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History of Music Archive Finland

Martti JäppiläMusic Archive Finland

The Finnish Jazz Archive was established in Helsinki on December 10, 1990 to collect historical materials of jazz music. We became known as the Finnish Jazz & Pop Archive in 1997, when our field expanded to cover other forms of popular music. At the same time, the archive moved to the district of Arabia in Helsinki. Since July 1st Music Archive Finland has been providing services to it's customers in Sörnäinen, Helsinki. Since 2015 we have been known as Music archive JAPA, and in 2017 we changed our name to Music Archive Finland.

Jazz musician and historian Jukka Haavisto acted as the director until his retirement in 1997. The archive has since been led by Dr Juha Henriksson, musicologist and Master of Science (Techonology), who has made a great contribution to digitization and archival cooperation. During his leave in 2008–2011, the archive is headed by Dr Janne Mäkelä, historian of popular culture. Since 1996, the archive has also had an assistant, first Natta Holma and currently Maaret Storgårds.

The archive is maintained by a members’ association and an executive committee, which was long chaired by Timo Vähäsilta. The current chair is Jaakko Harjula. Today, the association has 230 members.

Public activities

From the very beginning, the archive’s main task has been to collect, preserve and provide access to materials relating to Finnish popular music. Our work has also won wider recognition. The exhibition “Stadi svengaa” (Swinging Helsinki), launched in 1993, attracted more than 25,000 visitors in Helsinki. Two years later we arranged the Eugen Malmstén event to commemorate the great musician and band leader, and in 1996 we produced a cabaret to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Finnish jazz. In 2002, Music Archive Finland created a themed exhibition for the centenary of the birth of Georg Malmstén, the beloved singer (and brother of Eugen).

Hector© Magnus Löfving

Our current exhibition, “The Swinging History of Finnish Jazz”, presents pictures and anecdotes of special moments of Finnish jazz over the years. The exhibition has toured Finland and elsewhere since 1999.

Music archive Finland also arranges commemorative events and concerts, and is administrator of the Erik Lindström Fund that supports young musicians.

Academic cooperation

Metro-tytötMusic Archive Finland

Music archive Finland is a scholarly centre in support of research and teaching. As popular music studies today are interdisciplinary, our collections serve an array of research fields such as musicology, ethnomusicology, social sciences, media studies, cultural studies, history, linguistics and economics. Our materials and expertise have been used widely in teaching, too, ranging from secondary-school teaching to courses at the Finnish Virtual University and other universities.

While our archive focuses on Finnish popular music, we also feel strongly about the need to cooperate with other archives and universities outside Finland. We have, for example, co-arranged jazz conferences with Nordic partners. One successful area of international cooperation is digitization. In 2004–2008, Music Archive Finland was a partner in the TAPE project (Training for Audiovisual Preservation in Europe) during which we co-published reports on audiovisual archives in Europe and a manual of digitization for analogue open reel tapes. See further on the Digitization page.

Challenges of Popular Music

Seppo Kantonen© Jouni Eerola

We started as a jazz archive and keep busy with jazz and its history, but during the recent years other popular musics have increasingly gained ground in our work and collections. We treat jazz, blues, rock, pop, hiphop, Finnish “iskelmä”, dance music, folk and other genres and styles on equal terms.

The diversity of popular music is a great challenge to our archive. It is hard to define the very concept of “popular music”! It carries a range of meanings in different times and places. Music archive Finland understands popular music as primarily meant for the mass market, as music that is made, stored, distributed and experienced through modern electronic technology and characterized by a diversity of styles and, generally, by strong rhythmical elements.

Ville Herrala & Verneri Pohjola© Jouni Eerola

Also, the amount of archived material is vast – and, for various reasons, it will get keep growing in the years ahead. In the field of cultural industries, popular music is already the world’s biggest business. The creation, distribution and consumption of music have become more democratic during the past decades. Furthermore, modern pop and rock already have a relatively long history inspiring a flow of different kinds of memories, stories and products. For example, in 1990, when the archive was established, Finnish publishers issued seven books on popular music. In 2007, the number of titles was 54.

The resources of Music archive Finland are limited, and we may have to restrict our work accordingly. On the other hand, the role of popular music as part of the national heritage is increasing in Finland as elsewhere. This is why the Music archive Finland, the only major archive of its kind in Finland, is crucial in dealing with all kinds of documents of popular music.