The music of Finland can be roughly divided in the following three categories. Folk music is typically influenced by Karelian traditional tunes and lyrics of the Kalevala metre. Karelian heritage has traditionally been perceived as the purest expression of Finnic myths and beliefs, thought to be spared from Germanic and Slavic influences. In the west of the country, more mainstream Nordic folk music traditions prevail. The Sami people of northern Finland have their own musical traditions, collectively Sami music. Finnish folk music has undergone a roots revival in the recent decades, and has also become a part of popular music.
In the field of classical music, Finland has produced a proportionally exceptional number of world class artists.
Contemporary music includes e.g. a renowned metal music scene, in common with the other Nordic countries, as well as a number of prominent rock and pop bands, jazz musicians, hip hop performers and makers of dance music. A Schlager scene with bandstand dancing exists where Finnish tango, somewhat modified from the Argentinian, is also popular.
A form of rhyming sleigh singing called rekilaulu became popular in the 17th century. Despite opposition from most of the churches in Finland, rekilaulu remained popular and is today a common element in pop songs. Since the 1920s, several popular Finnish performers have used rekilaulu as an integral part of their repertoire. Early pioneers in this field of pop rekilaulu included Arthur Kylander, while Erkki Rankaviita and Pinnin Pojat have kept the tradition alive.
Pelimanni music is tonal, and is the Finnish version of the Nordic folk dance music. It came to Finland from Central Europe via Scandinavia starting in the 17th century, and in the 19th century the pelimanni music replaced the kalevaic tradition. Pelimanni music was generally played on fiddle and clarinet. Later, also harmonium and various types of accordions were used. Common dances in the pelimanni traditions include polska, polka, mazurka, schottische, quadrille, waltz and minuet.
Early in the 20th century, the region of Kaustinen became a center of innovation for pelimanni music. Friiti Ojala and Antti Järvelä were influential fiddlers of the period. Konsta Jylhä and the other members of Purpuripelimannit formed in 1946 became perhaps the most influential group of this classical period. Well-known Finnish folk music groups of today in the Kaustinen tradition include JPP, Frigg (although part Norwegian) and Troka. A group more focused on the singing traditions and the kantele is Värttinä. Another important folk musician of today is accordionist Maria Kalaniemi.
Common instruments today also include trumpets, horns and whistle. Important musical virtuosos are Leena Joutsenlahti, Teppo Repo and Virpi Forsberg. More traditional Finnish instruments include the kantele, which is a chordophone, and was used in the Kalevala by the hero Väinämöinen.
The Sami of northern Finland, Sweden and Norway are known for highly spiritual songs called joik reminiscent of a few types of Native American singing. The same word sometimes refers to lavlu or vuelie songs, though this is technically incorrect.
In the 18th century, public concerts were established in Turku and Erik Tulindberg wrote six very famous string quartets. After Russia's 1809 annexation of Finland, the cities of Viipuri and Helsinki became cultural centers and opera became very popular. The first Finnish opera was written by the German composer Fredrik Pacius in 1852. Pacius also wrote Maamme/Vårt land (Our Land), Finland's national anthem.
In 1874 the Society for Culture and Education (Kansanvalistusseura) was founded in order to provide opportunities for artistic expression, beginning with the Jyväskylä festival in 1881. The festival, organized on Estonian roots, still exists today. In 1883, the Helsinki University Chorus (Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat) was founded as one of the few Finnish-language choirs in the mostly Swedish-speaking scene. The same year conductor Robert Kajanus founded what is known as the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Martin Wegelius founded what is now known as the Sibelius Academy.
In the 1890s Finnish nationalism based on the Kalevala spread, and Jean Sibelius became famous for his vocal symphony Kullervo. He soon received a grant to study poetry singers in Karelia and continued his rise as the first prominent Finnish musician. In 1899 he composed Finlandia, which played its important role in Finland gaining independence. He remains one of Finland's most popular national figures and is a symbol of the nation.
Alongside Sibelius, the national romanticism sprouted a number of composers who all contributed in the formation of a distinct Finnish style of music. Heino Kaski was a composer of small chamber music pieces, Yrjö Kilpinen composed a vast number of solo songs, as well as Leevi Madetoja and Toivo Kuula.
Aino Ackté and other prominent opera singers founded the Domestic Opera in 1911. Ackté also began a festival in Savonlinna the following year; this was the ancestor of the Savonlinna Opera Festival, which appeared in the 1960s, shortly before Finnish opera became world famous in the 1970s.
Leevi Madetoja's 1924 Pohjalaisia, an operatic allegory about Russian oppression during the previous few years, became extremely popular during the 1920s. At roughly the same time, Aarre Merikanto composed the opera Juha to the libretto by Aino Ackté, who rejected it and asked Leevi Madetoja to compose another version instead; Merikanto's Juha was first performed after the composers death, and now it is known as one of the best works of Finnish opera. The 1930s saw composers like Uuno Klami and Yrjö Kilpinen rise to popularity with nationalist works. Swedish-speaking composers like Einar Englund and Erik Bergman also worked with a more continental attitude. In the 1940s, Joonas Kokkonen and Usko Meriläinen gained popularity and added important technical innovations to Finnish music. The 1950s saw an increase in international attention on Finnish music and soon helped modernize Finnish composition.
