Nordic Flamenco: Northern Pulse

Show dedicated to the memory of Agustín de Cantarote 23.12.1965 – 3.2.2021.

Last weekend the (home)audience had the pleasure of attending the newest performance of the Helsinki-based Imperfecto Collective (lead by Elina Robinson), a performance called Nordic Flamenco: Northern Pulse, which was live streamed directly from Kanneltalo. This second Nordic Flamenco club featured Elina Robinson (dance), Anne Riikola-Sarkkila (dance), Anna Murtola (song), Rodrigo Gonzalez (guitar), Ricardo Padilla (percussions), Lotta-Maria Pitkänen (violin), Laura Rintamäki (palmas) and Christian Robinson (video art). As events and culture have been scarce in these times of Covid-19, it was a small miracle to get this piece on stage, even as a live stream performance and it was a delight to get to experience it through this medium.

Bailaoras Elina Robinson and Anne Riikola-Sarkkila with musicians Rodrigo Gonzalez, Anna Murtola and Laura Rintamäki in the background. Photo by Matti Sten.

The theme of the performance, ”Northern Pulse”, was strongly emphasized by Christian Robinson’s masterful video design and motion graphics throughout the performance. The video art, drawing from mythology and seasons changing, gave depth to the performance, not taking center stage from the performers on stage but adding to the mood and deepening the intensity, which reached us all the way at home. The opening number, a rhythmical serrana with night sky imagery beautifully interpreted by the whole team of performers, created a pulse that followed throughout the whole performance. The voice of Anna Murtola suited Juan Meneses’s serrana wonderfully, and the guitar of Rodrigo Gonzalez, violin of Lotta-Maria Pitkänen and percussions of Ricardo Padilla strengthened the magic. Together with Laura Rintamäki’s palmas, the musicians gave a perfect backdrop for Elina Robinson’s and Anne Riikola-Sarkkila’s interpretation of the choreography with strong footwork as well as fluid marcajes.

Serrana by Elina Robinson and Anne Riikola-Sarkkila. Photo by Matti Sten.

After the magical serrana, the mood changed to a lush green imagery and freshness of alegrias, an instrumental piece that recalled early summer nights filled with light. This fresh, airy piece gave the performers and audience alike room to breathe before yet another mood change to a somber, but in the end hopeful, tarantos performed by bailaora Anne Riikola-Sarkkila. Known for her clean lines and ability to put her soul into every performance, Riikola-Sarkkila impressed me most with her ability to break the classical lines and, furthermore, to do it, as always, elegantly without the positions seeming distorted or unappealing. This factor makes Riikola-Sarkkila’s style quintessentially her own, and this aspect was strongly present in her tarantos solo, as well.

Tarantos by Anne Riikola-Sarkkila. Photo by Matti Sten.

After Riikola-Sarkkila’s piece, yet another season change, and mood change, came with the haunting solo of cantaora Anna Murtola. The solo, featuring the singer center stage, and combining flamenco form nana (Spanish for lullaby) with traditional Finnish lullabies was simply stunning. Together with Pitkänen’s violin, Gonzalez’s guitar and Robinson’s wintery, earthy videos, the performance was at the same time delicately fragile and heart wrenchingly powerful. This beautiful piece, jointly composed by Anna Murtola and her life partner Ahmed Ali Hussein, caused strong emotions at least in this viewer bringing tears to my eyes, and left a desire to hear more.

Cantaora Anna Murtola with Ricardo Padilla, Lotta-Maria Pitkänen and Rodrigo Gonzalez accompanying. Background images by Christian Robinson. Photo by Matti Sten.

Just as the viewer thought that it could not get any better, Murtola’s nana transitioned beautifully to soleá by the singer and the multi-talented guitarist Rodrigo Gonzalez for Elina Robinson’s solo. What a jackpot and what a guitarist! Known for her magnetic stage presence and strong footwork, Elina Robinson brought to the stage a profound soleá accompanied perfectly by the band and the moonlit background created by Christian Robinson. The footwork was as strong and precise as ever, but there was a special air and peace both in the choreography and the performance. The piece had a magical depth that comes with complete confidence in oneself and perfect trust in the team. I want to give a special mention here for the grounding palmas of Laura Rintamäki that created the perfect support for the dancer.

Soleá by Anna Murtola and Elina Robinson. Photo by Matti Sten.

