Kaivama's Sara Panjunen and Jonathan Rundman reflect on their new Finnish-American project


One violin, one guitar, lots of talent.  Sara Pajunen and Jonathan Rundman reflect a piece of the Northwoods in their Finnish flavored sound, pulling creativity from their childhoods in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Hibbing, MN, respectively. 

Pajunen fuses the Finnish pelimanni fiddle tradition with her classical training on the violin, while Rundman supplements a variety of instruments to the tracks ranging from his standard acoustic guitar to a vintage Hammond organ.

Kaivama's name echoes the culture of the North Country, derived from the Finnish word kaivaa meaning to delve or dig.

The duo share the story behind their new album, Kaivama, with Gimme Noise for their album release at the Cedar.

[jump] Gimme Noise: Jonathan, what are you and Sara doing to stand out in this new music industry where new bands are run of the mill?

Jonathan: Kaivama has an unusual biography that is very helpful in setting us apart from other musicians.  Our duo is founded upon our common Finnish ancestry, and our music and instrumentation is drawn from the fiddle traditions in Finland and the other Nordic countries.  Since the Finnish-American community across the country is relatively small, and there are so few contemporary groups playing this music in the USA, we've found that there's a lot of interest and excitement for what we're doing. It's really fun and motivating for us to bring this type of folk music to American listeners, many who have never heard anything like it before!

With Kaivama, all of our music is instrumental, so we haven't yet had to deal with lyrics. However, for the original tunes I've composed for us to play, I've started from a title and written the music to fit. However, when Sara and I have collaborated, we've adjusted the title to fit the song...for example, the closing tune on our album is a collaboration called "Mosalarium." The title of the song is a contraction of the locations that Sara and I were at when we wrote our parts....she was at a place called Mosala in Finland, and I was here in the Twin Cities in my house, sitting in the solarium.  And the opening track on our CD is another co-written tune called "Schottische 150." A schottische is a type of partner dance, and we numbered it based on the fact that both Sara and I are each 75% Finnish....that's 75 + 75 = 150.

Is there someone you'd love to share a stage/collaborate with?

Jonathan: When we formed KAIVAMA last Summer, we were inspired greatly by the current resurgence of folk music happening amongst progressive acoustic musicians in Finland. One of the pioneers of this new Finnish folk movement is composer and multi-instrumentalist Arto Järvelä, and Kaivama has enjoyed interpreting some of Arto's tunes...we even recorded his song "Røros" on our new album, and Arto makes an  appearance on our CD as a special guest fiddler. Now in June, Arto himself is coming to the USA and we'll tour together. It's pretty amazing....we're very honored and excited to share the stage with him! He'll be playing with us at the Cedar Cultural Center for our CD release show on Friday, June 17th. It's a venue he's appeared at numerous times in the past when he's been in Minneapolis to perform at previous Nordic Roots Festivals.

Where do you draw inspiration from when writing?

Jonathan: I'm mostly inspired to write in order to fill a void in my musical environment. If I notice that there is a topic rarely addressed in song, or a melody or arrangement idea that I haven't heard before, it excites me to try to tackle that subject.

Sara: I am inspired by nature, silence, improvising, listening to the art of others.

Tell me a song that you wish you would have written and why.

Jonathan: My current favorite is "Lysistrata" by Todd Rundgren/Utopia. It's totally a song I wish I had written. It's a love story, an anti-war anthem, and a re-telling of an ancient Greek drama, all wrapped up together and played as a pop song.

Sara: Anything by Astor Piazzolla. His music is perfection to me.

Who's a local artist that you're really into right now?

Jonathan: I really enjoy Michael Morris' ultra-personal orchestral folk band Dewi Sant.

Sara: I honestly don't have one!

Finish this statement: "Never have I ever..."

Jonathan: Never have I ever not enjoyed an Oreo malt from Culvers.

Sara: Never have I ever enjoyed an Oreo malt from Culvers.

Kaivama release their self-titled album, Kaivama, with Arto Järvelä at the Cedar Cultural Center on June 17, 2011. AA, $15 adv, $18 door, 7 pm