In this day and age, there is nothing thrilling or novel in calling someone a trailblazer. However, some of us were mapping new areas long before it became fashionable or something to aspire to. One such singular visionary is composer and improviser Sakari Kukko. The attribute of a trailblazer was still far from suffering its inflation when he started to utilize ancient folk melodies from all over the globe as starting points for fiery free-form jams.
To all intents and purposes, this alchemical process continues to this day. The work begun with groundbreaking group Piirpauke in the early 1970s has taken Kukko far from his native Kuhmo in the South Eastern woodlands of Finland. One of the most rewarding collaborations came in the 1980s when the reedsman and pianist joined Étoile de Dakar, led by mbalax superstar Youssou N’Dour.
Ever since those times, Western African music has informed much of Kukko’s output and Afro Chamber & Strings is no different. Flanked by his trusted percussionist Ismaila Sané, a native of Senegal who has resided in Finland since the turn of the Millennium, Kukko and his band and a string quartet led by top violinist Mikko-Ville Luolajan Mikkola make Kainuu – Casamance a plethoric and distinctive offering. This is true fusion from someone who was making world music before the term was invented.
”Thinking outside of the box” is a concept many will never fully understand – let alone dare to investigate. Like his actions prove, the 67-year old Sakari Kukko is a mad scientist and master musician who simply can’t switch this mode off. As far as trailblazing is concerned, he is right up there with valiant peers and pioneers like John McLaughlin and Chick Corea.
SAKARI KUKKO AFRO CHAMBER & STRINGS: Kainuu – Casamance