Aino & Miihkali borrowed the lyrics to its latest single “Tähtitarha” from the Finnish poet Eino Leino who lived from 1878 and 1926 and who is considered one of the modern pioneers of that nation’s poetry. Leino’s style reflected the influence of folk music and of the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland and Karelia compiled in the Nineteenth Century. Which is significant for Aino & Miikhali as the two have roots in North Karelia, a region of northern Europe that encompasses parts of Finland, Russia and Sweden. The title of the song and poem means translates roughly to “star garden” and the songwriting began when Aino started with a piece written on a West African stringed instrument called the kamalén n’goni while she was living in Ghana. The song was fleshed out with kantele, a Finnish instrument in the zither family, loop, vocal harmonies and Miihkali’s elegant guitar finger picking.
Aino Ruotanen has already established herself as a lead practitioner of progressive folk with the group Unirukki and Miihkali honed his performance and compositional skills at Berklee College of Music but there is a freshness and spontaneity to this song that is immediately striking. The intricacy of the interplay of stringed instruments and vocals has a jaunty playfulness that catches the ear with an organic blend of jazz, northern European folk and African rhythms. Its rich tapestry of melodies and textures transcends a simple and specific folk context as its structure utilizing compound time is hypnotic and invites your mind into the realm of the unconscious where various traditions of folk music and folklore intermingle and resonate with an expanded sense of human connection. The song is in Finnish but its cross-cultural appeal and message is strongly conveyed in its composition. Listen to “Tähtitarha” on Spotify and follow the project on its website (linked below) where you can also further explore the debut, self-titled full length album.