On our last morning in Helsinki, I had my BEOT, Best Experience of Trip. It was grey & raining, so Ruth wanted to shop Stockmann’s Department Store (BIW, Best in World) one final time.
The night before, I noted that there were 3 CD/record stores within walking distance. Was I in Europe’s Portlandia? With 3 hours to blow, I set out to visit them. I made it to all three by 9:30, but Stupido Records and Levykauppa X didn’t open ’til 11. That left Fennica, lights on at 10, where I looked around & became quickly amazed at the influence of American music. When I got home, I googled Record CD stores in Helsinki and found a list that said about Fennica,”A big shop that hosts loads of classic rock and older american (sic) goldies a’la (sic) Frank Sinatra, soul and blues, both in LPs and CDs. Probably the only one if it’s (sic) kind in Helsinki. This is also the place where critics sell their promo-copies!”
After I had figured some of this out by myself, I approached the man in charge who turned out to be friendly, knowledgable Erkka Kettunen. Soon after he began my education, I asked him how
he had learned to speak such excellent English, and he said, “By talking to customers.” A lot of folks from Australia, Canada, and England wander into his shop, look around, and ask if they can take pictures. “We don’t have any more shops like this,” they say nostalgically.
Erkka made a list of Helsinki’s still viable CD-record shops (there are 9) while telling me that Levykauppa X is best-in-town even though Eronen is famous & considered “Best in Europe”. Among American music genres, blues is the most popular in Finland. Classic performers like Muddy Waters & BB King sell best. Country & Western does well too. Willie Nelson remains popular, but Brad Paisley is current king of country. Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen were also mentioned before I asked about pop music beginning with Madonna. “Not so popular,” Erkka said.
“How is Finnish pop different from American?” I asked. “It’s sadder,” Erkka said simply. “The weather causes it.” I asked him to name a big Finnish pop star, and Erkka said Chisu. I was intrigued so he found an inexpensive double CD which I bought. Chisu’s absolutely sensational. If CDs wore out, she’d already be in recycle.
“Does rap have a following?” I inquired. “Paleface,” Erkka said immediately. After making a couple of CDs in US hip hop style, Paleface, or Karri Pekka Matias Miettinen, produced 2 in Finnish style. His most recent, “maan tapa”, is full of national spirit and doing quite well.
I asked if vinyl was making a comeback, and Erkka told me that 1% of Finnish music now comes out on vinyl, and he believed he could sell more if they were made. Bob Dylan’s new album includes both CD and LP.
As I put on my coat, Erkka gifted me with a Bobby Aro CD, “Kapakka in the Kaupunki or The Fabulous Finns Vol. 2” and mentioned a Minnesota connection. It’s clever & funny with veteran performer Aro a blend of Lawrence Welk and Weird Al Yankovic.
If you’d like to hear Chisu, I’m sorry to report that you can only order from Fennica’s website in Finland.