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Online festivals make folk music and dancing accessible in Finland

Finnish Folk Music Institute

For many stakeholders of intangible cultural heritage, meeting and socialising face to face is an important part of keeping the tradition alive and going.

In Finland, folk music and dancing is practiced in many ways: in spontaneous meetings between players, through formal education in schools and in music schools, at summer camps and festivals.

The covid-19 pandemic put an end to all of these activities in March 2020. The schools were closed and all public events were cancelled. After a short period of adjusting most of the activities were moved online.

The small village of Kaustinen is famous for its folk music tradition. The community is actively promoting folk music even today. Kaustinen hosts many important instances in the Finnish folk music scene: Kaustinen Folk Music Festival is one of the biggest folk music festivals in Northern Europe and the Näppäri – music education system is widely recognised not only in Finland but also abroad.

Due to covid-19, these instances had to find new coping strategies. Kaustinen Folk Music Festival was quick to find new ways to keep the tradition of playing folk music alive. They created an online version of the festival to maintain the festival community, consisting of thousands of amateur and professional performers and 40000-50000 visitors annually.

The VirtualKaustinen online festival consisted of live streamed concerts, workshops and other program. The website was visited more than 123,000 times from 51 countries between 13 and 18 July. The basic idea of Kaustinen Folk Music festival is to mix and match both amateur and professional performances.

This year the festival invited everyone to attend by sending their own musical greetings by shooting videos and uploading them to YouTube. The festival received over 350 videos from Finland and other countries and they became the most popular content on the website. Another big effort was to create an online version of Näppärikurssi - The largest children’s summer music course in the country with hundreds of participants.

The course was successfully replaced with an online version including 198 instruction videos both private lessons and play along sessions. The online folk music course attracted 300 participants both in Finland and abroad. Learning or attending events online does not compensate real life situations, but it has helped keeping up the important feeling of togetherness that the living tradition provides for many people.

Only time will tell if these events can be organised live next summer. What we know already now is that the folk music community has gained lots of useful knowhow to support communication, distribution and networking also in the future.

Kaustinen Folk Music Festival:
VirtualKaustinen (until 31 July, 2020):
Finnish Folk Music Institute:

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