Another mood change followed, lightening the mood after these powerful numbers, with Lotta-Maria Pitkänen and Ricardo Padilla playing a delightful duo of polska center stage. The freshness of the violin of Pitkänen and multi-talented Padilla’s rendition with the charango set a joyful scene before the final piece of the show, an energetic tangos that brought the whole group back to stage, including both dancers. Set against a golden, flowery background, this was again a wonderful piece from the whole group and especially the bailaoras, both strong and confident in this palo full of down-to-earth femininity. This was the perfect ending with a strong pulse, which brought the performance to a full circle.

Tangos by Elina Robinson and Anne Riikola-Sarkkila. Photo by Matti Sten.

I must applaud the performers for the heart and tenacity with which they brought this performance to stage, even if it was as a live stream. I admire the dedication, talent, and mutual trust in these trying times. I also thank Apogee, responsible for the live stream, for the skillful execution. It is true that no live stream can replace the hum of the shared experience and the joy of being present and experiencing the performance with all senses as an entity, but for that moment we must wait. The show is scheduled for a live performance next Spring. I have my ticket; will you get yours?

And for those that missed the live stream, the video recording can be seen at until the 5th of April. I recommend all to go watch it.

All pictures by Matti Sten in this post are published with the permission of the Imperfecto collective and the photographer.

Minna en el Mundo: The Legacy of Flamenco in Finland Lives on

In February, during the cold and dark Finnish winter, the Helsinki flamenco scene celebrates. My thoughts and sentiments of the inaugural club and Perintö elää (Legacy Lives on) concert of the 22nd edition of Helsinki Flamenco Festival are now published in the Minna en el Mundo section of the blog.

The pictures by talented Matti Sten by courtesy of the photographer and Helsinki Flamenco Association.

Rumba Perintö elää
Flamenco lives on. Photo by Matti Sten.

Minna en el Mundo: Flamenco Finlandia in Jaén

One month ago, I had the privilege of being part of the Flamenco Finlandia ensemble at 3er Festival Internacional de Flamenco Ciudad de Jaén alongside choreographer, teacher and bailaora Elina Robinson, video artist Christian Robinson and six other advanced flamenco aficionados Jaana Ollila, Suvi Heinonen, Taisha Navarrete Vuorikoski, Laura Lindén and Sonia Sindonen.

Today in the Minna en el Mundo section of the blog my highlights of our adventure in beautiful Jaén. Such a beautiful, heartfelt experience, hope you enjoy reading about it!

Flamenco Finlandia logo Eveliina Saari
The Flamenco Finlandia set up. Imagery by Christian Robinson. Photo by Eveliina Saari.

Origen Errante: Two Cultures, One Experience

On one fine Wednesday night in April, we experienced something wonderful in Helsinki. The well respected Spanish maestro and his musicians took the stage with Laura Rintamäki, one of our own, in Aleksanterin teatteri. My thoughts and feelings on the piece, the dancers, the musicians and the experience can now be read on Minna en el Mundo page of this blog. Flamenco unites!

Origen Errante. The official photo by Beatrix Mexi Molnar (courtesy of LR Flamenco).

Nordic Passion Continues: Oslo International Flamenco Festival

Two weeks ago, I travelled to the Oslo International Flamenco Festival with my teacher, flamenco dancer Elina Robinson and flamenco singer Anna Murtola. My thoughts and feelings on some of the aspects, and especially the great re-encounter with maestra Rafaela Carrasco, can now be read on the Minna en el Mundo page of the blog.

3rd Oslo International Flamenco Festival, flyer borrowed from the OIFF Facebook page

Minna en el Mundo: Nordic Fire, Nordic Passion

Last Saturday was the much awaited premiere of Nordic Flamenco, the newest project of the Imperfecto Collective based in Helsinki. The evening brought together an impressive group of flamenco professionals from and working in the Nordic Countries. The sold out performance brought to the stage dancers Ann Sehlstedt (SWE), Elina Robinson (FIN), guitarist Afra Rubino (SWE), singers Hilde Karlsen (NOR), Anna Murtola (FIN), percussionists Christopher Rodulfo (AW) and dancer-singer-percussionist Rodrigo Gonzalez (MEX) and video artist Christian Robinson (GB).

My thoughts on Nordic Flamenco by the Imperfecto Collective can now be read at the Minna en el Mundo page.

Photo courtesy of Imperfecto Collective and Matti Sten Photography.

