Finnish musician Marjo Smolander was born in 1986 in Rääkkylä, a tiny village in Northern Karelia near to Russian border. It is the very same village where the world renowned folk music group Värttinä comes from. Because of Värttinä’s success there was a folk music boom in the village and so Marjo also started learning traditional music when she was a child. Värttinä’s Finno-Ugric musical style has had a remarkable impact on the development of Marjo’s musical language.
Marjo plays a traditional Finnish instrument called Kantele, which is also the Finnish national instrument. Her way of playing this instrument is certainly unique. Since 2006 Marjo has regularly visited Senegal and Mali, and as a result her musical style has evolved to incorporate the tough and rhythmic features of Senegalese and Malian music combining them with the Finno-Ugric music she first heard as a child. Marjo is also known from the duo Zäpämmät and Finnish-Senegalese Sunuy xale team.
In her debut album “Cosmologies” (2021) Marjo collaborates with different artists from different countries. West Africa is strongly presented. The album was recorded in living rooms and standard recording studios across four different countries, Finland, Senegal, Denmark and Mali. The driving force behind the album was the exploration of musical communication between artists from different cultures and how emotions and stories were transmitted to people who have different cosmologies. The musical traditions of the different cultures represented in the album are presented in an inspiring and fluent way. Music is not just music. It talks. It comforts. And it nurtures.