Guitarist Kalle Kalima keeps himself busy with a number of different projects. The end of the year will also see his 50th anniversary concerts in Helsinki and Berlin. Before that, he will bring his band Kuu! to Tampere and Finland for the first time.
It’s going well, thanks. I’ve just released an album together with singer Andreas Schaerer and bassist Tim Lefebvre, and we also had a concert in Saalfelden in August. At the Beethoven Festival in Bonn, we performed Didon et Enée, remembered, my musical theatre composition, with the Belgian baroque orchestra B’Rock in concert form.
Now I’m off to Bochum to play with the Basel Symphony Orchestra and the NDR Bigband. I will be soloist for a new composition by Michael Wertmüller, which will be performed next week. Altogether several things and interesting projects overlapping, so it’s going well. I’m very happy to be coming to Tampere with Kuu! in November. It’s one of the highlights of this autumn.
You are now 49 years old and have lived in Berlin for most of your adult life. Judging by your productivity, Germany, or at least Berlin, has been good to you?
Berlin and Germany have been really good to me. I visited as an exchange student from Sibelius Academy 25 years ago, and for 23 years I have been living here. When I moved, I was still fairly raw as a musician, and here is where I grew up and learned. Berlin’s jazz culture and the diverse cultural scene in general have shaped me and taught me my craft. Through Berlin’s originality I have perhaps also found my own voice. There are so many musicians here that you really have to find your own voice.
You have a dozen bands of your own and since 2003 you have made over twenty albums. How is Kuu! different from all the others, what makes it special? Or are all your bands connected in some deeper way — do they ultimately follow the same continuum?
Kuu! has been one of my favourite projects because of the insane amount of talent and creativity of the band members. Jelena Kuljić is an extraordinary singer and performer — she is actually also an actress. Jelena’s extraordinary youth in Serbia and Bosnia and the harsh conditions from which she comes are reflected in such originality but also in her strength and fierceness. Likewise, drummer Christian Lillinger has developed his own sound, his own playing technique and his own world. Frank Möbus is a great guitarist, who is known for many projects, including Der Rote Bereich.
With Kuu! we managed to make our own mix of jazz music. It was behind many tours and development of gigs.Behind work, but fruitful work.I am especially happy that we can go now to Tampere to show what we have achieved.
You have composed several commissioned works for classical ensembles, including for string trio and string orchestra. Your most ambitious classical work to date is the above-mentioned Didon et Enée, remembered, premiered by the Opéra national de Lyon in spring 2019, which you composed for chamber orchestra, chamber choir, four singers and yourself, an improvising electric guitarist. Do you believe that this would be another career path for you in the future?
Yes, it feels a bit like that. It already started a little earlier, when I began playing music by composers such as Eero Hämeenniemi, Sven-Ingo Koch and Michael Wertmüller, which I will play the very next week. I have also started composing while I have been getting to know these orchestras — for example, I composed a work called Louhi for Ensemble Resonans in Hamburg. For the Finnish Jousia Ensemble I composed a piece called Kata Heian Nidan, which Pekka Kuusisto also performed in the US. So yes, this has slowly become a world of its own.
Then this request came from Lyon, and it was massive — 40 minutes of new music for orchestra and choir. For me it was a big challenge, and there was also the idea of using the themes from Henry Purcell‘s opera Dido and Aeneas against it, with it and for it. It was also made into a film version with Antwerp Opera. It’s quite a nice and successful documentary.
In this piece I did at the Beethoven Festival in Bonn a couple of weeks ago, there was the same chamber orchestra as in Antwerp, and now they asked me to compose new music. So far, it’s always worked out this way: when I have done something, new requests always came along with it. But I’m also trying to make sure that I don’t do too many different things at the same time. In fact, that has already happened. This is the kind of scene that always thrives on novelty and new projects. That’s why there’s such a tendency.
What’s going to happen?
Lampen, which is my duo with Tatu Rönkkö, has a new album coming out next year. I’m really happy about that. Many of my old bands are still around. My trio Klima Kalima, which has been around for 23 years, is planning, composing and rehearsing a new album. At least a European tour with Andreas Schaerer and Tim Lefebvre is coming up in November, and the collaboration with Andreas Schaerer will certainly continue. Apart from that, I’m composing a series for my electric guitar right now. And at the end of the year, when I turn 50, I will celebrate it with two anniversary concerts, one in Helsinki and one in Berlin.
Saturday 4 November 2023 at 14.00