Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble

Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble

 Helsinki, Central Finland, FIN

" Weather Report meets Fela, you might say. They are good enough."

"..playing is extremely tight, energetic and even virtuoso."
-Finnish Music Quarterly

Boiling Benin meets Frozen Finland. A soulful yet powerful combination of West-African Traditional Rhythms and Afro- American musical heritage put together with Finnish open mindedness, virtuoso jazz chops and a hint of urban touch.


" Weather Report meets Fela, you might say. They are good enough."

This is how Rick Sanders of fRoots magazine wrote about Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble. With their debut album Beaucoup de Piment (a lot of pepper) released in May 2013, the band demonstrated they are a sharp and intelligent gang of musicians able to produce arrangements that are complex but at the same time clean and powerful. Drawing inspiration from the roots of Afrobeat, they use their jazz experience to expand on Voodoo rhythms with a modern urban touch.Their live performances put Finland under fire for the whole summer 2013.

HCE's story is rather unique. In january 2012 three musicians from Helsinki, Finland followed their dream and travelled to Benin, West-Africa. They hooked up with virtuoso singer/percussionist Nol Sazonou, called up the best musicians from the country's biggest city Cotonou, and so was the first edition of Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble born.

During the period of six weeks, the group went through some incredible adventures in the homeland of Voodoo, rehearsed daily, played three shows and recorded an album. Later the album was completed and mixed in Finland, and it's release on May 7th 2013 was followed by a tour of 19 concerts and plenty of acclaiming press.

HCE's music is all written by the band's guitarist Janne Halonen and percussionist/ lead vocalist Nol Sazonou. The writing process started as early as 2009, when Halonen first travelled to Benin to learn the traditional rhythms of Voodoo. For three years Halonen and Sazonou bounced ideas and searched for the right people for their project.

When Sazonou visited Finland in 2011, drummer Juha Rsnen and bassist Sampo Risikil joined the project. The quartet became the core of HCE, and it was to be strengthened with local super musicians, whether the band operated on European or African soil. The current and for now established line up of HCE is listed below.

Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble impresses it's listener not only with intense moods and joyful yet virtuoso performances, but also with fresh and carefully crafted songwriting. As composers Sazonou and Halonen are enough far apart to make the cocktail something completely new, yet they both possess enough musicianship to complement each other's works.

In January 2014 the dynamic duo sat down once again for 3 weeks on the sunny beaches of Grand-Popo, and finalized their sketches for the 2nd record. This summer the band will be on the road again, expanding  their travels from Finland to Sweden, Denmark and all the way down to Italy. By the end of the year, a 2nd record release is also to be expected.


Single: "The Gong" feat. Axl Smith, release date: 15th of April 2013. digitally.

CD: "Beaucoup de Piment!", release date: 7th of May 2013. CD, Digital

Set List

The Homecoming

The Boat

"Welcoming song" -Noel Solo 


Just in Time

Noel's drum solo

Chop'n Chop


Who's to Blame


Ile Baba Va

Agamafa na Hede



The Gong