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History of the music genre Letkajenkka/Letkis
The music genre that became popular and the dance craze was at its hottest during 1963-1965. The music genre is based on the idea of performing Jenkka music using non-traditional instruments. Traditional instruments for playing the Jenkka, a Finnish traditional music genre and dance, also described as folk dance, are instruments such as the violin and accordion. In the early 1960s some composers thought of writing Jenkka tunes for more contemporary bands with instruments like winds (more swing-like Jenkka) and amplified instruments like electric guitars, basses, and drums (a more Rock'n'Roll or Boogie Woogie-like sound). The form of the letkajenkka songs is consistent with traditional Jenkka, but where the music is distinctively Jenkka, the dance steps are not.
The first to introduce his Letkajenkka song was Erik Lindström with his song Letkajenkka. A Swedish band called the Adventurers recorded it, and it immediately made the charts in Finland. Later Jan Rohde, a Norwegian artist born in the United States recorded it with lyrics together with the bands the Adventurers and the Wild Ones. The Wild Ones made the charts in the Netherlands, where the letkis craze had lifted four letkis songs to the charts simultaneously.
A half a year later Rauno Lehtinen followed with his song Letkis. This has become by far the most popular of all songs in the Letkajekka genre. It was first recorded by his studio orchestra Rautalanka Oy in August 1963, but was made popular in October the same year by a group called Ronnie Krank's Orchestra. His chart topper has been rerecorded approximately a hundred times, and at least 60 of the rights to his song are owned by Swedish publisher Stig Anderson. One well known recording of the song is by German musician Roberto Delgado. Rauno Lehtinen's song Letkis was then renamed Letkiss, Let's Kiss, Lasst uns Kûssen etc., for easier pronunciation in different languages. The name Letkis has nothing to do with kissing. The idea of kissing has been introduced by non-Finnish speakers, who heard the homophony and thought that the title of the song sounded like "Kissing." In Finnish Letkis is short for Letkajenkka, a diminutive or common name, formed by the beginning of the word and adding "is" in the end.
Lehtinen's Letkis made the charts in many European countries, in Latin America, and even in Japan. There are numerous translations including Russian, Swedish, and Japanese. In 1965, four instrumental versions of the tune reached number one in the Netherlands simultaneously. These were by Stig Rauno, Gudrun Jankis, a group called The Wild Ones and the Dutch Swing College Band. All four versions had the English title, Letkiss rather than the original Finnish title. It remained the only Dutch number one to have originated from Finland until 2000, when Freestyler by the Bomfunk MC's reached number one.
The steps of Letkajenkka are like the steps of Bunny Hop, a novelty dance from the 1950s. It has been proposed that exchange students returning from the United States to Finland would have imported the steps of the Bunny Hop to Finland, as they had seen them on the TV show Bandstand. Whereas the Bunny Hop starts with a right foot lead, the Letkajenkka transformed into a dance based on the same step, but starting with a left leg lead. This can be seen from the early recordings for TV and in some movies made during the hottest craze. Also many translated lyrics include advice on the steps: "left kick, left kick, right kick, right kick, forward jump, backward jump, hop, hop, hop."
In Finland the dancers place their hands on the previous dancers shoulders, but Letkis can also be danced by holding the other person's waist.
The people participating in the dance form a Conga-like line (that can also be a circle) so that everyone holds the person in front of her/him by the waist or shoulders. The steps go as follows (everybody does the same thing):
- 1 kick to the left with your left foot & step back to the middle
- 2 kick to the left with your left foot & step back to the middle
- 3 kick to the right with your right foot & step back to the middle
- 4 kick to the right with your right foot & step back to the middle
- 5 jump forward with both feet (just a few inches, or the following persons will soon fall behind)
- 6 jump backward with both feet
- 7 & 8 jump forward three times with both feet
1-4 may be enhanced by jumping a bit with the leg opposite to the kicking side.
International Letkajenkka songs
The music genre became popular and many composers around the world started writing letkis music. Examples of non-Finnish letkis music include 'La Yenka' (performed by Johnny & Charley Kurt, 1965), Gainsbourg's Poupée de cire, poupée de son (performed at the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest by France Gall), Gemelle Kessler's Lasciati Baciare Col Letkis, and Ploem Ploem Jenka by nl:Pieter Goemans.
Also Erik Lindström's Letkajenkka was translated and rerecorded in other languages than Finnish, for example in Italian. Letkis was also translated into many languages, for example into Japanese as Retto Kisu (Jenka) / レット・キス（ジェンカ）, performed by Kyu Sakamoto.
Original Finnish songs
In Finland, among the more known letkis songs are for example
- Letkajenkka by Erik Lindström
- Letkis by Rauno Lehtinen
- Doin' the Jenka (trad.)
- At the Jenka Show fi:Georg Malmstén
- Helsinki-letkis fi:Toivo Kärki
- fi:Minne tuuli kuljettaa fi:Toivo Kärki
- Puhelinlangat laulaa
Letkajenkka in the movies
The movie Jamboree66 (Sampaguita Pictures, Philippines, 1966, directed by Luciano B. Carlos) features a scene where the song "Letkis" is being played at a club.
There are at least two Letkajenkkas by Mimis Plessas that appear in the Greek movie Mia Trelli, Trelli Oikogeneia (Crazy, crazy family) that is directed by Dinos Dinopoulos (el:Ντίνος Δημόπουλος). There is a scene with people dancing around the pool. The steps are not strictly Jenkka, but the music is in the style of letkis. In another scene, Katerina Gogou and Alekos Tzanetakos are dancing a Letkajenkka variation as a couple to Letkis music. The choreography is John Flery's.
In the Hungarian movie Patyolat akció (1965), there is Letkajenkka dancing and singing by Mari Törőcsik and Gyula Bodrogi. The dance appear is Polish movie - Małżeństwo z rozsądku from 1966 (en. Marriage of Convenience).
- Google Books. Billboard magazine. Retrieved July 27, 2010.
- Query for record label Sonet t6502 (45) (in Finnish), Suomen äänitearkisto, retrieved July 29, 2010
- Query for record label Parlophone par 951 (45) (in Finnish), Suomen äänitearkisto, retrieved July 29, 2010
- Query for song title Minne tuuli kuljettaa (in Finnish), Suomen äänitearkisto, retrieved July 29, 2010
- Query for song title Puhelinlangat laulaa (in Finnish), Suomen äänitearkisto, retrieved 27 July 2010
- San Palio Cinema (in Greek), retrieved July 27, 2010