Our home town Oulu is the “capital of northern Finland” and the sixth most populous city in the whole country. Still, it’s a small town of about 140 000 inhabitants at the edge of the peripheria. Even the city center ends where the sea starts. And most of the year the sea is on ice and when it’s not, it’s filled with seagulls and drunks, floating aroud (just kidding… a bit). Eventhough it’s nice to live in a city by the sea, it also makes the climate quite challenging as the slightest little breeze feels like a dozen icy daggers, piercing through your clothes. But what do we do here when it gets too cold?
The answer: We organize open air festivals.
One, and maybe the most exotic one of these is called Poro Feria (=Reindeer Feria). It’s a surprising mixture of the Spanish feria tradition (flamenco, colourful outfits, general fun) AND the northernmost culture of Europe, the Sami culture (yoik music, colourful outfits, reindeer, general fun). The festival is held at the Oulu market place when the winter is at its coldest and the icy breeze from the sea just keeps on blowing.
You might think we’re crazy: Why would you have a flamenco event in the middle of the winter – outside? What do the southernmost and the northernmost cultures of Europe have in common?
Must have something to it, since Poro Feria was actually marked as the 3rd most important event (in the world) for the traveller by the biggest finnish travel magazine Mondo. Can’t really blame them. I’ve been involved with this arctic madness since the planning of the event, five or so years ago, and am waiting for this years’ party on 29.-30.1. again. Having your toes numb and ears frozen isn’t such a big prise to pay for seeing two great cultures really meet at such surreal surroundings. At last year’s Poro Feria I had the priviledge to perform with one of the greatest Sami yoik artists, Ulla Pirttijärvi. A traditional sequiriya turned into a yoik and a yoik merged into the rythm of an alegría. Damn right it was freezing on the stage, but it was also kinda hot to be able to perform such cultural fusion, there at the edge of our frozen sea.
P.S: There’s also a video from last year.