Cover story Misc

Flow Festival – A Journey into Sound

{mosimage}This summer Finnish music lovers have been treated to an unparalleled slew of world class bands in more off-center genres. Helsinki's very own urban music festival Flow was definitely a culmination of this streak, boasting a promising lineup of artists from cutting edge electronica to vocal jazz. Practically the only thing missing was anything mainstream or middle of the road.


Since its humble beginnings as an annual series of club nights, Flow has profiled itself as a music festival for those with an eclectic and contemporary taste. But since it has grown into a big open-air event it has also drawn recurrent complaints of poor arrangements. To be sure, most of the people were there for the music, and the festival attracted a bare minimum of hangers-around. But with equal certainty, if the voluminous lineup with overlapping performances did not necessitate a pick-and-choose approach, the sheer impossibility of moving around in the area did.


Rarely have I seen such poorly organized people flows (ironically), such unnecessary bottlenecks, and such bathroom queues stretching off into eternity. While the two makeshift club venues were pulled off well with nice industrial-chic atmosphere, it was damn near impossible to get in for the first hour after the doors opened. And having the festival catered by a fancy restaurant might sound like the perfect idea for an event likely to attract the tragically hip. But those also include bohemian types with less cash to throw around, and lack of low-cost nutrition was a frequently overheard bitching point.


But despite obvious shortcomings, the music and the spirit of enjoying it made the festival a success. Altogether 22,000 people found their way to the old Suvilahti gas plant, attracted by the veritable smorgasbord of interesting (and fashionable) performers.





Friday evening kicked off with Jamie Lidell, a UK producer-turned-soul singer. His antics were amusing, but ultimately lacked the necessary hooks to heat up the crowd. He was followed on the main stage by Norway's soft-as-fleece Kings of Convenience. Their bittersweet laments were at first lost on the crowd of philistines gathered at the back, whose incessant chatter betrayed their lack of interest in the subtleties of the band's songcraft.


Fortunately the duo stepped up the pace towards the end with an added viola and bass kicking in, and for the last three or four songs they had the audience eating from the palm of their hand. It became very clear from that performance, what the role division is between the two: brown-haired Eirik Glambek Bøe is the quiet sensitive type, while bespectacled Erlend Øye is the fun-loving aloof type (with an uncanny ability to imitate a trumpet, apparently).




The other main event on Friday evening was Iceland's Múm, who provided an equally subdued but wondrous experience. On record their fairy-tale folktronica relies heavily on floaty ambient soundscapes and electronic buzzes and clicks, but in a live setting the rhythmic and dramatic aspects of their music came to the fore. Finnish percussionist Samuli Kosminen did an excellent job replicating many of the glitchy and crackly rhythm elements heard on Múm's records.


Performing with all the playful naivety of a nursery full of fairies, the band thoroughly charmed at least the army of indie pop geeks amassing front of the stage. But such a trippy experience was no doubt less effective towards the back, and the main stage could've used a more party-friendly performer to top up Friday's lineup. 

The sound in vogue in electronic music right now seems to be something of an offshoot of the electroclash (whatever that was) trend from a few years ago, with dominant retro samples and synthesizers and punky shouts for vocals. This scene was well represented at this year’s Flow, at least judging from the scores of kids dressed in combinations of neon and black. Finland’s juvenile delinquent duo Jesse and girlie squad Le Corpse Mince de Francoise heated things up in the smaller tent stage through the day, while the main stage features such soft and gentle performers.


After Múm had closed the day on the main stage, a definite promise of Friday night mayhem was in the air as the crowd oozed its way to the smaller tent stage to prepare for one of this year's most talked-about newcomers, Canadian electro duo Crystal Castles. But Crystal Castles' old-school computer game samples are apparently incredibly difficult to replicate on stage, for the show was a full 45 minutes late, presumably because of technical problems. Meanwhile the audience, who clearly numbered more than the small stage could take, were left holding their breath packed like sardines. Sadly, this reporter must admit that about 40 minutes into the wait I gave up and left, grumbling something about nothing being worth this cr*p. According to eyewitness accounts the band did eventually appear on stage and played a gripping set of five or six songs with fierce energy, before stepping down as swiftly as they came. 






Saturday dawned rainy and grey, but none of the music lovers seemed to mind too much. The festival area was packed, with the day sold out and a series of promising performances ahead. Moving around was even harder than Friday, and it felt like a good idea to park oneself in the clearing around the main stage and forget any foolish dreams about shuttling between stages. One of the day’s most anticipated artists was French pop eccentric Sebastian Tellier, whose show was advertised as an – ahem! – erotically charged experience. Tracks from Tellier’s rather explicitly  titled new album Sexuality promised a lot, as did his outfit of pink hobo-pants and sparkly jacket in sexy burgundy. However, the drizzle-drenched audience was left rather cold by Tellier’s orthodox synth-pop, and instead of the promised tantric sexual meditation we got some bland guitar masturbation. If the audience was moistened more by the rain than Tellier, party-friendly Brazilian electro-pop group CSS (short for Cansei de Ser Sexy, or “tired of being sexy”) wrote a different story.