Aulis Sallinen started a new wave of Finnish opera in the 1970s with works like Ratsumies and Punainen viiva. Punainen viiva among the other operas by Sallinen were immediately recognized all over the globe. Magnus Lindberg is probably the most successful living Finnish composer. Other important contemporary composers include Einojuhani Rautavaara, Kaija Saariaho and Jouni Kaipainen.
Finland has a very lively classical music scene: Finnish classical music has only existed for about a hundred years, and many of the important composers are still alive! The composers are accompanied with a large number of great conductors such as Mikko Franck, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Susanna Mälkki, Leif Segerstam
Suomirock is the word that means Finnish rock music. Rock arrived in Finland in the 1950s. Founded in the 1960s, Love Records was one of the first domestic record labels dedicated to Finnish rock music, even though the label's roster also included jazz and political songs. During the late 1960s, Blues Section, a group inspired by Jimi Hendrix and The Who gained the reputation of being "the first Finnish band of international quality". During the 1970s, progressive rock groups like Wigwam and Tasavallan Presidentti received critical acclaim in the United Kingdom, but fame evaded them. A hard-rocking group called Hurriganes was popular in Sweden as well as in Finland, but not further afield. Hector, Juice Leskinen, Dave Lindholm and many other successful artists of the 70s sang their lyrics in Finnish, a trend that has continued to this day.
The punk movement arrived in Finland in 1977 and had a great influence on the Finnish youth culture, Pelle Miljoona being the most famous Finnish punk singer. Terveet Kädet also started the hardcore punk-wave in Finland. Another popular band, Eppu Normaali, also started during this time period, (later to change its style from punk to rock and become the most popular Finnish band to date). At the same time, Finland also had a massive Ted movement of Elvis and rockabilly fans.
In 1980s most favoured artists were punkish Dingo and heavy-hearted Yö, both singing their lyrics in Finnish. In the underground, Ismo Alanko, considered by many as the foremost Finnish rock lyricist, gained a legendary status with his punkish groups Hassisen Kone and Sielun Veljet. Kauko Röyhkä was another literate underground icon, leaning musically towards Velvet Underground. The 80s showed short international fame for punk style glam rock band Hanoi Rocks. Hanoi Rocks have been cited as an influence by major bands such as Guns n' Roses. Smack was another successful Finnish band of same style. Heavy metal was very popular in Finland during the 80s, producing groups like Zero Nine and Stone, the latter being a fondly remembered speed metal act.
Though Finnish bands tend to write their lyrics in English as to leave their music open to countries outside of native Finnish boundaries, in the 1990s bands such as Apulanta, Miljoonasade, Ultra Bra and the shamanic art-punk group CMX had found their share of success with Finnish lyrics. The hard-to-define electronic country garage rock group 22 Pistepirkko got excellent reviews in the Finnish rock press and has reached some kind of a cult status in Central Europe. Some other notable Finnish cult rock groups of this era are the psychedelic, Hendrixian Kingston Wall and equally psychedelic but gothic, gloomy, and heavy Mana Mana.
Turisas, Nightwish, Amorphis, Waltari, Stratovarius, Kotipelto, Sentenced, Sonata Arctica, Finntroll, Children of Bodom, Ensiferum, Kiuas, Charon, Negative, HIM, and The 69 Eyes have had success in European and Japanese heavy metal and hard rock scenes since the 1990s, and has been gaining popularity rapidly in the United States since the late 1990s. In the later 1990s the symphonic metal group Apocalyptica played Metallica cover songs as cello quartettos and sold half a million records worldwide. The recently retired Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus were one of Finland's most popular metal acts in the early 2000s, having risen from the ashes of late 1980s - early 1990s cult band Lyijykomppania.
Most recently, the Finnish hard rock band Lordi won the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest with a record 292 points, giving Finland its first ever victory. The song they used was "Hard Rock Hallelujah" and they celebrated this with a free concert in Market Square in Helsinki, Finland, on 26 May 2006.
