Interview with shamancore musician Teknoaidi
"Music on its own can be a source of healing and knowledge" says electronic music musician Teknoaidi.
Teknoaidi, what it means and who it is?
"Teknoaidi is my solo music project that started to form around 2010-2011. The name is a play on the words 'tekno' and the Northern Sami word 'noaidi' ('noita' in Finnish). It is sort of a Sami/Finnish equivalent of a shaman. I want to make it clear though that I don't claim to be a shaman and Teknoaidi is more of an artist personality with its own story.
However, music on its own can be a source of healing and knowledge, so in that sense Teknoaidi is a "shamanistic" project".
Your music is shamancore. How you see the meaning of those words?
"Hardcore techno music has numerous subgenres that usually end with the suffix -core. I started to call my music shamancore, because I felt that the shaman part described the healing and introspective intention of the music the best, as well as the use of more traditional instruments that are common in shamanistic rituals. Hardcore to me means something raw and unfiltered, getting to the root/the core/the origin of something. I think it's in the energy of the music.
The energy and the way people dance to it also reminds me about the Finnish concept of 'sisu', a stubborn and seemingly unlimited willpower to push forward and overcome your limitations. As with most other contemporary extreme music genres, many hardcore techno musicians make music about some kind of dark fantasies or rebellion against authorities (like the system or religion), often with a more or less sarcastic tone. I made my share of that in the past, but at some point I felt that what I wanted to express didn't really fit into it anymore, thus the term/hashtag/subgenre shamancore ".
How did you start experimenting and combining elements of speedcore and techno with traditional knowledge, like "luonnon nostatus" that is known as spell in Finnish oral tradition? *
"I've been making electronic music for about 20 years now. Hardcore techno and speedcore for most of that time. Influenced by hiphop production techniques, at some point I started adding more instrumental sample loops in my tracks, because it seemed more interesting to me than making music limited to synthetic sounds. In early 2010's I was researching various spiritual things and some of these ideas I also ended up expressing through my music as I learned more and more. It was an ongoing and constantly changing process. One of the things I was looking into was shamanism worldwide and the origins of Finnish tribes. I noticed that the drumming tempos as well as the texture of a shaman drum's sound had similarities with hardcore techno. This similarity was something that I wanted to explore and develop further by fusing the new and the old together. Somehow, to build a bridge and manifest the connection more obviously. I felt that this energy was something that was missing from the more chillout folk-influenced electronic and world music and the ritual aspect was something that was not so obvious in hardcore techno.
"Luonnon Nostatus started out as a more ordinary track when we created the basic structure for it with Iconobreaker in early 2018. We wanted to make a very "typical" melancholic Finnish speedcore track and initially it had a voice sample from some documentary talking about summer and winter seasons of Finland. For a few years I had been thinking on and off about a new music video idea, which would include shamans and ancient astronauts shaking together. Later that year the pieces finally clicked together in my head and I figured that this was the perfect track for doing the music video.
The voice sample no longer fit into the story though and I really wanted to push the music more towards original content and original intention instead of using samples. More do-it-yourself. So I asked my friend Samu Kuusisto, who had jammed and collaborated earlier that year with our band Hiiden Virren Vinguttajat, if he would like to throat sing Finnish spells for the track and join in the music video. He was into it and we started to think about the spell/lyrics. I was reading Risto Santavuori's book 'Loitsu - Kalevalan avain' (= 'Spell - the key to Kalevala') where I found one version of the Luonnon nostatus spell. It felt very strong and really resonated with us. I found out that there are different versions of the spell, so I wrote some lines of my own to fit into the world that I wanted to present in the music video's story.
This was actually the first time that I experimented with spells and lyrics in my music and there are plans to do more projects with some other singers as well."
Luonto means nature. What it means to you in this piece of music? What you want say with the lyrics?
As in the original spell, the same Luonto is being addressed throughout the whole spell calling it with different names. Luonto in Finnish tradition is like a guardian spirit or a spirit guide, however it's not a separate spirit entity, but one autonomous part of a human's soul. The other parts of the soul are Henki ("breath", the person's life force) and Itse ("the self", the personality). The lyrics have multiple meanings and layers and this is what I like about Finnish oral tradition, because it speaks on many levels at the same time. Basically what I want to say is that we are the nature too and I want to help to raise people's nature consciousness. And as the story of the video goes, this nature can be found on other planets and solar systems too. Machines can surpass certain limitations of acoustic instruments and our physical bodies. They can expand our imagination in what kind of music we can make, but I also think that the nature is even more powerful and that our inner natures have the potential to evolve to new directions, similar to what we can do in lucid dream states. So I often dream about this ability of manifesting previously unimaginable music with my thoughts.
