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Tampere City Life

It was quite a Friday - and Saturday, too =)

It has been a rather rainy summer in Finland, not that many really warm days. But Friday it was sunny and warm. At noon I got visitors - an old friend from the University years, and her family. It was the first time they visited my place, and we took a look around, talking about the house renovation process and all that kind of stuff. We cooked food and ate outdoors, talking about life, zen, and the problems of combining reasonable income with do-it-yourself ecological countryside lifestyle. And, once again, I realized how people visiting my place often enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. There is no background noise - mostly just natural sounds. My yard is big enough to feel open and spacious, and surrounded by forest from all sides - which makes a feeling of being safely protected and nurtured by Mother Nature.

When my friends were about to leave, I felt like staying at home - to have a sauna and relax. But I decided to stick with my plan to visit Tampere. Astrid Swan is working with songs for her next album, which means that there won't be that many gigs this year - so Friday's solo gig at Tampere was something not to miss. My plan was to stay in the city for the night, so that I can meet my son on Saturday evening. But otherwise I had no strict plans - when I was driving to the city I thought if I should arrange a place to sleep at, but I didn't. I just hoped that I will spontaneously meet my friends and see what happens. Well, I went to the bar where Astrid was going to play. There I sat enjoying a pint of Guinness, when two of my friends walked in. What a pleasant surprise!

As Astrid started to play, I was once again impressed by her musical talent. She played some older songs, a couple of songs from the latest album, and then two new songs. There were some minor technical problems, but they didn't ruin the musical experience - on the contrary, I greatly enjoyed the way Astrid dealt with the situation. What comes to the music, I find it somewhat difficult to put my experience into words, but I'll try. There is this unified feeling of a piece of art. The composition, the lyrics, and stage presence all go together - everything is saturated with emotion. Be it sadness, fear, ambiguity of love and lust - Astrid doesn't oversimplify nor does she exaggerate, she is just honest to the life the way she feels it. Every tempo change, every layer of the composition and every word of the lyrics have their exact place and meaning, yet everything feels so spontaneous. There is this sense of organic flow, breathing life into her songs. I haven't studied that much the history of art, but somehow Astrid's music reminds me the paintings of Cézanne - there is that same kind of willingness to express the essence of a visual or emotional impression. Once again I felt that her music is able to touch and to revitalize some wounded and worn parts of my soul. Also, it was very inspiring to get to hear her new songs - I pretty much liked the direction she is going.

After the gig we resumed talking with my friends. They said that there's a Pekko Käppi gig at another pub in the city, free entrance, starting in five minutes. After a brief moment of hesitation we decided to go see a part of that gig. And that was an another world - where Astrid's music is poetical and intellectually well developed, Pekko goes all wild and archaic - in a good way. He plays a traditional Finnish instrument called jouhikko, and his singing feels like a modern but authentic version of the ancient shamanistic tradition. Pekko was playing with two other guys who had cigar box guitars. Monotonous rhythm, looping but highly energetic melodies and intense vocal performance carried the audience towards a collective trance. I definitely think that I'll go see more of Pekko's gigs when I get a change to do so. Well, but around midnight we felt slightly tired and left for my friends' place. Ah, and actually, it was first time ever I visited their place. Yeah I've been thinking that some time when I visit Tampere I should contact them, but now I just ended up at their place without any planning.

In the morning we had an unhurried breakfast, with a nice good discussion about life, work, inspiration and everything. One of the themes of the discussion was social roles vs. honest presence. Like, with some people it is sometimes hard to tell if they are just putting up a show or acting a role, or if they are expressing what they genuinely think and feel. And we all agreed that such a social interaction is energy-consuming and leaves one with a shallow and alienated feeling. Afterwards, in my mind I was thinking that during the university years I had a plenty of stuff inside me which I didn't even try to share with my mates. Mostly, I only wanted to talk philosophy with the other students, as that is what we had in common - I was genuinely interested in the subject we studied and wanted to share that, keeping my private life and feelings well hidden. And, after all these years, it is extremely nice to see that some of those mates are now my real friends; nowadays I don't feel a need to hide anything from them, and I honestly do enjoy sharing personal thoughts and feelings with these friends.

Well, the rest of the day was full of social life, too. One of my friends gave me a vinyl-LP saying: "Merry Christmas!". And two of my friends asked if I'd like to join them for a coffee at the upstairs of Mordor. I didn't quite know if there is a place called Mordor in Tampere, so I asked them for further details. So, it turned out that it was an unofficial nick-name of a brand new hotel which appears a tall black tower overseeing the city. The top floor of the hotel has a cafeteria with a view over the city. Sure, it was a nice place to have a coffee and to talk about life =) In the evening I went to see my son and his girlfriend. We went outdoors to grill food and to eat together - it simple things like that, which make my life feel somehow rich and full of meaning.

When I was driving back to home, I was thinking that in Finland many people live in a city and have a summer cottage in the countryside. But I'm doing it the other way around: I prefer having my home in the peaceful natural atmosphere of the countryside. I can pick berries and mushroom right next to my yard, I enjoy doing things my own way without too much considering how the other people see or think about it. I enjoy the solitude and the peace of my homestead. And when I want to enjoy the cultural events or the rich spontaneous social life of the city, I can easily visit the city for a while. Now I'm back at home after an 26 hour trip to Tampere, and it feels like my social needs are completely fulfilled. And this is pretty much the way I like it. I place the new vinyl on the turntable, turn the music up and enjoy a sip of white wine.

Astrid Swan
Astrid Swan
Pekko Käppi & K H H L
Pekko Käppi & K H H L
A view over Tampere city
A view over Tampere city
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