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The best kept secret in music


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Täällä tanssivi/Here we dance 2006


Feeling a bit camera shy


Rhythmic. Harmonious. Organic.

Those words can best describe the sound of Kaiku, a New York-based collective of talented and experienced Finnish and American musicians. It is a fascinating mix of spirited Finnish singing and world music instrumentation. The result is something that is unlike anything else performed and heard in New York's ever eclectic-sounding music scene.

Finnish singers Jaana Kantola and Paula Jaakkola first met four years ago through a mutual friend who wanted to start a female vocal group to sing Finnish folk songs. It was the beginning of a long-running and productive musical partnership.

In the summer of 2004 as part of an ensemble called Akkapella, Jaana and Paula participated in the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Music Under New York project auditions. Buoyed by the success of those auditions, the two decided to form a group with local musicians. "We were looking for a sound," remembers Jaana about that period. "'Who are we?' 'What do we want?'" Through several connections, Jaana and Paula hooked up with cellist Christopher Hoffman, accordionist Rob Curto, percussionist Scott Kettner and Erja Vettenranta, who sang with the ensemble for a year. In order to enhance the sound of Kaiku (translated as 'echo') bassist Mike Savino joined the group in January 2006.

Kaiku's lyrics come from traditional Finnish folk songs and epic poems and stories; they are arranged to fit within the song structure. Jaana and Paula, however, didn't want Kaiku to be another strictly all-Finnish band. "I think that's our charm," Paula says about the group's unique personnel. "There are tons of Finnish folk music bands who know the styles and traditions. In our case, we have three musicians who are from different cultures. We are striving for something worldly and transcultural."

There is no argument, however, that Kaiku's signature sound comes from the two female singers with their soul stirring voices. Both Jaana and Paula cite their friendship, background, and geography as reasons for their chemistry. "Finnish women are kind of known for having strong character," says Jaana. "Also the fact that here we are in a different continent, so we have very different ways of relating to each other. It has molded us into something that brings along certain togetherness."

Already drawing glowing raves from the Daily News and Isaiah Sheffer of Symphony Space, Kaiku are regulars on the local music scene, having performed at Symphony Space, Celebrate Brooklyn outdoor festival, Knitting Factory, Joe's Pub, BAMcafé, Satalla, Bowery Poetry Club, Cornelia Street Café, and The Living Room. The group has appeared on WB 11 news and WBAI-FM and WFMU radio. Kaiku was also a part of a live taping for BBC Scotland radio, and in addition to their own release they can be heard on the world music compilation album NYC Subway, Songs From The Underground.

In October 2005 Kaiku was chosen to be the National Performer of the Year 2006 by Finlandia Foundation. With the recognition that has come along with the title Kaiku is organizing a tour in the Midwest in the summer 2006.

Kaiku will continue playing to a wider international audience, especially for people who may be hearing Finnish music for the first time. "We're very proud of the music we are doing because we consider ourselves cultural ambassadors," says Paula. "We're taking our culture forward to people who might not know much about it."