MANALA :: Rent Romus & Heikki Koskinen
photos: Peter B Kaars, painting top: 9.15.18-II-art-by-Charles-Smith
Manala which means netherworld in the Finnish language is a journey representing a deep cultural rediscovery through the lens of music. Co-written and produced by composers Rent Romus and Heikki Koskinen, this original suite of music weaves the elements of jazz, neo traditional Finnish, and free improvisation inspired by the mythic prose, rune poetry, and songs of cultural liberation and identity found in the Finnish epic known as the Kalevala and folklore of Finno-Ugric cultural shamanic traditions.
Like most ethnic Finnish who migrated to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century fleeing the impact of the crumbling Russian Empire, Romus' family was strongly encouraged to shed their identity through name, language and/or cultural practices. Research, mentoring, and music has given him the tools needed to reclaim a larger portion of his lost identity culminating within the last thirty years and manifesting into an ongoing research project of which Manala is part.
In Finnish and Fino-Ugric cultural mythology Manala is the metaphysical netherworld of the dead of the Kalevala or Jabmeaivo in Sami native traditions. It is a place opposite of the land of the living, a place that holds answer to the mysteries of the universe for the Noaidde or Noita (shaman). 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 journey to Manala turned out to be not any random knocking on the gates of Tuonela (Underworld), but more of a journey into the depths of the mind, somewhere very deep at the bottom of the soul, and down to the quintessential roots...The music itself had a vision and power. At its finest there was even something reminiscent of the magic of Charles Mingus, while at its wildest it approached Albert Ayler's fire & fury." - Manala review by Jyri Ojala 2019 Karjalainen, Joensuu Finland
"The abundant music played in "Manala" is not only the personal roots of Romus and Koskinen, but a journey that traces the primitive memory of the birth of all humanity. That is the true pleasure of visiting the underworld of music." -Takeshi Goda Takeda, JazzTokyo
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.