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The Future of Jazz is Here

Janne Halonen

Photo: Victor Diaz Lamich
The leader of the Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble, Janne Halonen traveled to Benin in 2009 to learn about the music of the West African country. After teaming up with virtuoso singer/percussionist Noel Saizonou, he learned about the culture surrounding Voodoo and its musical rhythms, and infused them into new musical pieces.

The rhythms from Benin are all related to Voodoo. Like all religions, Voodoo is an extremely structured religion, and so is the music there. All of the rhythms and all of the grooves have a purpose. They are all linked to certain ceremonies: this ceremony, at this time of the year, for this reason, you play this rhythm.

The sound is new. It hasn’t been commercialized or simplified. It’s a little difficult to grasp, but on the other hand you realize that there’s something very specific going on there.

In the ’80s, when people were hearing Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” did they think that this was going to be the signature sound of the ‘80s? When you are living it, you do not necessarily realize what you are a part of until you look back.

The post-millennium time, through the internet revolution, has brought challenges to musicians and the music industry that they haven’t faced before. So I guess those are the questions people are really struggling with: how are people going to get by in the future, how are they going to make a living, what are the income models for future musicians?

Jacob Collier and Snarky Puppy are defining musicians for what’s going on at the moment. They have this big internet presence, and they really use the technology to get their message by. These are smart people, and they have really figured out their way, how to navigate in this new environment.

Musically, I think jazz is more like an attitude than a genre. I guess it’s been like that always. Obviously, to get that attitude, you need to know something about the tradition and you need to have an adequate skill set. But more or less, I think today’s jazz has to do with the attitude behind the music-making.

I’m really happy to see that there are still boundaries to push and still new frontiers to find. I think there’s a lot of interesting things going on in the world of jazz, but the traditionalists might not call it jazz anymore.