This article may be a rough translation from Finnish. It may have been generated, in whole or in part, by a computer or by a translator without dual proficiency. (July 2019)
Pekko Käppi (born 1976) is a jouhikko musician from Tampere and a part-time teacher at the Sibelius Academy. He is also a composer, a producer and a researcher. He is trained as an ethnomusicologist, specializing in traditional folk music. He performs together with his band K:H:H:L, which stands for ‘the bones of dead horses out of control’.
In 1993–94, when he was 17 years old, Käppi spent a year in the United States as an exchange student. The son of his host family was a fan of Grateful Dead, and through him Käppi became familiar with the band's music, which consisted of rock and improvised music based on folk music. This provoked his interest in the sources of that music, and especially in Finnish folk music.
In 1997, Käppi got a chance to study folk music in Kaustinen, at the Ala-Könni Folk High School, where he began to play the jouhikko. At the time, he was frustrated with the guitar and felt it had too many strings and too much of everything in general.
In 1998, Käppi played in the streets with a friend who played the bagpipe. The sound of the jouhikko could barely be heard, and Käppi felt he needed an amplifier. The device had to be a small one, so he could carry it around, but the result was that he had to crank it up, thus producing a distorted sound. This is how he found his own sound, which has remained almost unchanged ever since then.
In 2001 Käppi released his debut record, a four-song EP titled Kalastajia ja kaivostyöläisiä (‘Fishermen and Miners’). It was said that it “brought to one’s mind the field recordings of cultural anthropologists, a breath of air from some mystical past. It had an intriguing atmosphere and at the same time it was aesthetically pleasant.” Since then he has released three more EPs and two albums of collaborations as well as three solo albums and three albums with K:H:H:L.
On his first full album, Jos ken pahoin uneksii (‘If you have a bad dream’), Käppi “creates a laudable palette of songs. At first, it appears to be a pure folk music album, but that’s not what it is. The first song, Mariainen, draws masterfully from the delta blues, and the final song, Vanhan virsikirjan virsi 277 (‘Hymn 277 from the old hymnal’) brings the listener back to Finnish traditions. During the rest of the songs he goes through a rich variety of styles, which one would not first associate with a jouhikko player. Käppi's voice, which at times reminds one of that of Tuomari Nurmio, combined with traditional music, brings to one's mind The Incredible String Band. If it is allowed to be psychedelic in folk music, then Käppi is the leading figure in it in our country”, wrote Jaan Wessman for the music journal Soundi.
The second album, Vuonna ’86 (‘In the year ’86’), gave rise to the following critique: “It seems that in Tampere there exists some kind of version of the Star Trekian disturbance in the spacetime continuum. A lot of folk music of other dimensions has originated from there during the last few years. The new release by Pekko Käppi, too, draws partially from the same Ugric marsh as did the fine album Jos ken pahoin uneksii (2007), but from a great many other places as well.”
The critique of the third album, Rammat Jumalat (‘lame gods’), says that “on record or at a gig [Käppi’s music] is not only easy to approach but simply irresistible. Rammat jumalat makes it even easier to approach with its stylish band approach, in which Käppi’s multitoned jouhikko rock blends with a hypnotic sound frame reminiscent of the ragged blues of Tom Waits and Tuomari Nurmio. The tones of folk music are just one ingredient in his soulful and liberated kind of organic rock. The compositions are by Käppi, and in his lyrics traditional croaking blends with his lyricist’s heavy message. The riffs swing and the melodies are catchy, and the songs are exceptionally strong. But in spite of this, the strongest ace of the record is Käppi’s voice. He has a sound all of his own, full of touching soul and unpredictable power. His unusual phrasing sounds completely natural. One must look far in the history of Afroamerican music to find similarly convincing performers who sing with the voice of a ‘sensitive bad guy’. We have never before heard the likes of him in Finland.”
Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L.
