The International Musical Marvel That is the Finnish Ievan Polkka

The International Musical Marvel That is the Finnish Ievan Polkka

Monday, 20 September, 2021

What do you get when you combine a traditional Finnish song with lyrics about an all-night dance party, a dialect from eastern Finland, and a Turkish street musician? An internet sensation and inescapable earworm. Sorry and you’re welcome.

The Ievan pollka — in Savo Finnish, ‘Eva’s Polka’ — is a traditional polka tune from Finland with lyrics from Finnish composer and lyricist Eino Kettunen. In 1928, he penned the tale of a young woman named Ieva (a.k.a., Eva) who sneaks out to dance the polka all night long.


The song is sung in Eastern Savonian, a dialect of Finnish spoken in Eastern Finland, close to the Russian border. (Not to be confused with Northern or Southern Savonian, nor the Middle Savonlinna.)

We were first introduced to the catchy tune via this video. It’s an irresistible marriage of Vibing Cat and the drumming of Bilal Göregen. You can watch the cat-less video of Bilal here for the extended street mix of his interpretation of Ievan Pollka.

Bilal Göregen is a blind Turkish street musician. Before being paired with an internet cat by a stranger, he was best known for his performance on O Ses Türkiye, a Turkish reality singing competition similar to The Voice.

But back to the Ievan Pollka for three minutes and 21 seconds. If you prefer your remixes remixed, this version brings in a full band and dancers, thanks to The Kiffness, an electronic act from Cape Town, South Africa. (Can we interest you in the 1-hour remix?)

Before we move on to other performances of Ievan Pollka: We don’t know your life, but just in case you need it, here’s a 10-hour remix of Vibing Cat and Bilal.


The Finnish Versions

Here are the original lyrics, translated into English for those of you who don’t speak Savo Finnish:

  • The sound of a polka drifted from my neighbor’s
  • And set my feet a-tapping oh!
  • Ieva’s mother had her eye on her daughter but
  • Ieva she managed to fool her, you know.
  • ‘Cause who’s going to listen to mother saying no
  • When we’re all busy dancing to and fro!

  • Ieva was smiling, the fiddle it was wailing
  • As people crowded round to wish her luck.
  • Everyone was hot but it didn’t seem to bother
  • The handsome young man, the dashing buck.
  • ‘Cause who’s going to mind a drop of sweat
  • When he’s all busy dancing to and fro!

  • Ieva’s mother she shut herself away
  • In her own quiet room to hum a hymn.
  • Leaving our hero to have a spot of fun
  • In a neighbor’s house when the lights are dim.
  • ‘Cause what does it matter what the old folks say
  • When you’re all busy dancing to and fro!

  • When the music stopped then the real fun began
  • And that’s when the laddie fooled around.
  • When he took her home, when the dancing was over
  • Her mother angrily waiting they found.
  • But I said to her, Ieva, now don’t you weep
  • And we’ll soon be dancing to and fro!

  • I said to her mother now stop that noise
  • Or I won’t be responsible for what I do.
  • If you go quietly and stay in your room
  • You won’t get hurt while your daughter I woo.
  • ‘Cause this fine laddie is a wild sort of guy
  • When he’s all busy dancing to and fro!

  • One thing I tell you is you won’t trap me,
  • No, you won’t find me an easy catch.
  • Travel to the east and travel to the west but
  • Ieva and I are going to make a match.
  • ‘Cause this fine laddie ain’t the bashful sort
  • When he’s all busy dancing to and fro

Loituma: This a cappella rendition — less hip-shaking but still pleasingly percussive — is from 1996 and performed by Loituma, a Finnish quartet who won the 1997 Kaustinen Folk Music Festival (the biggest folk music and dance festival in the Nordic countries!). Also of note: Loituma’s version of the polka became a ridiculously popular ringtone.


Tuuletar: How about an all-girl version?! Say hei to Tuuletar, a vocal folk hop group named for the wind goddess of Finnish mythology. Think you don’t want to watch or listen to another Ievan Pollka video? Think again because this one has a surprise in the middle.


Slack Bird: The ‘doomy punk folk collective’ Slack Bird takes the traditional tune in a delightfully more aggressive direction with accordion and banjo. Acoustic punk rock!


Korpiklaani: And now, the big finish: the folk metal band Korpiklaani gives us the fully metal arena version we all deserve. So many black t-shirts!


Wishing you a day filled with dancing to and fro.

Top image courtesy of Mirko Macari/Shutterstock.

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