Sinikka Langeland is an award-winning vocalist, kantele player, and arranger from Norway. Her solo and collaborative recordings have explored the roots of the rune songs of the Finnskogen, a region of Norway named for the immigration of Finnish people to the area in the 17th century. The kantele (harpu in the indigenous Sami) is a traditional plucked string instrument from the dulcimer and zither families of instruments of Finland and other Northern European countries.
Langeland was born in Norway and studied piano, guitar, and contemporary folk song throughout her childhood and teenage years. She discovered the kantele in 1981, and it became her primary instrument. After studying in Paris in the mid-'80s, she returned to Norway and received a degree in musicology from the University of Oslo in 1992. Upon graduation, she embarked upon a massive research project in Finnskogen songs and music, involving several musicians, singers, and producers, among them Ove Berg.
Her debut recording, 1994's Langt Innpå Skoga, marked the beginning of a ten-year collaborative partnership with the Grappa Musikkforlag label. During her tenure there she released nine albums. Among them were Tirun lirun and Runoja, recordings that dove deeply into the poetry of the rune songs, as well as Strengen Var Af Røde Guld and Lille Rosa, both of which featured Langeland singing medieval songs. During this decade she also released a book on the rune songs entitled Karhun Emuu and won the Edvard and Norwegian-Finnish Cultural Prizes.
Langeland signed with ECM Records in 2005. Starflowers, her debut for the label, was released in 2007 and featured Arve Henriksen, Trygve Seim, Anders Jormin, and Markku Ounaskari. It was followed in 2009 by Maria's Song, which set traditional Finnish hymns and Bach religious songs to accompaniment by kantele and viola. She re-teamed with the band from Starflowers for 2011's The Land That Is Not, setting the poetry of Edith Södergran and Olav H. Hauge to music. After a suggestion from producer Manfred Eicher, Langeland shifted her focus for 2015's The Half-Finished Heaven. All but three of the album's tracks were instrumentals, with the kantele in the foreground supported by tenor saxophone, viola, and percussion.
After working exclusively with her Starflowers quintet for a decade, Langeland embarked on a new project that combined that band with the singers of the Trio Mediӕval. She composed new pieces and interpreted traditional rune songs based on myths and fragments of the axis mundi ("world tree") found at the center of much Finnskogen lore. The Magical Forest was released in August of 2016. ~ Thom Jurek