This album is a tribute to the hunters and fisherfolk of northern cultures. In keeping with Tutl's frequent method of uniting musicians from different places for albums, Piniartut brings together two Finns, a Greenlander and a Faroe Islander. The co-conspirators on this project are Tellu Virkkala (vocals, mora harp, percussion), Rasmus Lyberth (vocals, sound effects), Ville Kangas (bouzouki, violin, piano, backing vocals, cow bell) and Kristian Blak (piano, organ, grass straw). This music was composed for a presentation held at the Greenlandic Westnordic Hunter Exhibition in 2002. A DVD of the presentation will also be released by Tutl.
Hedningarna fans will like "Verkko (The Net)," Piniartut's opening track. Virkkala's singing is reminiscent of Hedningarna's "Grodan/Widergrenen," but the melody forks off in a different direction and Kangas's exhilarating fiddling is more Celtic than anything Hedningarna ever did. Kangas's fiddle also shines on "Auld Swaara (The Old Dark Sweater)," which combines a traditional Shetland song lamenting those lost at sea with Virkkala's lament for the drowning of Aino (a story from the Kalevala). It is quiet, sad and beautiful, all at once. Another piece demonstrating the cultural fusion in this album is "Eqalussuaq (The Pike of Death)." In it, Lyberth has translated a Finnish legend from the Kalevala into Greenlandic. The piece has a double text, with Virkkala singing the Finnish words over the deep, unearthly chanting of the Greenlandic words. The legend of the smith Ilmarinen forging an iron eagle so he can catch the fish of death without using a net is perfectly suited for this treatment and this album.
Beauty and ferocity are side by side on this album. "Piniartoq (Hunter)" is an ambient piece based on a Greenlandic kayak song and centered on Blak's piano and the sound of a human breath. (Or is it the exhalation of a seal coming to the surface?) "Ullorissat Untritillit (Thousands of Stars)" is the CD's lovely closing track. It is based on Greenlandic drum dance tunes, but it is Blak's piano that carries the melody while Lyberth quietly recites the text. Even with the summary of the song's meaning found in the liner notes, I would have liked an English translation of the Greenlandic words (which are given in full, as are all the lyrics). By contrast, "Ilvedur (Stormy Weather)" sandwiches screaming voices and electric guitar around a quiet piano interlude. "Rysa (The Fishing Trap)" is a Finnish fishing charm rendered by Virkkala at breakneck speed; pardoxically, I get a mental picture of speeding down a wide-open highway in the American southwest when I hear it.
Piniartut is the best of what world music and cultural fusion is all about. Taking an interesting concept, skilled musicians and good material, it becomes a conversation in different languages about the similarities in the lives of those who go to the ocean to fish and out on the snow and ice to hunt. The myths and legends of these people reinforce and reflect their way of life, so that the myth of a hunter is more than some idle story told to pass the time. Put it all together and you have a remarkable CD that only gets more compelling with each spin in the player.