Who do we think we are - the Finnishness in Finnish-American songs

Juha Niemelä
1999 Finnish Yearbook of Population Research  
From the last part o f the 19th century, Finnish immigrants in North Am erica w ere in volved in a variety o f cultural activities. Among the many interests the immigrants had were music and songs, which were a natural part o f their existence. My intention here is to give a b rie f overview o f this area o f tradition which is less known in every way. I will provide an idea o f the Finnish-American identity described in the songs o f Finns in America between the years 1900 and 1930. Sometimes
more » ... nd 1930. Sometimes only written by hand, published in a small booklet o r printed by a Finnish-American organization as a songbook, o r sung on majorlabel records, in these songs there can still be found traces o f the individual mind and group voice o f these immigrants. The identity itself has a double meaning and is very well suited as a fo cu s when discussing these songs. A s we all know, one meaning o f identity is sam eness and another is distinctiveness, where the latter seem s to refer to individual identity and the form er has to do with a sense o f commonality between several persons who constitute a group.' The song texts in question often more o r less follo w these given identity patterns. I am simply trying to fin d an answer to the follow ing question: What was the identity that an individual Finn o r Finns as a group wanted to manifest to other ethnic groups during the "golden y ea rs" o f Finnish-American culture in the United States. Naturally, one ca n 't avoid the effect o f acculturation which I will discuss briefly while commenting on certain Finnish-American songs.
doi:10.23979/fypr.44939 fatcat:mxzzyckz2vgfzinxklh2mvcpie