The musical identities of Finland and the Philippines have roots in the nationalism movements that led towards political sovereignty. With only twenty years between their independence days, the two countries share similarities in the role that music, particularly song, played. Inspired by the nationalistic writings of authors and poets of that time, composers used their text to create melodies, themes, and pieces that brought together the citizens of their countries. Their music would become embedded into the culture, creating a musical distinction for each country.
I uncovered this connection through my past work with Filipino kundiman (a type of traditional love song from the Philippines) and an introduction to Finnish music through the songs of Jean Sibelius during my masters at Syracuse University. Through a creative arts fellowship from the American-Scandinavian Foundation, I was able to explore this musical relationship, as well as concentrate on learning Finnish song repertoire. Over a 10 month period, I worked on approximately 80 Finnish songs with the voice faculty and singers at Metropolia UAS, my affiliate institution, while also introducing kundiman to them; this culminated in a public song recital of 15 songs that I felt best showcased the countries' musical identities and similarities between the two genres. During this period, I also served as a visiting pianist at the Sibelius Academy, and completed a traineeship in vocal collaborative arts at Metropolia UAS.
The information on this page is representative of my experience in Helsinki. I am currently working on articles about kundiman, Tagalog, and the connection between the two countries' use of music and political independence. They will be available in the future. For now, if you would like to know more about anything related to this work, please contact me here.
Kun Päivä Paistaa, a celebratory performance of Finnish music, is the first body of work that I completed within this project. In celebration of Finnish Independence Day and Jean Sibelius Day, I put together this previously recorded video performance to showcase the Finnish music I studied in Finland from August-November. It features works by Finnish composers Jean Sibelius, Leevi Madetoja, Toivo Kuula, and Oskar Merikanto.
Throughout the video, I speak about the importance of Sibelius and these composers to the Finnish musical identity, and how that played an important part in Finnish nationalism during the time of the nation's struggle towards independence. Additionally, I included information about the composers' & poets' lives, as well as information about the texts that aid the listener. The video premiered on December 6, 2021 (Finnish independence Day).
Thank you to Tina Salminen, soprano, for her collaboration, and to Sirkku Wahlroos-Kaitila and Juha Karvonen for their artistic guidance and advisement while studying in Helsinki. You can view the video here, or on my youtube page under Hannah Comia.
Poster used for promotional purposes
Kundiman is a type of traditional Filipino love song in the style of 19th century Western art song. It is characterized by a minor-parallel-major tonality, 3/4 time signature, and bel canto-style vocal lines with orchestral-like piano accompaniment. Generally, kundiman uses Tagalog, a language found in the Philippines. The term "kundiman" comes from the Tagalog phrase "kung hindi man," meaning "if it were not so." There is an overarching theme of unrequited love amongst the text used in these songs. Historically, they were be sung by men, to women who did not return the love the men had; symbolically, the men were the Filipino people and the women were the Philippine country. Using the theme of love as a cover, the composers were able to hide the true motivation for the songs, which was to speak out on the oppressive rule of the Spaniards. Writers like Dr. Jose Rizal, who was executed for his public criticism of the Spanish, ignited these feelings of nationalism and pride amongst Filipinos. Composers, specifically Francisco Santiago (known as the father of Kundiman art song) and Nicanor Abelardo established the form and style of the kundiman. Though this form emerged post-independence (which occurred in 1898), it is rooted in the pre-colonial Filipino traditions while utilizing the Western compositional aesthetics that Santiago and Abelardo learned in school.
Throughout the first half of the year, I gave lectures and lessons on different aspects of kundiman at Metropolia UAS. These presentations occurred during the phonetics course, taught by Juha Karvonen, as well as the lied-seminar, led by Sirkku Wahlroos-Kaitila. I gave 6 total, and they occurred in-person, virtually through zoom, and by pre-recording. Below are some recordings from the presentations, and sources that I created specifically for this circumstance. They have not been edited since use and are not a reflection of my current work with kundiman, which has grown and evolved through further research, practice, and study.
MUSICAL IDENTITY AND INDEPENDENCE is a recital featuring Finnish song and Filipino kundiman, and the culminating performance of my fellowship year in Finland. The program consists of 15 songs, sung by Tiina Salminen, Sointu Pitkänen, and myself, performed for a public audience at Metropolia's Kammari in Helsinki, and live-streamed for an international audience. These songs appear in sets of several thematic and musical ideas that related the Finnish and Filipino songs. Before each set, I explain the theme and its significance to musical identity and independence.
Many thanks to Tiina and Sointu; this performance would not have been possible without their willingness to learn and perform these songs. A special thanks to Sirkku, who advised me in the process of creating this program, as well as artistically throughout my fellowship year. Much gratitude to Juha for all his support and interest in this project, as well as Joonas for his coaching on the Finnish music.
Recital poster used for promotional purposes