Sol y Sombra Blog 1-v

Sol y Sombra Blog juhlii tänä viikonloppuna 1-vuotissyntymäpäiviään. Juhlan kunniaksi skoolattiin cavalla ja korvapuustilla, eli Suomen ja Espanjan parhaimmistolla. Flamencoa juhlaan kuuluu ilman muuta, eilen ja huomenna ruotsalaisen flamencotanssija Ann Sehlstedtin ihastuttavalla kurssilla ja tänään loppuunmyydyllä Nordic Flamenco Clubilla. Ensi viikonloppuna muuten lisää flamencojuhlaa Oslon flamencofestareilla!

Mahtavaa viikonloppua blogin lukijoille!

Minna en el Mundo: Flamenco in my heart

Flamenco is an endless challenge and the greatest reward that brings me strength, joy and determination. This past week has been once again a very meaningful one, as we have celebrated Helsinki XXI Flamenco Festival.

My thoughts on the challenges and rewards realized this week can be read as the first flamenco post of year 2019 on the Minna en el Mundo page of this blog.

NB! The thought of having flamenco in my heart has been borrowed from flamenco singer Anna Murtola.

Flamenco is teamwork. Duo Sal y Azucar with singer Anna Murtola, choreographer Elina Robinson and guitarist Petri Lahtinen at the backstage of the opening club of the festival. Photo by Anni af Hällström.

With a Fire Within

This text has also been published @ Minna en el Mundo flamenco text library.

For the last few days I have been trying to find “the right words” to describe Ääniä Pohjoisesta – Voices from the North concert that was part of Etnosoi festival of 2018. Sometimes, however, there are so many thoughts and emotions that instead of finding the right thing to say, you have to write the words that are in your heart.


Por alegrías – photo by Jari Flinck, previously published on Etnosoi Facebook page

This concert was special because it was the release concert of Fuego por Dentro, the first solo album of the dear and much admired flamenco singer Anna Murtola and in fact of the first album published by a Finnish flamenco singer. And what a release concert! The evening started with an intriguing and fascinating performance by Vildá, a duo composed of Sami yoik artist Hildá Länsman and accordionist Viivi Maria Saarenkylä. Their positive energy gave a special spice to the evening. While I am familiar with accordion music, I certainly was surprised by the versatility of yoik and how well it plays with the accordion. Having seen Stomp in New York just two weeks ago, I was also awestruck by the duo’s versatile use of different kinds of sounds. So warm thank you to Vildá for this experience!


Vildá – photo by Jari Flinck, previously published on Etnosoi Facebook page

After a technical break, the stage was set for Anna Murtola and the musicians accompanying her. Having seen Anna Murtola on stage numerous times and having had the honor to dance to her singing, I knew great talent could be expected. With a voice that weeps and smiles and radiates, she enthralled us all. The group of musicians on stage generated their own kind of warmth and positive energy from Joonas Widenius Trio (Joonas Widenius, flamenco guitar, Karo Sampela, percussions and Hannu Rantanen, double bass) to visiting artists Hildá Länsman (vocals), Venla Ilona Blom (backing vocals), Stiliana Ravelska Tyrkkö (violin), Helmi Camus (piano) and Ali Haithem (oud). The concert grew from a kindling flame with the song la Llama, hit a colder front with the lyrics of Tápame and warmed again to the joyous sounds of a traditional alegrías and the soothing sounds of the touching lullaby Para los ojos negros. The first half ended with Earth second by Joonas Widenius Trio. In the second half the fireworks continued starting with a traditional improvised bulerías, followed by the incredibly beautiful tango Kuljen takaisin, a Finnish translation of one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite movies both named Volver. The title song of the album Fuego por dentro, brilliantly performed by Murtola, was sure to be bring tears to many eyes. It was followed by Bulería del Desenamoro, song of the ending love, and by the final song Sobre las palmas, translated to Finnish from the Arabic by langugage wizard Sampsa Peltonen and to Spanish by Anna Murtola herself. This song brought on stage the whole group of talented musicians to the joyful sounds of a traditional Arabic love song. After a well deserved standing ovation, Murtola returned to the stage to sing a capella the touching Andando sola and left the close to full Malmitalo audience feeling we had experienced something extraordinary.

With a Fire Within – photo by Matti Sten, previously published on Anna Murtola, Flamenco Singer’s Facebook page

This evening was full of fire and light and for this I owe a very special thank you to the artist. So, thank you Anna for your exceptional warmth and charisma that brings light to the darkest of November skies. It must be fuego por dentro – the fire within.