Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble


" Weather Report meets Fela, you might say. They are good enough." 

This is how Rick Sanders of fRoots magazine wrote about Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble. With their debut album Beaucoup de Piment (a lot of pepper) released in May 2013, the band demonstrated they are a sharp and intelligent gang of musicians able to produce arrangements that are complex but at the same time clean and powerful. Drawing inspiration from the roots of Afrobeat, they use their jazz experience to expand on Voodoo rhythms with a modern urban touch.Their live performances put Finland under fire for the whole summer 2013. 

HCE's story is rather unique. In january 2012 three musicians from Helsinki, Finland followed their dream and travelled to Benin, West-Africa. They hooked up with virtuoso singer/percussionist Noel Saizonou, called up the best musicians from the country's biggest city Cotonou, and so was the first edition of Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble born.

During the period of six weeks, the group went through some incredible adventures in the homeland of Voodoo, rehearsed daily, played three shows and recorded an album. Later the album was completed and mixed in Finland, and it's release on May 7th 2013 was followed by a tour of 19 concerts and plenty of acclaiming press.

HCE's music is all written by the band's guitarist Janne Halonen and percussionist/ lead vocalist Noel Saizonou. The writing process started as early as 2009, when Halonen first travelled to Benin to learn the traditional rhythms of Voodoo. For three years Halonen and Sazonou bounced ideas and searched for the right people for their project.

When Sazonou visited Finland in 2011, drummer Juha Raesaenen and bassist Sampo Risikilae joined the project. The quartet became the core of HCE, and it was to be strengthened with local super musicians, whether the band operated on European or African soil. The current and for now established line up of HCE is listed below.

Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble impresses it's listener not only with intense moods and joyful yet virtuoso performances, but also with fresh and carefully crafted songwriting. As composers Sazonou and Halonen are enough far apart to make the cocktail something completely new, yet they both possess enough musicianship to complement each other's works.

In January 2014 the dynamic duo sat down once again for 3 weeks on the sunny beaches of Grand-Popo, and finalized their sketches for the 2nd record. Another took place in the summer taking the band to stages of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Italy. In November the second Album "Fire, Sweat & Pastis" was released in Finland, and only few months later it received the Ethno Album of the Year award. International release of Fire, Sweat & Pastis will take place on 25th of April by German Flowfish Records. 

Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble's Live line-up: 

Noel Saizonou - vocals,percussion Janne Halonen - guitar, vocals 

 Sampo Riskilä - bass Juha Räsänen - drums           

 Menard Mponda -percussion,vocals Visa Oscar - keyboards           

 Joakim Berghäll - saxophones,vocals Mikko Pettinen - trumpet,vocals 



Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble (FIN/DY) on helsinkiläisen kitaristi Janne Halosen ja beniniläisen lyömäsoittaja/laulaja Noël Saïzonoun luotsaama kahdeksanhenkinen yhtye. Projekti sai alkunsa tammikuussa 2012, kun Halonen, rumpali Juha Räsänen ja basisti Sampo Riskilä matkustivat stipendiaateiksi suomalais-afrikkalaiseen kulttuurikeskukseen Villa Karoon, Guinean lahden rannalle, Grand-Popon kylään, Beniniin.

Kvartettia vahvistettiin vielä neljällä afrikkalaismuusikolla ja kokoonpano oli täysilukuinen.  Helmikuussa 2012 he soittivan kolme konserttia Beninissä: kaksi Cotonoussa ja yhden , Villa Karossa Grand -Popon kylässä. Menestyksekkäiden konserttien jatkoksi yhtye äänitti myös esikoisalbuminsa Beninin suurimmassa kaupungissä Cotonoussa. Kokoonpanoon liittyi Benin konserttien ja studiosessioiden ajaksi myös maahan lomailemaan saapunut räppäri/ mediapersoona Axl Smith, joka esiintyy räppärin ja toisen kirjoittajan roolissa Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemblen kappaleella "The Gong".

Kesällä 2013 yhtyeen debytti "Beaucoup De Piment!" julkaistiin Suomessa, ja yhtye teki 19 esiintymistä kattaneen kiertueen. 2014 luvassa on lisää keikkailua Suomen lisäksi ainakin Ruotsissa, Tanskassa ja Italiassa, sekä loppuvuodeseta julkaistavaksi suunniteltu toinen pitkäsoitto.  

Noël Saïzonoun ja Janne Halosen säveltämä musiikki on yhdistelmä beniniläisiä Voodoo -uskonnosta ammentavia perinnerytmejä, afrobeatia, jazzia, funkkia ja hip hoppia. 

Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemblen kokoonpano:

Janne Halonen -kitara, laulu

Noël Saïzonou -lyömäsoittimer, saksofoni, laulu

Juha Räsänen -rummut

Sampo Riskilä -basso

Visa Oscar  -kosketinsoittimet

Mikko Pettinen -trumpetti

Joakim Berghäll -saksofoni

Menard Mponda -lyömäsoittimet, laulu

Lisäksi myös Axl Smith vahvistaa bändiä muutamassa konsertissa.