Otherworld Ensemble is a joint project of Finnish jazz legend Heikki “Mike” Koskinen and Finnish-American saxophonist and composer Rent Romus. Their music is rooted in the tradition of Finno-Ugric mytho-poetic poems, performed by some of Finland’s top creative musicians.
The inspiration for the compositions dates back to the time when Romus was on tour in Denmark in the mid-1990s, working with musicians who combined their own cultural traditions with African-American music. Romus realised that the music he grew up with could serve as a starting point and a tool to explore his own lost heritage. The themes of “Other World” refer to a heritage found deep in the subconscious, which the band interprets from different perspectives through the lens of improvisation, traditional music and composition.
The music consists of composed and arranged themes and improvised interludes inspired by Kalevala themes, folk songs of the northern regions, animistic elements and jazz. The instrumental arrangements range in size from small to large, with vocal parts added, and are complemented by traditional instruments such as kantele, bells, handmade wind instruments and flutes. The music springs from these thematic elements by fusing them together, referring abstractly to Finnish and American aesthetics.
In 2023, the Otherworld Ensemble will perform music from the “Itkuja” series, drawing inspiration from the healing music of laments of the northern regions and elements of life-pulsating jazz. Vocal artist and professor emeritus Heikki Laitinen, Rent Romus and Heikki Koskinen are joined by multi-instrumentalist Otto Eskelinen, bassist Eero Tikkanen and percussionist Arwi Lind.