No point trying to capture ‘the essence’ of a city in just a few well-chosen words. In essence, a city must escape such narrownesses.
So Helsinki is many things, not least a place that loves music.
It does so in many ways. Jazz is alive. Classical thrives (the fact that the media are reporting on spats about it means people care) as does the fact that space, literally, is to be given to music. One day, we are promised, music will fill that hole in the ground being given shape by LPR Architects and dubbed rather unimaginatively but accurately Musiikkitalo or Music House (Helsinki Music Centre). The professional image-mongers responsible have embraced the idea that it was a hole in the ground (‘monttu’), but now it’s an honest-to-goodness 21st century construction site with mercifully modest-sized cranes.
The city has paraded live music for free during the Art Goes Kapakka season, now sadly ended, and in occasional outdoor perfomances by all kinds of musicians, generally of a high calibre technically and otherwise. It’s not always possible to find out, at least easily, who exactly is playing. This fine band sang gypsy music on a temporary stage in the shadows of the Music House cranes.
And then there’s music making among friends, amateur choirs and jamming for one’s own pleasure. On Friday our protagonist went to a party where the invitation specified that guests should bring their own instruments.
And then again, there’s those who can’t stand music or those who only have time for highly engineered global brands.