Zäpämmät is like the demure summer girl who surprises you with the uncompromising voice of a strong, independent woman – Marjo Smolander’s and Pauliina Kauppila’s cross-genre duo is the result of the two women’s desire to approach their instruments and use their voices in new and exciting ways. The gritty and beautiful music features Marjo’s Finnish string instrument kantele and Pauliina’s exotic repertoire of percussion instruments in addition to their voices.
The music of Zäpämmät duo resonates strongly with its listeners, digging deep from the well of Finnish folk music and making original and very personal combinations of elements from Senegalese, Malian and Afro-Cuban music and flamenco. Musical influences from three continents come together in the duo’s music. This is not to say that the music of Smolander and Kauppila is restricted to these influences: they are keen observers of their environment and ready to embrace influences and motifs from other traditions and forms of musical expression.
The stories and rights of women and girls is a strong theme in the music of Zäpämmät. The duo’s philosophy is to give musical expression to voices that have been long silent or silenced. Smolander and Kauppila expose and shed light on the structures of society that are based on gender. On the other hand, they express their enjoyment of life and revel in it. Zäpämmät is a living example of combining instruments from different traditions without preconceived notions in order to break boundaries, creating mostly Finnish-language music with strong World Music leanings.
Marjo Smolander is a ‘Kantele Griot’ who hails from Rääkkylä, the heart of North Karelian folk music. The term ‘Kantele Griot’ combines two very different musical cultures: the kantele is the Finnish national instrument and Griots are traditional musicians and storytellers from West Africa. If Marjo were a tree, her roots would be laid very solidly in Finnish folk music, but her branches would reach out to West African music. This combination lends her compositions a very personal, deep-rooted sound which is also present in the music of Zäpämmät.
Pauliina Kauppila is a versatile percussionist, whose passion is in finding intriguing combinations of percussive instruments and using them to weave a sturdy, yet spacious and delicate rhythmic foundation to her music. Pauliina is heavily influenced by a wide variety of styles around the world, such as Finnish folk music, flamenco and Afro-Cuban music. Her strong background in dance and movement shines through, as she feels like she is dancing when she’s creating her music.