KAIKU
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KAIKU

Band World Pop

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"Finnish neofolk sextet Kaiku can pull off a bossa nova with real authority, but its strongest asset is the Finnish heritage of lead singers Jaana Kantola and Paula Jaakkola. Their plangent modal harmonies and the fact that they sing almost entirely in their native tongue make the group unique. "
— Bob Bannister

- Time Out NY 2007



In its ambition to encompass everything, the term world music is maddeningly generic, but Kaiku’s specific strengths and clear aesthetic vision carve out a memorable niche. The first album by this Finnish-American ensemble ranged from Nordic folk to tango, sung almost entirely in Finnish. Usva, its second CD, focuses the group’s style musically while broadening it linguistically: This time, Jaana Kantola and Paula Jaakkola borrow poems from James Joyce and Amy Lowell, commission translations into French and Spanish, and jump between Finnish and English from one verse to the next. Their songwriting has been sharpened, and less glossy production better captures their live appeal.
The two leaders concentrate on singing, so their sound is significantly shaped by their choice of collaborators, who’ve played with everyone from Antony and the Johnsons to Yo-Yo Ma. Uri Sharlin’s accordion and Greg Heffernan’s cello predominate, while John Hadfield’s drumming is so impeccable, you scarcely notice it’s there. The compositions are jazzy with Latin flourishes, at times verging on too polite, but an unusual chord voicing or tart vocal harmony typically saves the day.
—Bob Bannister

- Time Out NY 2010


New York-based vocalists Jaana Kantola and Paula Jaakkola, above, record as Kaiku (”echo”), mostly singing in Finnish, the vowel-rich tongue of their icy, Northern European homeland, right. (Fully 25% of Finland rests within the Arctic Circle. In winter, at the country’s most boreal point, the cold season lasts seven months, and void of sunrises for 51 days.)

But if your stereotype of Scandinavia is frigid weather; clean, efficient municipalities; socialized medicine; and people whose dispositions are as nippy as the climate, Kaiku’s new, self-produced album, Usva, may send you for a delightfully ecstatic loop.

Usva—the word means “mist,” evoking the hazy confusion of unrequited love—layers lush soundscapes that more evoke a warm Mediterranean sun than a distant, gray, Nordic light.

Artfully blending accordion, cello, piano, and bass on compositions like “Stay Your Hand,” “Illusions,” and the title track, Jaakola and Kantola, above, consider their ardent, ”organic sound,” not some Culture Day demo but, “a mixture of rhythmic world music and traditional Finnish songs.” “Sure we come from Finland,” Kantola notes, “but our music is more like via Finland.” - Harry Allen WBAI 99.5FM


Kantola and Jaakkola sing beautifully.
Although they harmonize, the effect is of two voices that whimsically twine around each other in an effortless playful improvisation, like two dance partners who know each other very well - spinning, turning, separating, and meeting again.

The over all sound has an open feel to it - there are spaces in the fabric of the music.
This has the effect of making me relax, breathe deeply, and dance a few steps. I like it.

- Oren Tikkanen - New World Finn


Discography

Kaiku EP 2004
Täällä tanssivi/Here we dance 2006
Usva 2010

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Bio

“…delicate, witty, fierce and warm by turns and sometimes all at once.” -AllMusic.com “…listening to something this beautiful, it’s easy to believe that myths are rooted in truth.” Popmatters.com
Kaiku is a world music ensemble based in New York City, led by two Finnish vocalists – Paula Jaakkola and Jaana Kantola. Their warm and romantic voices lend themselves gracefully to the breezy, vocal pop harmonies that are sung primarily in Finnish. Although recently, vocals in English with swirls of Spanish and French can be heard on several tracks, a natural reflection of their adopted home, New York City. Kaiku’s repertoire is an eclectic array of original songs that engage and enrapture the listener’s imagination. Seductive beats ride along with resourceful collaborations of accordion, cello, piano and bass played by established New York musicians. Their music has inspired adulations and glowing reviews from, among others, Bob Bannister of Time Out New York.
Jaana and Paula founded Kaiku in the fall of 2004 as a continuation of their two year stint with a Finnish a cappella group called Akkapella. Their blend of refined talent and sheer entertainment earned them performances at established venues such as The Detroit Institute of the Arts, Celebrate Brooklyn and New York City’s Symphony Space, where they were commissioned to write music to the poems of James Joyce by the Artistic
Director, Isaiah Sheffer. Finlandia Foundation named Kaiku “National Performer of the Year” in 2006 and they were the subject of a 2007 documentary, Tosi Tarina: Kaiku New Yorkista (True Story: Kaiku from New York)– which broadcast during prime time television in their native Finland. In the summer of 2008 Jaana and Paula toured Finland for a month, receiving notable attention from local media. Thanks to the sponsorship by the Council Of Arts of Finland, they will return for another tour of Finland, summer 2010.
Paula and Jaana have made Kaiku a band in constant evolution. Their journey first took root in Finnish folk with their debut album Täällä tanssivi (2006). Their second release Usva (2010) is a departure, moving towards sophisticated world pop. Kaiku fans look forward to live performances, where they know they’ll be swept up with the unexpected, be it a passage of contemplative soliloquies or a foot-bouncing, world fusion beat.
These two founders deliver an unabashed performance and easily interact with their audience, riffing off each other musically or each other’s sense of humor. Their success can be partially attributed to their distinctive personalities: Jaana Kantola is inspired by classical and Latin music and has a strong choral background having started singing at the age of 8. After moving to New York, she studied Jazz at City College of New York under teachers such as Sheila Jordan. Jaana sang with luminaries such as Barry Harris and Max Roach, and had a longstanding gig at Grace Church in Harlem.
Paula Jaakkola, on the other hand, grew up on pop rock, sang in rock bands and studied Ethnomusicology in Finland until she moved to the U.S. While in New York City, she continued her years of musical studies at the New School University in Jazz Vocals under the guidance of Reggie Workman and Jane Ira Bloom. Both Jaana and Paula released their own solo albums before devoting themselves to Kaiku. Kaiku plays regularly in New York City, and is part of the downtown/Brooklyn music scene. Kaiku is a band that truly gives its all at live shows. For a chance to attend a Kaiku show in New York City and beyond, visit them at: www.kaikumusic.com or www.myspace.com/kaiku.
Usva album is available at www.cdbaby.com and iTunes