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August 20, 2007

Critic couldn't wait for Finns to finish

The Vancouver Sun (Canada):

One's appreciation of Rajaton, the Finnish a cappella vocal sextet that played at the Chan on Wednesday, would lie in direct proportion to one's liking of the Swingle Singers, that eventually annoying group who bop and bap their way through Bach.

Rajaton are like the Swingle Singers on amphetamines. They're clearly virtuosic, but the thing about virtuosity is that it's much more impressive when it disguises itself, and when it chooses good material to do virtuosically.

There was no attempt to disguise anything, and there was no good material. Yes, they do microtones very well, but that wasn't very much to take away with you and there was little in what they sang that's in my head right now, I can tell you.

"But you liked that other Finnish group," a friend said. "You mean Philomela? Yes. But apparently all Finns are not fine."

Okay, I'll soften that. They're just fine. Okay? The Chan was pretty well packed and people ate them up with a big spoon.

Meanwhile, I sat there wondering why I wasn't vaguely moved by this amalgam of "pop, folk, classical and rock," as the program boasted of the members' origins.

Maybe they cancelled one another out? I don't know. They're a big hit on the Finnish pop charts and I can't figure that one out either, or why my mind wandered so much. Wander! It went from coast to coast. Was I channelling Steve Fonyo or something?

But they're polished all right. Too polished if you ask me. I'd say lose some of the choreography and the stage business. No, lose a lot of it. They seem like nice people but it gets a little cute. And frankly the "instrumental" effects with the bass booming "pizzicato" notes into the hand mike and the others doing "saxophone" effects got a mite tiresome. Okay we know you can do it. Now what else can you do?

Of their mixture of hits, ranging from Finnish folkloric songs to pop classics by the likes of Sting, Queen, David Bowie and Abba, I blushingly admit there was only one song that interested me -- Fernando by, of course, Abba. And they even had to wreck that one by cutesying it up.

Even my well-known ethnomusicological bent failed me here, or they failed it. They made the music of Finland sound boring.

Okay, not boring. But like something you'd find on a middle-of-the-road station on the radio at 2 a.m. I couldn't wait to get out of there.

Well you can't win 'em all. Personally I think Rajaton are fabulous and wish they would perform more in the US. I look forward to the opportunity to present them one day here in the Bay Area.

Posted by acapnews at August 20, 2007 10:34 PM


brilliant.. love it :-)
rajaton are like the swingle singers on amphetamines!
what a comparison !
i love rajaton.. but then i am singing with the swingle singers, so i must be slightly biased .. and into amphetamines !


Posted by: tobias at August 22, 2007 11:37 AM

It's a sad day when a "critic" takes it to mean that their job is solely to find something, anything, negative about a performance and then to inflate it to absurd proportions.

Exactly what was this critic looking for? A concert of a cappella music by six singers isn't going to sound like the Vancouver Symphony and never will (although if anyone could pull it off Rajaton could!).

Suffice it to say that an untold number of people will be flocking to the next Rajaton concert and to purchase their newest CD while only a handful may wait with bated breath for this critic's next review.

Posted by: jeff at November 15, 2007 8:57 AM

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