Pohoda 2019 will also host the Finnish-Beninese band Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble. The band mixes afrobeat, voodoo rhythm, jazz and funky. This Afro-Nordic collaboration has already captivated fRoots, worldmusic central and many other world music-oriented portals and charts. Their second album, Fire, Sweat & Pastis, became a folk recording of the year in Finland, and last year they released their third album, We Are Together, with which they also appeared at Womex.
The story of the Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble began ten years ago. Finnish guitarist Janne Halonenan, an admirer of Lionel Loueke (a guitarist playing with Herbie Hancock) left for residence in Benin to learn the basics of woodoo rhythm. While in Benin, he became acquainted with Noel Saizonou, a top-notch singer, saxophonist and percussionist. For the next three years, they were exchanging ideas until the Finnish musical trio together with Janne set out for a trip to this West African state. Noel called up other musicians from Cotonou, the largest city of the country, to form the first Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble. Over the next six weeks, they played three concerts and recorded the album Beaucoup De Piment!. Later it was mixed and finished in Finland. It was then released in May 2013 and presented on tour. The album was followed by Fire, Sweat & Pastis in 2015 which became a folk record of the year in Finland. Last year they released the album We Are Together and said about it: "Despite all our differences, at the end of the day we are all together on this planet." At the same time, the band says that the greatest obstacle to their cooperation is not geographical distance or cultural diversity, but bureaucracy.
Most of the songs are composed by guitarist Janne Halonen and singer Noel Saizona. The Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble not only attract listeners with their intense moods and joyful but also virtuoso performances but also with fresh and carefully created songwriting. The distance of the main authors is a guarantee of a completely new music cocktail, which works perfectly thanks to the musical maturity of all participants.