Mini tattoo

It’s a tattoo.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a tattoo is:

Mil. A signal made, by beat of drum or bugle call, in the evening, for soldiers to repair to their quarters in garrison or tents in camp.


A military entertainment consisting of an elaboration of the tattoo by extra music and performance of exercises by troops, generally at night and by torch or other artificial light. (So G. zapfenstreich.)

Today the Hamina Tattoo arrived in Helsinki, advertising the longer event taking place in the coastal military town (which also has considerable architectural charms). The “mini-tattoo” enlivened Helsinki’s spacious Senate Square and entertained not just the thousands who listened over the hour, but quite a few others I’d guess. Hey, it’s military music after all.

On YLE’s trusty website there’s more. And You Tube is, well, awash with synchronised sward-twirling (like a (mostly) boys’ version of cheer-leading as it were…) as well as music making. This one comes courtesy of Finland’s young army conscripts.

But for me, when they started playing Andean panpipes (or whatever) like the ones that used to ring out across the road from Stockmanns, I headed for the University Library. Still, I shouldn’t judge on such subjective grounds. Combining pan-pipes and military marches is perhaps an innovation of a standard urban, port-city kind, which adopts and adapts the repertoires and skills of new arrivals to create freshness.

And great to see the Senate Square in good use and nice to see a crowd that was made up of people of all ages. (Note to self, post something about the relative absence of older people on streets – or is it just where I hang out?)

It’s doubtful anyone was there who remembers the Square as a Russian Imperial place. It is, however, quite possible that some of the folks out today once saw Mannerheim the war hero here. He paraded in the Senate Square several times after all. A few might have heard and seen the Red Army Chorus and the Leningrad Cowboys build bridges via The Total Balalaika Show in 1993. And it’s possible that many know the square as a place you can cross at any time of day or night, winter, spring and summer (maybe even autumn) feeling safe and even happy in the heart of a great city and the embrace of complex history.

Then I heard the Tattooers play some Earth Wind and Fire …

Long live the Senate Square! Long live history! Long live change!


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