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OK:KO is headed abroad music first


OK:KO performs at Finnish Night of the Karton club on the Jazzahead Saturday. This young band is one of the four Finnish groups performing in Bremen. OK:KO´s new album Syrtti, released in February 2019, was nicely received in Finland. Aiming abroad would be the next natural step for the band – or more like a slide, as Okko Saastamoinen descripes the band´s journey.

Members of OK:KO, Okko Saastamoinen, Mikael Saastamoinen, Jarno Tikka and Toomas Keski-Säntti, are maybe the youngest of Finns in Jazzahead this year and there for the first time. Jazzahead is still quite unknown territory for them but luckily the band is headed abroad with their best side, the music, first. “I’m really looking forward for the gig. I hope that there would be lots of people there and our music would do the talking”, says the band leading drummer Okko Saastamoinen.

Besides of OK:KO, also Verneri Pohjola and Katu Kaiku will perform at the Karton Club. OK:KO was chosen to be one of the three Karton performers after they contacted the person producing the Finnish event. “We contacted Janika, who plans the Karton Club, together with couple of other bands”, Saastamoinen sheds light into the process. “We had a meeting when she was in Finland, and after a while we heard that the gig is going to happen.” The band leaves for Bremen with a thrilling, yet promising mood. “Performing outside our own ‘home court’ brings excitement and energy to the gig”, Saastamoinen knows from his past experiences. This far all the gigs played abroad have been well organized and very good altogether.

For OK:KO, internationalization has been happening quite spontaneously. “We haven´t really executed an ‘internationalisation plan’ of any sort. Rather than a step, it has propably been more like a slide to the future”, Saastamoinen reflects. “I sure hope that visibility and gigs abroad are going to increase every year, but I still wish to perform in Finland as well”. Saastamoinen dreams of getting more foothold in other Nordic countries in the future, for instance. But first things first: now the band is headed to German, first to Bremen for the Jazzahead weekend, and after couple of weeks they will perform in Berlin. “After these upcoming weeks we might have a better view if German markets would be for us.”

OK:KO’s international career started with the Young Nordic Jazz Comets competition in 2016, which brought them to their first gig abroad at the Umeå Jazz Festival. Besides the competition, also a recording label have been a great support for their journey abroad. We Jazz Records, which released the Syrtti album, has helped them significantly. “For example, I have been given advice for Jazzahead. Because We Jazz have been distributing our album abroad, we have gotten visibility internationally. In addition to that, the upcoming gigs in Berlin and Tallinn are organized by We Jazz”, Okko explains. Surely all the other support they have gotten in Finland now helps them internationally as well – but foremost they are going forward because of their uncompromising belief in what they are doing and music that draws audience’s attention.

Saastamoinen talks about his roots willingly. He was born in the northern town of Haapavesi. The band is easily localized to Finland and Haapavesi, not only because of the new album name “Syrtti”, but also because of how they sound and what is their artist image like. “I guess that´s the biggest part of my own identity and therefore its audible and visible in our music as well. I think it is a great strength on the stage when we are able to be honest and proud of our roots. It lets the audience come closer to us and our music.” Saastamoinen thinks that connection to their own roots and authenticity is an asset also when performing abroad: “Certainly we are going to be our true selves also on the international stages.”

OK:KO performs on Saturday 27.4. at the Karton Club in Bremen. During the upcoming weeks the band are seen also in Berlin at We Jazz Label Nights on 9.5. and in Tallinn at We Jazz Tallinn on 11.5.

Jazzahead! is held 25.-28.4.2019 in Bremen, Germany. Jazzahead! consists music trade fair and high-quality showcase programme. This year Jazzahead! is attended by about 30 delegates from Finland, such as jazz artists and representatives of record labels and agencies. Finnish talent is heard in the official showcase programme: Verneri Pohjola performs both in Sunna Gunlaugs´ and Janning Truman 6 ensembles. In addition to that, Verneri Pohjola, Katu Kaiku and OK:KO perform in the Finnish night of Karton club on Saturday. Also Aki Rissanen Trio will perform in KITO Club the same night.


Written by Jenni Köykkä
Photo by Pietari Purovaara