Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble embark on a Canadian tour

Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble, the 16-legged groove machine who we covered in a larger feature article last year, are heading on a Canadian tour in July. We met up with the band’s guitarist and co-songwriter Janne Halonen and asked him about the tour and the band’s future plans.

How did the tour happen?

"The whole thing came about three years ago in Womex 2013, which was held at Cardiff. My bandmate Sampo (Riskilä, bass) bumped into TD Sunfest’s boss and we introduced Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble to him. Since then they have been keeping track on what we do. At last year’s Womex (Budapest) the Sunfest people told us that they want us to perform in 2016. We also met up with many other Canadians at Womex 2015, which helped us book the tour. The scene in Canada is great, because once you've booked your first gig, others get interested too."

"So now we have a few big festivals, like Montreal Jazz Fest, TD Sunfest in London, Ontario and Festival d’Eté in Quebec, along with a couple other Canadian shows. I’m still a bit nervous about one thing: our African members haven’t received their visas yet."

What are your plans after Canada?

"After Canada we’re going to Germany for two different festivals and Norway for one more. We’re also planning to release a live album, which was recorded at Savoy theatre in Helsinki last year. And eventually there will be new studio album too."

Tell us about the German colloboration that you did recently.

"In May 2016 we played in Hannover together with Havana Salsa Big Band, in an event called Masala Festival. We flew over there to practice with them two days before the festival. That resulted in one set together with Havana Salsa Big Band as well as one of our own on the festival. The reaction we got from the crowd was really amazing!"

Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble international tour dates 2016:

July 7th
Montreal Jazz Fest (Montreal, Canada)

July 8th
Sunfest (London / Ontario, Canada)

July 9th
Sunfest (London / Ontario, Canada)

July 10th
Kultrún Festival (Kitchener / Ontario, Canada)

July 12th
Lula Lounge (Toronto, Canada)

July 13th
Festival d’Eté de Quebec (Quebec, Canada)

July 30th
Burg Herzberg Festival (Herzberg, Germany)

August 10th
Varanger Festivalen (Vadso, Norway)

August 20th
Folklorefest (Krefeld, Germany)