Image © Plastinka Records 2001
Image © Music Makers 2000
Image © Plastinka Records 2001
(31 December 2000) In Finland there are currently only a few vocal groups
that do a cappella-style music, although Finnish music
culture includes choral music. I have always liked choral
and a cappella music, and, after listening The Swingle
Singers (two of them—Heather Cairncross and Sarah
Eyden—perform on Karl Jenkins' album Imagined Oceans)
and a bit later, a wonderful Finnish group Human Organ
(two of the Finnish Adiemus Singers—Säde Rissanen and Veera
Railio—perform with them), I suddenly
found out about Rajaton. Find out more about them at their
Rajaton's debut album (Music Makers (Finland) MMCD 111,
2000) got a very warm welcome by the Finnish record-buyers after its release last year and was number one at Classic
FM—Finland's official classical chart—for quite a few weeks.
This is not a surprise since all of the tracks are sung in
Finnish and the lyrics are based on texts by both Finnish
poets and of the ancient poem collection Kanteletar.
In addition to these, there are also some traditional
Finnish songs in this album, which have been finely
arranged for the ensemble. However, those arrangements
are not very standard-like at all, because Rajaton has
wonderfully managed to make each song on the album
Like most a cappella groups, also Rajaton uses a lot of
vocal solos in their music, and the result is very, very
enjoyable. Although this album is 100% Finnish and Finnish
has been used in all songs, the music may not "open up"
for a foreign listener very quickly. However, I believe
that the Finnishness is an advantage for the group,
because that character can be referred to as exotic
and therefore it may be a positive thing. For example,
another Finnish ethno music group Värttinä (where Riikka
Timonen-Heinilä/ née Väyrynen, one of the original
Finnish Adiemus Singers, was singing few years ago)
has also created a successful career abroad. Rajaton is
not too far away musically from Värttinä either, both
groups use same kind of lyrics in their songs whereas in
the piece "Mitä kaikatat, kivonen?", Rajaton shows
how "Värttinä-like" or "Adiemus-like" they really can
sound. It may actually sound like Adiemus does to English-speaking people!
Boundless. The ensemble's follow-up album
(Plastinka (Finland) PLACD 004, 2001) was released in 2001,
and it again soared to number one on the charts for some time. Now the track listing seems to be a bit more "international," since only two pieces have been sung in Finnish and the album cover booklet does have all the lyrics written in English so that almost everyone can
understand what the group is really singing. The composers and lyricists are strongly Finnish; some tracks have been
composed and/or arranged by the group members, but there are also guest composers / lyricists and some folk tunes featured on the album. By the way, the title of the album is a literal translation of the group's name Rajaton, so it is at least very aptly said.
On the very first listen, I was already taken by
surprise how versatile Rajaton's second album really
is, and so I think that this is even more versatile than
the debut album Nova. Some characteristics of Adiemus / Värttinä can be found once again, especially from the wonderful beginning of "Un-Wishing Well" and through
the whole piece "Armahan Kulku" (Lover's Path).
The reason for those features on the latter track can be found from the name of the album's producer, namely she is Anna-Mari "Adiemus" Kähärä. She has also composed the mentioned track for the group, so it's no wonder.
In addition to already known composers and lyricists
(e.g., composers Heikki Sarmanto and Lennon-McCartney
and lyricist William Blake) Boundless features
also some new Finnish music makers, for example the young ladies Mia Makaroff and Laura Sippola. I think that this is a wonderful thing, because by doing this Rajaton doesn't need to
focus only on making arrangements of already familiar
pieces nor composing all the piece's by themselves.
However, on this album there is one cover song by The
Beatles ("Lady Madonna"), but this version is equal to the
Rajaton has also now taken some further steps on their
way to explore the musical globe. While performing in
Cork (Ireland) in 2000 they started to collaborate with
Michael McGlynn, the director of the world-famous
choir, so one of the results, a beautiful "Summer
Song," can be heard on this album. Another wonderful
Irish piece on Boundless is "Dobbin's Flowery Vale," which
shows the a cappella music and Rajaton at their very best.
Although vocal ensemble Rajaton has been existing only
for few years now (in fact the baritone singer, Mr. Ahti
Paunu, has been singing the bass part on Human Organ
before joining Rajaton), they have already made themselves
known in quite many countries with their wonderful
music. Therefore I really hope that they could continue
doing so in the future as well, because as Rajaton put
it on their website, "Music is boundless"!
Although the albums could be difficult to obtain in some
countries, Nova and Boundless are highly
recommended for anyone who likes to listen a cappella
or "crossover" style music!--Suvi Kaikkonen