photo by Sakari Puhakka, Laulumiehet Helsinki
Otherworld Ensemble is a joint project lead by Heikki "Mike" Koskinen and Rent Romus exploring the music of jazz and improvisation inspired by the Arctic diaspora featuring a powerhouse of some of the most creative musicians on the Finnish music scene. The first elements of this project took hold after Romus returned home from touring in Denmark in the mid-nineties sparking exploration into the rich music and culture of his lost Finnish heritage. As a third generation Finnish American Rent Romus has spent over a decade searching deep into his lost roots piecing together stories from his family, photos of family members, and researching the depths of Finnish cultural history, the land of his grandmothers. The “Other World” thematic references this lost heritage found deep in the “Body of Memory” embedded in Romus’ musical psyche refracted through the multi-faceted lens of improvisation and postmodern jazz. In 2016 Finnish musician, composer and educator Heikki "Mike" Koskinen joined Romus in crafting the repertoire for Otherworld. The music consists of original compositions and improvised transitions inspired by the epic rune poems of the Kalevala, northern regional folk songs, and animistic elements. The ensemble arrangements feature voice, double bass, saxophones, brass and percussion, augmented by traditional instruments such as kantele, bells, handmade reed instruments, and overtone flutes. The music utilizes these elements while embedded structurally in ways that abstractly reference the Northern cultural thematic.