In the video there meets two worlds, the new modern world and the ancient one. The drum has a role in both worlds. How do you hear and see rythm? What it means to you?
Rhythm is all around us, sound is vibration and movement. All living beings have their own rhythms and frequencies they perceive and create, even seemingly motionless things like trees make rhythms. Rhythm to me can be more controlled or it can also go out of control. Closely related to the rhythm in the video's story is the shaking movement. Shaking is something I have been passionate about and tried to research a lot. It has been tradionally practiced in different forms on all continents and there are also some modern shaking practices. Shamanic trance state can also involve this. Shaking can help to heal by releasing trauma from the body and it can help to bring forth altered states of consciousness.
The story in the video is also about passing on this information of the shake and that the drum can be a traditional one, modern electronic drum sound or even something totally out of this world. I use fast rhythms intentionally to enter this state of shaking. At some parties when the music is just right for the shake, I've also experienced a strong wave of unity with people who are dancing around me, even being completely sober. In northern shamanism the rhythms tends to be more monotonic, but sometimes it can also be interesting to experiment with polyrhythms or to add some other kind of surprise element in the mix. The unexpected and entering an unknown territory can help to make new self-discoveries. Ideally though, there is always at least a beginning and an end to a track or a live gig, like there is in a ceremony.
Hiiden Virren Vinguttajat live @Kosmos Festival 2018 (Forest party) © Julius Halme
At Kosmos Festival you are playing in the forest. Forest is usually a place to look for silence and slow motions. But wait a minute... What about ancient tribal times? I believe they did drum and sing and dance in the forest... Why people enjoy the hardcore beats in the forest? Is there something specific that you like about that environment as a artist?
"Hardcore beats are actually not that common in forests as it's usually other types of electronic music played at forest festivals, like psychedelic trance, whereas hardcore parties have been traditionally in bunker, warehouse, club or open field type of spaces. Festivals like Kosmos make some exceptions though and I have organized and played at few smaller forest parties as well in Finland and Russia. I feel that outdoors and especially forests allow energies to flow more freely than in closed building spaces where energies feel more compressed.
The most memorable events I've organized have always been outdoors. Three such events were actually held inside a cave somewhere in the woods of East Helsinki. One entrance of the cave had a campfire place and we would put candles on the walls. This, combined with the music, resulted in a very mysterious, ritualistic and primal atmosphere. Something that we'll never forget. The nature is an ideal place to have a dancing gathering in the summer, but we also have to be respectful to human and animal neighbours and the cycles of nature, so it's not always that easy to find good spots for loud events. I know that not everyone would appreciate it and might even say that we should not bother the forest spirits, but indeed such rituals go back thousands of years".
Hiiden Virren Vinguttajat is impro music. You said that with improvisation you get closer to ritual and something "unknown". What kind of ritual the live performance is for you?
"When I compose music as Teknoaidi on the computer the process is mostly sort of like an advanced form of writing musical notes and I can come back to different parts of the track and finetune them as I wish. In comparison, the Hiiden Virren Vinguttajat performance happens in the moment and I use a bit different software that is more comfortable for jamming live with my controller, it's literally a more hands-on process. Other people play analog instruments and we also play some acoustic instruments or do throat singing.
Usually we jam with 2 or more people, which adds to the unpredictableness. For a gig we plan out some basic structure such as approximate tempos and maybe specific instruments to be used, but once things get started anything can happen. At the same time we are looking for a synchronicity with the other players and trying to find new interesting sounds from our instruments. Mistakes are a part of the journey like in real life, they only add to the experience. Whether we are jamming together or playing a gig, the process becomes very meditative and ritualistic. It's easy to lose the sense of time when being focused.
Audiences that are receptive for this kind of experience have also had immersive experiences when dancing. For the audiences it can help to let go of fears and to let go of the need to predict what happens in the future. We are trying to capture the spirit of early rave parties where the music was not yet standardized and people came to the parties to experience the unknown. The right setting, like a forest and bonfire or a more intimate jam in a yurt with candles can enhance the ritual experience".
* Suomen kansan vanhat runot ('the ancient poems of the Finnish people') is a 34-part work, wherein is published the majority of the original sources of Kalevala-type poetry: around 100,000 different poems. Poems divided into four main categories: lyric poetry, epic, other genres depending on the region (such as wedding songs and lullabies) and spells.
A selection of poems are presented in English translation: Finnish Folk Poetry: Epic. An Anthology in Finnish and English, ed. and trans. by Matti Kuusi, Keith Bosley and Michael Branch, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran toimituksia, 329. Helsinki: Finnish Literature Society, 1977