Jazzy tunes and dreamy images in the cold war era: launching Finnish jazziskelmä on-screen


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a highly original mixture of modern jazz, popular and dance music occurred in Finland: the jazziskelmä. It was successful in record sales and in giving a new image to local popular music publicity. Its image was predominantly jazzy and female: the stars associated with jazziskelmä were almost exclusively young vocalists who frequently featured in movies, television shows and advertising. In this article, we discuss jazziskelmä and its launch on the silver screen and on television, in the context of the cold war. Finland’s geopolitical position and relation to the Soviet Union was complex. This was reflected in all areas of politics and culture. In the early days of the cold war, many young urban Finns favoured North American music trends, especially modern and cool West-coast jazz, effectively marketed in post-war Europe as an example of a democratic art form. The visual imagery was multifaceted, and there was already an intimation of the upcoming, strongly western audio-visual form of the music video. However, we do not regard the professionals who positioned their work musically closer to the western world as being intentionally engaged in political activity or propaganda. Many of them certainly had a genuine appreciation of jazz, and part of the charm of this music stemmed from its western origins, its freshness and unforeseeable nature. Primarily, the integration of jazz into the local popular music culture demonstrated a tendency to lean towards the exotic, modern and exciting North America.


Film music; jazziskelmä; jazz-pop; modern jazz; music in advertising; television music.


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