CD Release Concert @ The 2015 Vappu Spring May Day Festival, photo by Lenny Gonzalez
"The Otherworld Cycle...sinewy grooves...A Love Supreme's stratosphere..." - Tom Hull, jazz critic
The Otherworld Cycle is the culmination of over fourteen years of research of Finno-Ugric traditions and music. The Cycle consists of a series of new compositions and improvisations inspired by the poems of the Finnish National Epic known as the Kalavela, as well as Karelian regional folk songs, and Sami Joik song elements of the native peoples of the north. The “other world” thematic, abstractly references the lost Finnish heritage and “Body of Memory” embedded in Romus’ musical psyche refracted through the multi-faceted lens of improvisation and postmodern jazz.
The first elements of the Otherworld Cycle took hold after Romus returned home from touring in Northern Europe in the mid-nineties. His experiences lead to continued research into the rich music and culture of his roots from Finland and the surrounding regions that hold a long and mystic history dating back to the end of the last ice age. Like many Americans whose families emigrated from other parts of the world, much of the details of Romus’ cultural identity, language and traditions were lost to integration over time. As a third generation Finnish American he has spent the last fourteen years delving deep into his roots piecing together stories and photos from his family, and researching the depths of Finnish cultural history land of his grandmothers.
“The other world is a place we all carry with us. Deep inside it manifests as unknown melodies while walking down the street, a feeling of Déjà Vu for people and places we’ve never been before, and a kinship with people we’ve never known.” - Rent Romus
The Kalevala also known as the Finish National Epic tells of the mysterious worlds, heros, weddings, life, death, and the power of the Finnish spirit. The basis for the Kalevala are rune poems (runot), constructed as Karelian folk songs originally passed on through oral tradition as far back as five millennia. Much later these were documented in the 19th century by physician, botanist and linguist Elias Lönnrot. Dr. Lönnrot assembled them under the banner of the Kalevala which helped to define modern Finnish cultural national identity and shaping a path to an independent Finnish nation. Interweaving within the Kalevala are influences from the folklore of the native Northern Sami people who based on current research share a connection to early Finnish inhabitants dating as far back as eight thousand years. Musically the Sami are best known for their songs under the descriptive heading of Joik (Yoik). Unlike songs about a particular subject Joik are songs of people, objects, animals, or spirits.
"The Otherworld Cycle thus explores parallels between the oral and written sources of text and the improvised and composed practices of making music."
- Stephen Smoliar, Examiner
"...a singular synthesis of postmodern jazz and traditional Finnish music in The Otherworld Cycle, an expansive suite…"
- writer/jazz critic Andy Gilbert, Berkeleyside
"Romus has a bold sound, unmistakable sincerity and conviction." - Downbeat Magazine
Community Music Center San Francisco California USA October 25-26, 2014 photography by Charles Smith
Ron Heglin•voice Heikki Koskinen•Tenor recorder, E-trumpet, Flutes, Kantele Bob Marsh•Voice Joshua Marshall•Tenor saxophone Lisa Mezaccappa•Bass Bill Noertker•Bass Jason Hoopes•Bass Suki O'Kane•Percussion Timothy Orr•Drums Mark Pino•Percussion Crystal Pascucci•Cello Mika Pontecorvo•Flutes Shanna Sordahl•Cello Rent Romus•Music Director, Alto saxophones, Kantele, Flutes, Bells