MANALA :: Rent Romus & Heikki Koskinen
photos: Peter B Kaars, painting top: 9.15.18-II-art-by-Charles-Smith
Like most ethnic Finnish immigrants who came to the United States at the turn of the century fleeing the impact of the fall of the Russian Empire, Romus' family was strongly encouraged to shed their identity through name, language and/or cultural practices upon entering. Research, mentoring, and music has given him the tools needed to reclaim a larger portion of his lost cultural identity culminating within the last thirty years.
Part of an ongoing music research project started by Romus in early 2002 and working with mentor and fellow composer/musician Heikki Koskinen, Manala (netherworld) is a representation of deep cultural rediscovery through the lens of music.
Manala weaves the elements of jazz, traditional folk, and free improvisation inspired by the mythic prose, poetry, and songs of cultural liberation and identity found in the rune poems of the Kalevala as well as folklore of Finno-Ugric cultural shamanic traditions into an original suite of music.
The concept of Manala also known as Tuonela is the metaphysical netherworld of the dead in the Finnish Kalevala or Jabmeaivo in Sami traditions. It is a place opposite of the land of the living, a place that contains answers to mysteries of the universe for the Noaidde or Noita (shaman) in Fino-Ugric cultures. It can be very dangerous for a living person to journey there, and only the most experienced may successfully emerge from its dark waters richer in knowledge and song for the experience.
The debut performance May 25 & 26, 2019 of Manala was made possible in part
by Suomi-Seura-ry Grants for Foreign Societies awarded by the Ministry of Education and Culture Helsinki Finland.