Kansanmusiikki.fi met with the group Hohka at the Helsinki Music Centre. The ensemble has recently had plenty of reasons to celebrate: the launch of their first CD entitled Puutarhautuminen, as well the best ensemble award at the NORD11 competition in Sweden.
Jazz, Humppa, Folk Music, Indie Experiments – Glowing with Originality and Diversity
Hohka’s twenty-something musicians – Meriheini Luoto(violin), Valtteri Lehto (kantele),Veikko Muikku (accordion) and Maksim Purovaara (bass) – have been playing together since 2006. They formed the ensemble while all four of them were attending the Sibelius High School. Meriheini remembers how she and Maksim put up a note at the school notice board, calling for players for a folk music band. Veikko became a member through the ad, and Valtteri joined not long afterwards. The new ensemble rehearsed independently at first, but was later tutored by Petri Ikkelä, who at the time taught folk music at the Sibelius High School.
Three of the players are currently enrolled at the Sibelius Academy, Meriheini and Valtteri in the Folk Music and Veikko in the Music Education degree programme, while Maksim is studying Comparative Religion at the Helsinki University. Whether music will be their future profession still remains to be seen. Meriheini chose to pursue folk music while still in high school. Maksim, however, points out that being a professional musician is not something he has ruled out either, even if he is currently not studying music. All four members of Hohka are involved in various musical endeavours.
According to Valtteri, “Hohka” was an interim name that stuck for the lack of a better option. It’s kind of a generic contemporary folk music title, says Maksim. “Hohka” can mean different things to different people, Veikko explains. One meaning is a type of rock that is used in the construction of fireplaces. But it can also refer to a certain glow, the movement of energy, muses Maksim. This ensemble certainly has a lot of glowing qualities.
The music of Hohka sounds fresh and incorporates small vignettes and stories, like traces from other musical cultures. The players compose all of their material themselves. Realising that their repertoire consisted exclusively of original compositions was an important milestone for the identity of the band. The way they work is that someone brings a melody and a few chords to the rehearsal and the whole group then starts to work with that material together. Some ideas evolve faster than others. Every now and then, the group also revisits their older arrangements, giving them a new twist. That’s the nature of the process, you never find the perfect arrangement, says Maksim.
The music of Hohka is not based on any of the Nordic traditions in particular, and the group prefers to avoid definitions altogether. According to Veikko, each player is constantly absorbing influences from different directions. The group can quite unabashedly borrow from other cultures or from the depths of history. The greater your awareness of tradition, the less you have to invent the wheel all over again, continues Maksim. There are fantastic things that people do all over the world.
Most people on this planet have only heard a fraction of the world’s music. By incorporating a small element from a foreign
culture into your own, you can create a whole new outlook. On the other hand, sticking strictly to tradition and creating your
own interpretations can also be very fruitful. I really like the idea of combining tradition with one’s own musical language. Our strength as an ensemble lies very much in our different backgrounds.
The players break into a smile when talking about winning the best ensemble award at theNORD11 competition. The contest was full of great ensembles and it feels really good to think that the jury liked us the best, Valtteri sums it up. Our energetic and crazy stage performance must have been our trump card, Maksim continues. Hohka has seen the whole range of performance venues, all the way from acoustic arenas to amplified venues, from libraries to pubs, from traditional dances at the local Youth Society to a ship’s cabinet that was too low for the double bass to stand upright. Hohka is prepared for anything, even to conquer the world.
Hohka has released their first album titled Puutarhautuminen, produced by Roope Aarnio. The tracks on the album were selected from the ensemble’s output from the past five years.
you can listen it also at Spotify!
More info about the band: www.hohka.net
Interview: Kansanmusiikki.fi/Pauliina Pajala
Translation: Hanna-Mari Lathan