All Around The World: Sammal

By 2003, Jura Salmi and his high school friend Janu Kiviniemi had been playing in bands for more than a decade. Yet when they decided on a new beginning, using their native tongue seemed like a natural thing to do.

“We started fooling around with riffs and Janu spontaneously sang some gibberish over it in Finnish. It just felt right, like it was opening some gate that was closed when we were singing in English,” reveals Jura Salmi. “The natural rhythm of Finnish is also very different and affects the way we compose, in a positive way. The problem is not so many people understand it, so we’ve always included translations of all our lyrics.”

Musically, the land of the thousand lakes still weighs heavily on their analogue-sounding discography, which includes their second album Myrskyvaroitus (Storm Warning). “Finnish music is in our blood. It comes through our mother’s milk and being surrounded by Finnish melodies and folk music. Most of us were born in the late 70s so a lot of that stuff was played on the radio. TV studio orchestras had fantastic players like Pekka Pohjola or Edward Vesala, guys that were really influential in the Finnish prog/jazz scene, and as a kid couldn’t be avoided, even when [we] didn’t really know their names. Part of Sammal is to pay homage to those pioneers who had strong roots in Finnish folk, jazz and even classical, as well as a love of prog, classic rock and ‘alternative’ music from all corners of the world. We’re not trying to be ‘prog’ but progressive minded by adding all kinds of influences.”

Even their name (Sammal means moss) transpires its own little oddness: “It covers the floor of our forests and one of my earliest memories is being in the forest and lying down, and realising this vegetation is really different from anything else. It’s also a nice word, and rolls from the tongue quite nicely. It’s even mentioned in Aleksis Kivi’s Seitsemän Veljestä (Seven Brothers) novel, which is the foundation of Finnish literature. There’s actually a song in the novel that describes a squirrel sleeping on a bed made of moss, with all the evil in the world far away. It’s a comforting word for us Finns.”

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