Kaivama honors heritage with music

Austin Irwin

If there is a better way to celebrate ancestral roots than through music and song writing, folk duo Kaivama hasn’t heard about it.

Made up of two Finnish-American artists, Sara Pajunen and Jonathan Rundman, the duo Kaivama will be performing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10 in Jamrich 105 as another installation of the Beaumier Coffee House Series. Kaivama will be playing two 45-minute sets that will feature music from their first album and music they have recently written.

“The whole idea of the Beaumier Coffee House Series is to have people play that are from the U.P.,” said Daniel Truckey, director and curator of the Beaumier Heritage Center.

Both Pajunen and Rundman were raised in Finnish-American communities, and since then have attended many Finnish musical festivals as solo artists and together as Kaivama.

“We both realized we were Finnish-American performers,” Rundman said. “We met one another and realized we were both interested in our Finnish ancestry, and that’s when Kaivama started.”

Kaivama was chosen as the band’s name because the Finnish word “kaivaa” means “to dig or excavate,” and both Pajunen and Rundman were raised in mining towns.

The band released their debut self-titled album earlier this summer in June that featured 14 songs, seven of which were written or co-written by Pajunen and Rundman.

“I’m a Yooper,” Rundman said. “It’s always fun to come back for me. This is our second time in the U.P. The first was in Negaunee this past July.”

Rundman was born in Hancock, but grew up in Ishpeming.

“We’ve had some conventions and music festival things that have been on (other) campuses before,” Rundman said. “We’ve been on campuses quite a bit. This might be the most student-focused show.”

Rundman said, prior to Kaivama, everything he had done before had been as a singer songwriter. Rundman plays many different instruments including the guitar, pump organ and electric piano. He said that his favorite instrument is the piano and that part of his job on stage is to switch instruments.

“All my music up until now has had singing and lyrics,” Rundman said. “The big change for me is being in a band that is an instrumental band. It’s easy to connect with an audience when you’re singing; you really have to grab them when it’s only music.”

As a solo artist, Rundman’s track, “Glasses Song” was featured in a LensCrafters skit on the Ellen DeGeneres show in 2006. He was featured in an indie music playlist in the New York Times and has performed in Europe.

“I have been interested in the Upper Peninsula because it shares so many characteristics of where I’m from,” Pajunen said. “It’s a chance to interact with a lot of Finnish-Americans.”

Even though Pajunen has a degree in music and Rundman didn’t attend college, Pajunen said they make sure to arrange pieces together and put their different musical backgrounds together to get the right sound.

“Music is about sharing,” Pajunen said. “It’s about sharing what you work hard at and love. It doesn’t matter who is in the audience for me.”

Pajunen was raised in Hibbing, Minn., a town especially known for it’s Hull-Rust Mahoning Mine that has removed 1.4 billion tons of earth since 1895, creating one of the world’s largest open-pit mines, according to www.ironrange.org. Pajunen received her bachelor’s degree in music at the University of Minnesota and then received a solo studies degree at the Helsinki Conservatory of Music in Finland.

Pajunen said the majority of Finninsh immigrants came to the U.P. and Northern Minnesota.

“They came to work in the iron ore mines,” Pajunen said. “There is still a huge Finnish population in that area compared to where we are living now.”

Pajunen said she looks forward to playing in front of musicians and those studying music that may attend Saturday’s event.

Saturday’s event will be the start of a long tour Kaivama will be making that will last through winter and into spring. Rundman said their stop at NMU will put them in gear to get back on the road.

Admission is $2 for students and $5 for the general public. For more information on Saturday’s performance, call the Beaumier Heritage Center at (906) 227-3212 or email [email protected].