12 Generations of Finnish Fiddle Tradition

Arto Järvelä is considered Finland’s finest fiddler. His ancestors who have played the instrument can be traced to 1726.

Since 1988, he has toured the United States at least once a year and this week, we’re delighted to welcome him to the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes.  Below is a recent interview with The Register-Guard.

“My style is based on my grandpa Johannes Järvelä’s style,” Arto Järvelä said via e-mail from Finland. “He was a very rhythmic fiddler and had great bowing technique.”

Järvelä is primarily an instrumentalist, but lately he has been combining some vocals with fiddle tunes. His newest release, “Arto Järvelä Plays Fiddle, Vol. 3,” demonstrates the style he has developed by taking what he learned from centuries-old tradition, his family and other contemporary fiddlers and giving it his own mark.

Järvelä calls it “Artonizing.”

“Nowadays, I play also a lot of cross-tuned fiddle and music from Finland’s Swedish-speaking parts,” he said, noting that where he lives on the west coast of Finland, the fiddle is not very popular. He is trained in the Kaustinen tradition, which originated in the fiddle capital of Finland.

Roots revival

As is the case in the United States, folk music in Finland is not as popular as mainstream music. But just like here, Finland is experiencing a roots revival.

When he tours as a solo performer, Järvelä said he leans toward the traditional side, but that every musician is a sum of his training.

“To me, folk music should always look and sound like its performer,” said Järvelä, who since 1985 has played a Finnish-made Stradivari copy made by Pentti Maijala.

With three decades of public performance, composing and recording under his belt, Järvelä rose to greater prominence with what his biography calls the legendary Finnish fiddle band JPP. He toured Ashland, Medford and Portland with JPP, but they never played Eugene.

There is a large Finnish population and many Kaustinen emigrants in Astoria, so he has made several trips there, Järvelä said.

Fans of Nordic music and Scandinavians gravitate toward him for obvious reasons, but many people appreciate his concerts simply because they love instrumental fiddle music.

Arto will be a featured guest at the Fiddles Without Borders finale concert this week on July 5th!   Click here for concert details.

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