Hope across the borders
Berlin-based guitar-player and composer Kalle Kalima and his manager Hannele Kalske share their thoughts on jazz music and industry in the two countries.
Hannele Kalske is one of those powerhouses that define the Finnish ‘sisu’: Throughout the centuries our strong-minded and determined women have been the cornerstone of our culture and development. After over 30 years’ career in the Finnish and international finance markets, law and business field, she changed her course and set her mind to a completely new venture. Today Kalske works as a successful entrepreneur in jazz industry, where her experience and business skills are a big asset.
- The opportunity for a career-change presented itself all of a sudden, and I didn't even think, I just instinctively grabbed it. It has required a great deal of work to study a new branch, but with an innate spirit of entrepreneurship and a passion for art, I think I have done pretty well so far, laughs Hannele Kalske, the CEO and agent in her agency Astra Music.
Across the borders
Astra Music was founded in 2012 to represent guitarrist Kalle Kalima, and Kalima's numerous bands. Kalle Kalima is a Finnish musician, who has lived and worked in Berlin for years now. Many of Kalima's projects challenge the traditional definition of jazz, and the members of the ensembles usually come from or live in different countries. One could easily describe Kalima's music as international, unlimited, unprohibited even. From an agent's point of view, this is the kind of music and professionalism that doesn't need promotional gimmicks or giveaways to be filling live venues and record players all over the world: There's no need to invent restrictive origin labels like "Scandinavian jazz". On the other hand when one enters the big leagues, the competition is hard, and it gets harder to make a living. Making and promoting Finnish humppa in Finland is easier than doing the same thing with avant-garde jazz in Europe. Kalske has learned this by heart:
- In addition to top artistry and solid management, you need to have a sense of business to survive in the competition of today. As an agent you see all the challenges that the artists face every day. I can't help but to salute those jazz musicians who decide to, or are forced to do everything on their own. In Finland that seems to be more of a rule than exception.
Kalle Kalima is lucky to have an agent-manager to handle the back office and he can focus on his art. He has held residency in Berlin for quite a while now and thoroughly explored the German jazz scene.
- In Germany they have the second-biggest national music market, right after the US, can you believe?, the guitarrist knows.
- Even if jazz makes only a small chunk of that apfelstrudel, there are plenty of eaters. It’s so great to see fellow Finns getting exposure there too. Especially Iiro Rantala has made a beautiful breakthrough in the German stages. Also the local record labels like ACT, Ozella, Enja and Traumton have released a lot of Finnish music over the recent years. Actually ACT is releasing my upcoming recording with the international quartet A Novel of Anomaly next year. In addition to my Tenors of Kalma ensemble, also this quartet will perform at jazzahead! on Saturday, Kalima celebrates.
Many of Kalima’s projects bring European musicians together. A Novel of Anomaly features musicians from Switzerland and Italy, and Tenors of Kalma is a trio of long-term friends and colleagues in Finland. How does one maintain these collaborations that have thousands of miles between the creative minds?
- Of course it’s a juggle to find time together when you live in different cities. We work periodically. For example with Tenors of Kalma we spent some intense days at Jimi Tenor’s practice space, and whenever a good idea bursted out, we recorded it right away. We have such a strong connection with Jimi and Joonas Riippa since we know each others for almost two decades back. The communication flows freely and it’s really an instinctive process. jazzahead! is the perfect opportunity to get together, play our tunes to a wide variety of audiences and also get inspired by all the great music out there. We are currently working on our next album with Jimi and Joonas, so we try to keep our ears and minds open all the time, says Kalima.
From start to Finnish
Both, manager Kalske and composer-guitarist Kalima speak highly of their Finnish roots. Many times you hear how small of a niche jazz music is in Finland, and how marginalized the genre is commercially, even though we have some of the best education in Finland and a long history of remarkable and internationally acclaimed musicians and composers. Is there any advantages of being a Finn in the jazz business?
- The Germans have a positive image of the Finns in general, and that has made my work a lot easier here. I have also been blessed with a great deal of support from Finland throughout my career. It’s unfortunate for the German musicians, that they don’t have the same kind of grant and support structures and opportunities here, tells Kalima.
Hannele Kalske represents an artist who lives and works abroad, and she has a businesswoman’s point of view on the matter:
- Jazz artists in Finland should unite. Now the musicians are struggling with learning all the aspects of the business, and it sometimes reflects poorly on their art, as it’s not in the center anymore. I think bigger getting jazz represented in the bigger labels, managements and agencies who have more leverage, might be one possible solution for bringing more Finnish talent to international spotlight. The culture funding could also be directed to artists hiring a representative of their choice. We are now working on a project called Jazz Finland International, which is a functional network of jazz professionals who are not only promoting their own music, but the goal is to pull everyone up the ladder as we climb, says Kalske, and adds that she personally appreciates the Finnish nature and society as her fountainhead.
- Beautiful nature, clean air and down-to-earth people make a great and safe nest for building a good life. The equal society that is based on soft values like education and healthcare, fosters also the appreciation of culture and arts. The further the world runs on capital, the more we need hope. And hope is exactly what art brings to us in its purest.
Tenors of Kalma live at Finnish Night, Kulturzentrum Schlachthof on April 27 at 10.50p
A Novel of Anomaly live at European Night, Hall 7.1 on April 28 at 10.40p
Meet Hannele Kalske, Astra Music Ltd at the Finnish stand 6B40 or contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. +358 (0)44 353 3113
Bands and Artists: Tenors of Kalma, Kalle Kalima's Long Winding Road, Klima Kalima, Kalle Kalima & K – 18, Johnny La Marama, Pentasonic and Kuu!
Text: Raisa Siivola
Photo: Maarit Kytöharju