Since 2015, Käppi has released three albums with K:H:H:L, in which he was joined by Tommi Laine (guitars) and Nuutti Vapaavuori (bass), along with Jani Auvinen (drums and percussion) for his most recent gigs. The band emerged from the sessions of Rammat Jumalat, “and from the beginning it was clear that the next album would be a band effort.
In the critique of the first album, Sanguis Meus, Mama!, it was said that “Käppi understands the connection between the original Ugric spirit and the blues. There are riffs and rhythmic patters here into which one could run on the records of Tuareg bands. The rock set up woven so cleverly fits in well with these spells. Laine plays splendidly with his acoustic slide guitar, but at times he also tears up distorted riffs that would gain approval from The Black Keys. The dialogue between the jouhikko and the guitar, with intertwining comments from synthesizers, grows into an ever greater role the more one listens to this record. The rhythm is augmented with great taste with drum machines. But I would venture to say that a skillful drummer would add to the value of this hypnotic and at times funky material. If Käppi’s voice is still a little boyish and clean, his texts, aware of traditions, are all the heavier. One can sense a powerful smell of revenge, destitution and death in them.” Sanguis Meus, Mama! managed to popularize Käppi voodoo concoction, cooked from folk music and blues, into a nearly perfect fit, suitable even for the radio waves.
The second album, Matilda, did not fare quite as well with the critics as the first one did. “If Sanguis Meus, Mama! leaned quite heavily to pop music, then Matilda did so even more heavily. However, Käppi’s newest concoction causes one to wrinkle one’s nose at it, as the album is not as good as its predecessor. … But Matilda is still quite a good record. It’s only that Sanguis Meus, Mama! is so good that not many artists are able to create anything like it during their whole careers, so it is natural to feel disappointed here. One can safely say even now that Matilda is much better than most Finnish pop records will be this year. Käppi’s voodoo pop is on its own orbit.”
The third album was likewise reviewed positively. Soundi writes that “Pekko Käppi and his band make interesting music on their third album, and they are still rocking wildly. It feels strongly that the best elements on their previous efforts have now found their rightful places here. The first song, “Ikoni” (‘Icon’), with its pop tones makes one smile, and its mantra like rhythm makes one’s body move to it.” Helsingin Sanomat writes that “at the start of the year we have a folk music hit. An incredibly catchy, intriguingly strange five and a half minute song, which one wants to listen to time and again. This is the song ‘Ikoni’ from the coing album by Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L entitled Väärä laulu (‘The wrong song’).”
It has been said that the jouhikko sound on the last record is reminiscent of Jimmy Page’s sound, especially when the latter played his guitar with a bow. Another influence has been Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York in which Käppi was impressed by the accordion playing of Krist Novoselić.
- Kalastajia ja kaivostyöläisiä, Amerikan Peikko Records, Kuusi Pientä Kustantajaa, 2001.
- Бубнить Себе под нос, 267 lattajjaa, 2003.
- Minun päiväkunnissani, Imvated, 2004.
- Jos ken pahoin uneksii, Peippo, 2007.
- Vuonna '86, Singing Knives, 2010.
- Rammat Jumalat, Helmi Levyt, 2013.
Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L.
- Sanguis Meus, Mama!, GAEA Records, 2015.
- Matilda, Svart Records, 2017.
- Väärä Laulu, Svart Records, 2019.
- Claypipe, Pekko Käppi, The Blithe Sons: The Amazed Map, Music Fellowship, 2007.
- Petra Hartikainen & Pekko Käppi: Uni Uuhella Ajeli, Uulu Records, 2009.
- Pekko Käppi / Juhana Nyrhinen: Mun paras ystävä, Helmi Levyt, 2012. (EP)
- "Taiga-klubi esittelee Sibelius-Akatemian vahvaa kansanmusiikkiosaamista" [‘The Taiga Club presents strong folk music from the Sibelius Academy’]. University of the Arts Helsinki. 2 November 2017.
