Einari Paakkanen: Singing is revealing and tells something about us

12. Oct 2022 | News

Text by: Einari Paakanen

Earlier this year, I directed my fourth documentary film Karaoke Paradise, which explores the meaning of music and the mental landscape of us Finns who love to sing karaoke. There is a particularly revealing element in the act of singing: we can’t hide our emotions when we sing. Also, not only how, but what we sing is revealing and tells something about us. My recent fascination with filming people who sing is probably what steered me towards Luhamaa and the Setos during my residence in Estonia. What immediately struck me as beautiful and compelling is the overwhelming presence of leelo, an ancient polyphonic singing tradition and the cornerstone of the Seto identity. Performed in traditional costumes, leelo consists of a lead singer delivering a verse line that the choir repeats. I found it fascinating to learn how well-equipped the Seto tradition is for any given occasion, for example, there is a song when one is picking berries or when one loses a dear friend. During my stay, I learned about or was introduced, among others, to a young person crowned as a King’s ‘Mother of Song’ on Seto Kingdom Day, a Seto punk band, as well as to a family with an unbroken generational chain of traditional singers ranging from the uncounted past until to this day – all signs of a tradition that is alive and vibrant.

Photo: Argo Ingver

Einari Paakkanen (b. 1980) is a Finnish director focusing on stories of human connection and communication with others. His films have been screened globally in festivals such as the CPH:DOX and Visions du Reel. His first feature documentary, My father from Sirius, premiered at the Warsaw Film Festival in 2016 and was broadcasted by Yle, SVT and Arte. His latest documentary Karaoke Paradise premiered in 2022 and was shortlisted for the best documentary at European Film Awards. Einari has an MA in documentary directing from ESCAC in Barcelona. Einari was in Tartu 2024 Arts of Survival International Filmmakers Residency during autumn 2022.

Watch Antti Polojärvi and Einari Paakkanen short film Var är Thon? (Where is Thon?, 2016, 6 min)

One night Thon went drinking with two friends and disappeared. What happened? Where is Thon? A mystery and an absurd manhunt that eventually involves John F. Kennedy, Elvis and the whole planet.

Einari Paakkanen Meet the Auter evening at Elektriteater September 24, 2022.