Finnish jazz companies join forces to break international markets

The Finns may not talk too much or enjoy a team huddle, but when they do, they mean business. 
The well-educated European jazz fans already praise some of the Finnish artists, such as pianist-composer Iro Haarla, pianist Iiro Rantala, or guitar-wizard Raoul Björkenheim. Even more people know the game-changing projects of the Finnish jazz-prog rock history, such as Pekka Pohjola Group and the Sound & Fury workshops of the late Edward Vesala. One might also have heard of the jazz education in Finland, and the various, quirky jazz festivals for every taste. Soon we’ll have a bunch of new names to add to the list. 
Finland might not yet be known for its flourishing jazz industry abroad, but a group of Finnish companies are determined to change that. In 2016 the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture granted support to a development project called Jazz Finland International. Currently there are fifteen companies who make the hub of the industry’s new rise. The companies mostly fly solo, working on their own projects, but they also support and consult one another. Education and mentoring are also a part of the project, as professional management, agency and promotion are a new branch in the field of jazz in Finland. 
Last year Finland had the pleasure to co-host the Jazzahead! fair in Bremen, and you might have run into some of these names there. If you didn’t - next year you will. 
Aki Rissanen Music’s next venture is an international release of pianist Aki Rissanen’s audiovisual solo project Omniverk, which features a unique Omniwerk instrument that sounds like a lute and a viola da gamba orchestra. Annamaija Music Company represents a whole lot of Finnish jazz and avantgarde acts, such as Oddarrang, Kari Ikonen Trio, Verneri Pohjola and Elifantree. Their current and upcoming target areas include Germany, the UK and Japan.
Astra Music focuses on building the Berlin-based guitarist Kalle Kalima’s career, mainly in Central Europe. Kalima’s collaboration with another Finnish agency Vapaat Äänet (Free sounds and voices) supports their projects in France. Boulder Music Helsinki has their mind set to North America. American top musicians are collaborating with saxophonist Joakim Berghäll on the upcoming Dialogues V album. 
Creatika Agency’s top bill consists of Verneri Pohjola Group, Dalindèo and Mopo, who all have found a solid base abroad, and are now strengthening their grounds in German speaking countries. Creatika works together with the aforementioned Annamaija Music Company regarding Verneri Pohjola’s outreach to Japan. Diamond T works for and with the stylish saxophonist Timo Lassy and his quintet, who celebrate their 10-year anniversary as Timo Lassy Band.  
Eclipse Music is a record label, whose catalogue includes familiar names, like Elifantree, Esa Pietilä’s Liberty Ship, Aki Rissanen & Aleatoric Trio and Raoul Björkenheim Triad. Elifantree’s new album has them touring in Germany and in Japan in 2018. EK-Productions is Eero Koivistoinen’s own company, which promotes the saxophonist-composer’s big band compositions and concert productions in Japan and in the USA. 
Hub Productions release a new crossover piece to the Central European market. Singer Reija Lang’s and saxophonist Esa Pietilä’s StageDive Suite mixes improvised and composed music with lyrical storytelling tradition. Jazz HUG company seeks for recording and distribution deals in the UK and in German-speaking countries for the likes of Jussi Fredriksson Trio, Nina Mya and vibraphonist Severi Pyysalo
Joonas Haavisto Productions has pianist Haavisto and his trio on tour in Japan in the spring of 2018. Maetkatargets Jarmo Saari Republic's new Mercy & Mayhem album to the German audiences. No Problem! Music’s gift to the Northern American world music & jazz audiences in 2018 is Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble, a Beninese-Finnish octet, who make Weather Report dance with Fela Kuti. 
Vapaat Äänet (Free sounds and voices) has their roots deep in the culture exchange between Finland and France. The agency extends their flow of improvising artistry to Germany, Switzerland and Austria and back. Vapaat äänet core line-up includes Klima Kalima, Mikko Innanen 10+ and Iro Haarla Trio. 
We Jazz is a record label, We Jazz is a festival, We Jazz is a brand that stands for quality. The Helsinki-based company has made strong partnerships in Germany, programming the Scope festival in Berlin together with XJazz. In the UK the collaboration has taken flight with such labels as Edition Records, who also release a lot of Finnish music, i.e. Aki Rissanen, Oddarrang and Verneri Pohjola. 
The Jazz Finland International project is managed by Jazz Finland and coordinated by Annamaija Music Company. For further information, please contact Ami Vuorinen, the Executive Manager of Jazz Finland, at ami.vuorinen (at) 
Photo: Verneri Pohjola by Dave Stapleton