- Nordlund, Tomi (20 March 2017). "Jouhikkoshamaanin arvonimi kelpaa Pekko Käpille, mutta käyntikorttiinsa hän ei titteliä laittaisi. Pekko Käppi yhtyeineen laittaa uutuuslevyllään sormien luut napsumaan. Kansanmusiikista ponnistava etnomuusikko kuuntelee sujuvasti myös Antti Tuiskua" [‘The title of jouhikko shaman is OK with Pekko Käppi, but he would not use it on his business card. Pekko Käppi and his band make the bones of one’s hands click. The ethonomusician coming from folk music listenes fluently to Antti Tuisku, too’]. Aamulehti. Alma Media. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
- Alanko, Tero. "Kolme kieltä ja vahvistin" [‘Three strings and an amplifier’]. Suomen Kuvalehti (in Finnish). No. 18/2019. Helsinki: Otavamedia. pp. 54–55.
- Romppainen, Heikki (27 March 2019). "Jouhikkomestari Pekko Käpin folk rock -odysseia saa neljä tähteä + HS:n kriitikko suosittelee kotimaista vaihtoehtorockia sekä kuunnelmasarjaa. Väärä laulu nousee vielä enemmän oikeuksiinsa: kuin kappale synkeintä Timo K. Mukkaa audiomuodossa, kirjoittaa Heikki Romppainen" [‘The folk rock odyssey of jouhikko master Pekko Käppi is given four stars + HS critic recommends domestic alternative rock and a series of radio drama. Väärä laulu comes into its own: it’s like a piece of the darkest Timo K. Mukka in audio format, writes Heikki Romppainen’]. Helsingin Sanomat. Helsinki: Sanoma. p. B 5. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
- "Discogs: Pekko Käppi". Discogs.com. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
- Wessman, Jaan (29 October 2007). "Pekko Käppi: Jos ken pahoin uneksii" [‘’]. Soundi.fi (in Finnish). Retrieved 14 April 2019.
- Tolonen, Arttu (4 June 2010). "Pekko Käppi: Vuonna '86" [‘Pekko Käppi: In the year ’86’] (in Finnish). Soundi.fi. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
- Pirinen, Ville (1 May 2013). "Pekko Käppi: Rammat jumalat" [‘Pekko Käppi: Lame Gods’]. Soundi.fi. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
- Seppänen, Arttu (26 March 2017). "Omalaatuinen romantikko, härski provokaattori – Pekko Käpin voodooliemi maistuu yhä popimmalta" [‘A peculiar romantic, a cheeky provoker — Pekko Käppi’s voodoo concoction tastes more and more like pop music’]. Soundi.fi (in Finnish). Retrieved 13 April 2019.
- Niemi, Jussi (21 April 2015). "Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L: Sanguis Meus, Mama!" [‘’]. Soundi.fi (in Finnish). Retrieved 13 April 2019.
- Suomi, Virpi (31 March 2019). "Levyarvio: Magia ja perusarki samassa paketissa – Pekko Käpin kansanperinne ei jämähdä yhteen tyyliin" [‘Record review: Magic and everyday life in the same package — Pekko Käppi’s folk tradition does not get stuck in just one style’]. Soundi.fi (in Finnish). Retrieved 13 April 2019.
- Koppinen, Mari (26 February 2019). "Pekko Käppi teki yhtyeineen maagisen kansanmusiikkihitin, jonka kuuntelemista on vaikea lopettaa – "Että voikin joskus olla suomen kielen ja musiikin liitto täydellinen". Ikoni on singlelohkaisu ensi kuussa julkaistavalta levyltä" [‘Pekko Käppi and band recorded a magical folk music hit, which one cannot stop to listen to — how can the union of the Finnish language and music be so perfect.” Ikoni is a single release from the album coming out next month.’]. Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). Sanoma. Retrieved 13 April 2019.