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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Tune of the Week: Ingrian Polka/Kuppari Eeva

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

ndlxs - Posted - 10/30/2009:  07:11:22

The tune(s) of the week are the Ingrian Polka and Kuppari Eeva. Both are, needless to say, extremely uncommon in the banjo universe. The tuning I use is aDGCD: it is common sawmill/mountain minor tuning, but with the fifth string up a whole step (2 frets). This allows me to play in A minor (Ingrian Polka) and E minor (Kuppari). The only tricky part is the first measure of Ingrian Polka: the first index finger strike is on the UP beat (the and beat) of the first beat of the measure.

The tab for both tunes is here (tabledit format): You can here my band, Off to California, play it on my hangout page here You can even buy the CD here

The band web page, which includes clips and banjo tabs from the entire CD is here

The first tune we got from the Finnish Band Ottopasuuna, who is or was the backup band for the Finnish Group Vartinna. Information here: (They call the tune something else, the correct name is in the liner notes) The second tune we got from Kevin Burke, who calls it "Finnish polka", and plays it with two other Irish Polkas, Bill Sullivans and Ger the Rigger. You can play all 3 of the Kevin Burke polkas well in G tuning too if you'd like. I don't have tab prepared for those three.

The only Youtube version of these tunes I can find is this rather charming ACappela version of the second tune:

If Scandinavian music on the banjo lights anyone's fire, the field is wide open. Cathy Moore has some great version of Scandinavian tunes on her web pages that can be found with a minimum of effort.

Here is what my partner Dorothy has written about the tunes:
The region of Inkeri, the origin of the first polka, is a part of western Russia that has been in dispute many times over the centuries. It is home to many Finnish speaking people and includes the area that surrounds St. Petersburg, the city known as Leningrad after the Russian Revolution and until the fall of the Soviet Union. We combine it with “Kuppari Eeva,” a Finnish polka in tribute to a kuppari, the term given to a type of rural nurse or midwife. In earlier times she was called a bloodletter and would use a sharp tool to release blood in the belief that it helped high blood pressure and other ailments. These days a kuppari might be found working in a spa or sauna since some still believe it is a healthy practice–but she doesn’t use her teeth or a cow’s horn anymore.
While it might be more common to hear a Finnish kantele or a Russian balalaika–stringed instruments common in those folk genres–on tunes such as these, the clawhammer banjo provides surprising ringing tones that help recreate their sound. It might seem equally unusual to use the Flamenco guitar, but it adds a Gypsy quality common to eastern European music. We imagine that in the gold country there were many such unlikely pairings of instruments and styles as miners looked for ways to entertain and communicate with each other.

Happy picking, stay warm!

Andy Alexis
Sacramento, Calif

janolov - Posted - 10/30/2009:  08:29:41

Thank you for these two tunes.
I am interested in Scandinavian traditional music and I am a little experimenting with Swedish music (this is a little new field for me because I have for several years listened to American traditional music and neglected the music from my own country).



ndlxs - Posted - 10/30/2009:  08:44:25

Here's more on the second tune: I don't remember where we came up with the name Kuppari Eeva, but it is better known as Ievan Polkka, and it has its own Wikipedia page here Lots of versions of it at the bottom of the page.

Andy Alexis
Sacramento, Calif

ndlxs - Posted - 10/30/2009:  08:49:03

Here's another Finnish polka on the banjo: it sounds similar, but not the same, as Ingrian polka:

Andy Alexis
Sacramento, Calif

janolov - Posted - 10/30/2009:  09:10:17

When playing non-American tunes on clawhammer banjo it is easy to just "Americanize" it and make it just another clawhammer tune. It is more difficult to maintain the original soul of the tune. After listening a lot to your recording I think it really sound Finnish and that you have caught the soul of the tune.



tfaux - Posted - 10/30/2009:  10:45:48

Man, there's so much great, little-heard music that's suited to the banjo.
Thanks for posting these.


vrteach - Posted - 10/31/2009:  09:21:19

That's a lovely pair of tunes and rendition thereof. I've been drawn to many Scandinavian traditional tunes over the years, although I tend to choose to play the ones that are already kind of "American" sounding.

Erich --
U of Illinois-Springfield Old Time Music

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.

Bertrand Russell

Paul Roberts - Posted - 10/31/2009:  14:35:07

Thanks for posting this; off-the-beaten-path, very nice and highly suitable for clawhammer. You mentioned Cathy Moore's special approach to using the banjo as an international instrument. Her videos, mp3's and tabs can be found here:

Paul I'm a Gold Tone dealer My YouTube Channel

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