Sinikka Langeland is a folksinger, kantele player and composer who lives in Finnskogen, Norway. Due to her remarkable vocal and concert-kantele technique, she has been described as sounding like a whole orchestra all by herself. She is now recording her own compositions for the first time with the legendary record company ECM.
Sinikka Langeland was born in Kirkenær in southeastern Norway in 1961, and studied piano, guitar and contemporary folksong. In 1981 she discovered the instrument kantele, which would become her primary musical interest along with singing. In the 1980s she also devoted time to theatre work and to studies at Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, in search of additional approaches to developing her creativity. This led her back to music and studies in musicology at the University of Oslo, where she earned a degree in 1992. She then became absorbed in a massive research project to search through archives for old songs and music from Finnskogen. Cooperation with other folksingers, musicians and producers was a very productive part of this work, and among these the most important was Ove Berg, sound engineer and producer for the record company Nordic Sound. Ove Berg’s superb recordings in Grue Church of Sinikka singing mediaeval ballads, “Strengen var af røde guld” and “Lille Rosa”, released by Grappa Musikkforlag, were both nominated for a Spellemannspris (Norwegian Grammy award).
Sinikka’s songs often focus on the relationship between people and nature. With her first solo CD in 1994, “Langt innpå skoga”, she began a ten-year collaboration with Helge Westbye of the Grappa Musikkforlag label. She followed this with “Har du lyttet til elvene om natta” in 1996, featuring newly-written music to poems by lumberjack Hans Børli. She tours with various ensembles and musicians both within and outside the Nordic countries, and has been interviewed in Norwegian newspapers, radio programmes and television by the well-known journalists Herbjørn Sørbøe and Erik Bye, among others. In 1996 she received two awards: Finnskogprisen and Vardenprisen.
Between tours, Sinikka Langeland returns to her beloved Finnskogen. Finnskogen was populated by the Forest Finns in the 17th century, a group that today has been given the status of a national minority in Norway. The source of Sinikka’s Finnish roots is her mother, who immigrated to Norway from Karelia. Finnskogen is rich in myths, beautiful nature and wildlife, and this, combined with the presence of a group of people working actively to promote art and culture, contributed to her decision to settle in Svullrya in 1992. The Finnish language is no longer alive in the area, but the old rune songs preserve the dialect and marvelous poetry that is rooted in an ancient shamanistic forest culture. Her determination to bring the rune songs back to life resulted in the book “Karhun Emuu” and the CDs “Tirun lirun” and “Runoja”. Tore Hansen’s paintings and illustrations for her books and CDs represent a powerful contribution from one of Norway’s most highly-regarded artists, who also lives in Finnskogen. Sinikka was awarded the Edvard Prize for “Runoja” and the Norwegian-Finnish Cultural Prize in 2003 together with Ove Berg.
The rune songs themselves contain some Christian elements, but after finding some folk versions of Kyries as well as several old variations on hymns, Sinikka has taken on the challenge of exploring the development of the old hymns in the Norwegian folk song tradition as compared with J. S. Bach’s organ chorale arrangements from the same sources. This project led to three recordings and a large number of concerts in both large and small churches throughout Norway. Sinikka is currently working on concerts built around the theme of Mary and Mary Magdalene together with organist Kåre Nordstoga and violist Lars Anders Tomter.
During Sinikka’s teenage years, the nearby town of Kongsvinger was home to a major music festival. She herself was the manager of a folk music club called “Den vesle svarte Æljen” (“The Little Black Moose”) and traveled around playing her songs. The Kongsvinger Festival provided one of the first stages she performed on, and also enabled her to hear talented jazz musicians such as Jan Garbarek, Radka Toneff and Arild Andersen. She began to compose music to Hans Børli’s poems, and still performs some of them with new arrangements. Her first recording for ECM will now make her songs and music available to an international audience.