Another band to enjoy recent commercial success is The Rasmus. After eleven years together and several domestic releases, the band finally captured Europe. Their Dead Letters album sold 1.5 million units worldwide and garnered them eight gold and five platinum album designations. The single "In The Shadows" placed on Top 10 charts in eleven countries and was the most played video on MTV Europe for 2005. The Helsinki natives released their followup album, Hide From The Sun, domestically in 2005. The album has a U.S. release date of 10.10.2006. To promote the album's US release, the band has toured with the Welsh band Lostprophets, a band that has gained a great deal of success in both Europe and the United States. The new album Black Roses is set to be released on September. The album was procuded by Desmond Child and the first single is called Livin' in a World Without You. This album was released worldwide on september 29th. The single livin in a world without you was realeased on the 10th of september 2008. Lauri Ylonen (the main singer of the rasmus) was the great atrist to come up with the black rose design on the cover of the album, it represents a 5 pointed compass with the fifth point heading into the unknown, lauri is a very imaginative person at heart. ^.^
From the beginning of 2000, HIM reached greater sales and more international success than any other band to ever come from Finland. Going gold with there first official American release Dark Light. Several Finnish bands have followed the lead of that band. Entwine, Lullacry, and Poisonblack are just a few Finnish bands of these genres.
Finland also has its share of hip-hop bands as during the late 1990s to early 2000s, the Finnish hip-hop scene has gained strength. One of these is Bomfunk MC's which became popular in Central Europe, as they had the most sold European single of 2000, "Freestyler" along with trance music act Darudes "Sandstorm". Hardcore punk is also popular in Finland, including bands such as Endstand, Abduktio, I Walk the Line, and Lighthouse Project.
Some pop singers, such as Maija Vilkkumaa, Anssi Kela, Irina, Anna Eriksson, Hanna Pakarinen and Antti Tuisku, and pop groups such as Scandinavian music group and PMMP, are very popular in Finland. Many pop singers in Finland sing in Finnish, which may contribute to their relatively low profile internationally.
In the field of electronic music, Jori Hulkkonen, as well as Jimi Tenor, have had underground success worldwide for a decade. Other notable Finnish artists are Imatran Voima, Mr Velcro Fastener, Luomo a.k.a. Vladislav Delay, Brothomstates, Lackluster, Pan Sonic, and Ovuca. Some of the best-known electronic music labels are among all Sähkö Recordings, Dum Records (run by Kimmo Rapatti a.k.a. Mono Junk) and Jyväskylä's Rikos Records. The indisputable pioneer of Finnish electronic music is Erkki Kurenniemi who built his legendary DIMI synthesizers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There's also the Finnish underground psy trance culture, which is mostly active in the Helsinki metropolitan area. The Finnish style (suomisaundi) of psy trance music is known worldwide and has notable fan audiences abroad, for example in Japan and Russia. Main characters in Finnish psy trance are artists such as Mullet Mohawk, Texas Faggott and Squaremeat. By far the most popular Finnish electronica artist is Darude (Ville Virtanen), who gained international success with his chart-topping single "Sandstorm," and the following hit album "Before the Storm." His music is a combination of hard house and progressive trance. Finland also has a popular and internationally recognised Freeform hardcore scene, with the FINRG label enjoying large success in the UK, Australia, and more recently Canada and the United States.
Sakari Kukko with his group Piirpauke since thirty years explores many styles between Folk, Jazz and ethnic music from other countries. The most famous Finnish Jazz musician is Edward Vesala, others are Heikki Sarmanto, Juhani Aaltonen and Eero Koivistoinen. Pekka Pohjola and Jukka Tolonen, formerly of prog groups Wigwam and Tasavallan Presidentti respectively, represent the Jazz rock genre.
Nu-jazz, a modern form with electronic and pop influences, is also gaining popularity in Finland, represented by such groups as the long-serving Rinneradio and newcomers Quintessence, Nuspirit Helsinki, and the U-Street All Stars.
While a return to folk and socially active music was occurring in the United States, United Kingdom and elsewhere across the world, the Finnish roots revival began in the 1960s. The Ilmajoki Music Festival and Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, quickly became musical centers for the country and helped revitalize traditional Finnish folk music in a roots revival. The Runosong was revitalized by a new generation of performers, including Reijo Kela, Kimmo Pohjonen and Heikki Laitinen, who created the Kelavala performance art piece.
The International Folk Music Festival, established in 1968 in Kaustinen, was a major event in the popularization of Finnish folk. The 1970s saw further revival of Finnish folk music, including artists like Konsta Jylhä, JPP and Värttinä. Jylhä and his Purppuripelimannit band did the most to popular the scene in Finland.
In more recent years, some non-Sami artists, including Enigma and Jan Garbarek, have used joik and other Sami styles in their music, while Marie Boine of Norway is probably the most internationally famous Sami star. 1996's critically acclaimed Suden Aika by Tellu Turkka saw a further return of runosong to the Finnish music scene.
Since the 1960s, Sinfonia Lahti's reputation as one of the most important Scandinavian orchestras was cemented by conductor Osmo Vänskä; this helped to cause a boom in opera's popularity during the 1980s, while the form was increasingly seen as archaic elsewhere. the Savonlinna Opera Festival reopened in 1967.
Martti Talvela, Karita Mattila and Jorma Hynninen have become international opera stars, while composers like Kalevi Aho, Olli Kortekangas, Paavo Heininen, Aulis Sallinen, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Atso Almila and Ilkka Kuusisto have written successful operas, with Rautavaara especially achieving international success.