-7088). “Finland Fest: Metal Attack” takes place at Liquidroom in Shibuya, Tokyo, on May 28 (5 p.m.; ¥5,800; [03] 3462-6969). For more information, visit www.mplant.com.