Life's Blood Ensemble Lords of Outland Actual/Actual Otherworld Ensemble
Itkuja Suite Manala Road to Aacheron The Otherworld Cycle
MANALA :: Rent Romus & Heikki Koskinen
photos: Peter B Kaars, painting top: 9.15.18-II-art-by-Charles-Smith

Heikki Koskinen photo by Peter B KaarsManala which means netherworld in the Finnish language is a journey representing a deep cultural rediscovery through the lens of music. Co-written and produced by composers Rent Romus and Heikki Koskinen, this original suite of music weaves the elements of jazz, neo traditional Finnish, and free improvisation inspired by the mythic prose, rune poetry, and songs of cultural liberation and identity found in the Finnish epic known as the Kalevala and folklore of Finno-Ugric cultural shamanic traditions.
Rent Romus photo by Peter B KaarsLike most ethnic Finnish who migrated to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century fleeing the impact of the crumbling Russian Empire, Romus' family was strongly encouraged to shed their identity through name, language and/or cultural practices. Research, mentoring, and music has given him the tools needed to reclaim a larger portion of his lost identity culminating within the last thirty years and manifesting into an ongoing research project of which Manala is part.  

In Finnish and Fino-Ugric cultural mythology Manala is the metaphysical netherworld of the dead of the Kalevala or Jabmeaivo in Sami native traditions. It is a place opposite of the land of the living, a place that holds answer to the mysteries of the universe for the Noaidde or Noita (shaman). It can be very dangerous for a living person to journey there, and only the most experienced may successfully emerge from its dark waters richer in knowledge and song for the experience.

"The journey to Manala turned out to be not any random knocking on the gates of Tuonela (Underworld), but more of a journey into the depths of the mind, somewhere very deep at the bottom of the soul, and down to the quintessential roots...The music itself had a vision and power. At its finest there was even something reminiscent of the magic of Charles Mingus, while at its wildest it approached Albert Ayler's fire & fury." - Manala review by Jyri Ojala 2019 Karjalainen, Joensuu Finland

"The abundant music played in "Manala" is not only the personal roots of Romus and Koskinen, but a journey that traces the primitive memory of the birth of all humanity. That is the true pleasure of visiting the underworld of music." -Takeshi Goda Takeda, JazzTokyo

  • Photo Gallery May 25-26, 2019 Berkeley debut @ Finnish Heritage Society, Berkeley Finnish Hall, Berkeley CA
  • Preview Manala May 25-26 debut from Memory Select

  • Performing Artists:
    Rent Romus - alto & soprano saxophones, flutes, kantele, bells Heikki Koskinen - tenor recorder, E-trumpet, flutes, kantele
    Joshua Marshall - tenor saxophone tenor & soprano saxophones, flute Gabby Fluke-Mogul - violin Tom Weeks - baritone & alto saxophones David Samas - voice, han, prepared frame drum, song stones, cocoa pod, bells, waterphone, animal calls, Aztec death whistle, water Cheryl E. Leonard - Spiny, Baby Driftwood Pipe Organ Limpet Shell Spine, bowl of sand, stone slabs, clam shells mussel shells, mobiles: (driftwood, obsidian needles, petrified wood, crab claws, shells) feathers, fish vertebrae, Japanese bowl gongs Mark Clifford - vibraphone Safa Shokrai - double bass Max Judelson - double bass Timothy Orr - drums, percussion

    Research Bibliography: - Lönnrot, Elias. The Kalevala, third edition. Cincinnati Ohio 1910 The Kalevala, A Land of Heros vol. 1&2, London 1966 The Kalevala, Epic of the Finnish People, Helsinki 1988 The Kalevala, paperback edition. Oxford 1999 - Pentikäinen, Juha. Kalevala Mythology Expanded edition, Indiana University Press, United States 1999 Shamanism and Culture, 3rd edition. Jyväskylä 2006 "The Shamanic Drum as Cognitive Map" Mythology and Cosmic Order (ed. Gothoni R., & Pentikäinen, J). Studia Fennica 32. Piesä`maki 1987. - Koskimies, August V. Itkonen, Toivo I. Inari Sami Folklore, Stories from Aanaar, revised edition by Laitinen Lea, Madison Wisconsin 2019 - Viires, Ants. The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire Tallinn 1993

    Foundation Support  
    The Spring 2020 release of Manala is made possible through the Musical Grant Program, which is administered by InterMusic SF, and supported by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and San Francisco Grants for the Arts.
    Finlandia Foundation National
    The debut performance May 25 & 26, 2019 of Manala by the Rent Romus Life's Blood Ensemble was made possible through the Grants for Cultural Projects Program, which is administered by Finlandia Foundation National.

    Suomi Seura ry
    The debut performance May 25 & 26, 2019 of Manala was made possible in part
    Suomi-Seura-ry Grants for Foreign Societies awarded by the Ministry of Education and Culture Helsinki Finland.