While music is a major part of all of our lives, seldom does an artist aim to create music that resonates on more than a universal plain.
Music is, and always will be, a form of expression. It is an outlet, a comfort, and a guiding force that touches each of us on different levels.
On those rare occasions when an artist delves deeper into the spiritual side of their craft they are more often than not shunned by the fans and their peers. The general consensus that if you have to stop and think too much about a body of work it loses much of its impact is understandable, but also incorrect.
Often the more you allow yourself to be swept up in music, the deeper it moves you, but when an artist sheds all of their inhibitions and focus on things of a more personal nature they are far too often pushed to the side in favour of more accessible songs.
Which is understandable, but also a tragic waste of emotion that could never be replicated in a song that is produced for mass consumption.
Tuomas Rounakari, better known for his work on the violin in Korpiklaani, has recently completed a journey into his personal history and that of his native Finland, packaging his findings into a unique and beautiful body of work titled Bear Awakener.
It is a labour of love that Rounakari has dedicated more than a decade to by way of research, composition, and, more importantly, conversing with and learning from a range of people who know and appreciate the world he is trying to portray.
It is more than a collection of stories woven together to tell a tale from one man’s viewpoint. It is a case study of history and mythology that is accentuated further by the addition of traditional instruments, all of which Rounakari learnt to play himself, in order to add authenticity to the album.
HEAVY caught up with Rounakari to talk about Bear Awakener in an interview that covers so much ground we have decided to separate it over two parts to allow the full magnitude of the journey to sink in.
Part 1 covered the journey of the album and the research and attention to detail. Part 2 takes you even deeper into the process and the path to completion.
Unlike Rounakari’s first solo album, Bear Awakener is void of lyrics, instead focusing on sounds of nature and instruments to convey its message.
“This time I didn’t sing at all,” he affirmed. “I was supposed to, but somehow this album wanted to be like this. There are some bird sounds there that were recorded by a good friend of mine so we’re together and watching the crane’s migration, and we did recordings there, so there are some swans and cranes that are both sacred animals in the mythology of Fins and the Khanty, so the birds kind of kick the album off and end it. In the meantime, there’s only a violin and ning-juh.”
Rounakari is quoted in the press release as saying Bear Awakener is akin to a shamanic journey, a point he stresses further here.
“There’s an opportunity for the listener to listen to the album as a journey,” he explained. “Of course it is a collection of songs, as an album is, so a lot of these songs were really long in the first place. The first track is done out of a version that has over 300 verses. This is a curious thing because phonographs don’t have that much space. In the phonograph recordings they usually last less than three minutes and to gather as much information as possible they usually record it only one minute of one song into these wax cylinders. Then you have these texts that go on for ages, and it’s known that these singers might have been singing these songs for hours, this one song. They have a saying about a good singer. A good singer has a golden throat, which means that it’s very easy to fall asleep listening to their voice. This is interesting because fall asleep is actually a reference to an altered state of consciousness. You access a place of relaxation where your imagination opens up, and you start to experience things in another reality than that of an awakened person. That is a big theme. I think these songs have this kind of… they are based on repetition. There’s simple motifs and simple melody structures that keep on repeating, but not quite the same way. You get to learn it easily, but then it’s alive. It changes. It keeps moving all the time. It’s kind of a landscape music rather than dance music or hit songs. It’s more like a place to be when you listen. The album versions are a little bit short in that respect that you would go on a deep journey. But I have aimed to create a piece that you can actually stay in a specific state of mind while listening to it, although it has eleven songs and goes from one place to another and has a lot of different moves in it. Maybe one of these days I will publish a 45-minute version of some of these songs.”
In the full interview, Tuomas talks more about the bear and how it relates to Finnish mythology, the Khanty and Mansi people and their spiritual connection, the limited edition pre-order packages and what they contain, making Bear Awakener as authentic as possible and more.