With the rain finally giving up, frontwoman Lovefoxxx climbed on stage in a Hawaii-print catsuit and beat the crowd into shape. Evidently there’s a lot of love between CSS and their Finnish fans, testified by the crowd’s reaction to the song Left Behind which mentions Helsinki no less than three times. While some snobs might have found relying on fireworks to provide the final masterstroke a sign of weak musical content, the confetti-shower provided by CSS' effects department was definitely called for, and added to the carnevalesque feel of the show. The Roots closed Saturday on the main stage. With over 15 years of experience and eight albums of organic hip hop under their belt, the band provided a surefire riot. It is not every day you see an ocean of people busting moves all the way back at the mixing booth. One song fluidly merged into another, and at times turned into protracted jams on a single theme.


Regardless, the energy level was kept high throughout the 1.5 hour show, with no unnecessary self-indulgent solos or aimlessly wandering jams. The party was set to continue in club Voimala next to the main stage, but the DJ performers turned out rather disappointing. Brooklyn-based sound system Massive B did play some fine reggae tunes, unfortunately only in occasional 20 second bursts. Every few seconds they would mute the music, shout out some slogans, and – if the music was any good – most likely change the track again. This not only made dancing pretty much impossible, but also felt akin to something else premature (and equally disappointing). I say, play some damn music and keep your paws off the mute switch!  The final performer was advertised as one of the must-see events of the festival. I couldn’t tell you why. DJ Funk’s name certainly promised more than what he delivered: some run-of-the mill smutty, unfunny ghetto house. The man’s apparently a luminary of the genre. I shudder at the thought of this being the cutting edge of club music.






Sunday was the laid back day, with smooth jazz and light pop on the menu. Kicking up a tight jam session was the now near-legendary Flow mainstay Five Corners Quintet, with drummer Teppo Mäkynen stumbling through some of the summer’s funniest song introductions. They were followed on the main stage by Señor Coconut’s humorous computerized mambo versions of recognizable pop gems. Meanwhile, Stockholm-residing Norwegian native Ane Brun made a bunch of new friends with her passionate girl+guitar folk songs. I predict she’ll be back to Finland sooner or later, judging by the expression on her face when the first roaring applause bellowed out in the tent stage. A personal highpoint of the whole festival was without a doubt living legend Martha Reeves, who had the massive crowd dancing to some worn out Motown standards like they were the freshest thing out there. Although her voice is not what it once was, she performed like a true entertainment professional with over 50 years of experience. Reeves and The Vandellas did not provide the most interesting sound experience of the weekend, but certainly one of the most fun ones. Despite some weariness in her voice and appearance, Reeves kept up an amusing banter with the crowd and seemed to enjoy her time on stage. As the sun went down the feeling of an impending end to the three day party crept in.


{mosimage}But events like this must go out with a bang, and late addition to the roster, Australian synth-popsters Cut Copy were there to light the fuse. Within the blink of an eye they had beat the crowd into a dancing frenzy.  a blend of artificial sounds from the past two decades, a stock of sing-along-able melodies, and enough flare to make the gas plant parking lot feel like a proper stadium. Their music is far from revolutionary, and perhaps not even that contemporary, but it's pure well-executed pop –  catchy and infectious. A perfect Sunday night closing act. 


The festival weekend provided so many fantastic musical experiences it’s hard to imagine another Finnish festival to measure up to it. On the other hand, the lineup was highly eclectic, and it was at times hard to imagine if there was a collecting theme to it. And, while the time and place – mid-August in an old industrial compound – has its atmospheric perks, it does have some disadvantages compared to festivals held in more natural surroundings, not least the set-up of people flows and green areas for sitting around. Having the festival area in the middle of the city is a great idea, but unfortunately organizers blinded by greed did everything they could to keep people from slipping outside to eat and drink.  


Next year Suvilahti won’t be an option anymore, so we shall have to see where Flow will land next. Let’s hope the organizers continue to learn from previous experiences. The idea of having club venues inside the festival area is definitely a good one, and hopefully they will continue to bring in DJ performers as well. In terms of artistic quality, Flow has every chance of becoming the Finnish equivalent to Sweden’s Accelerator festival.


Photos by Vilhem Strösjöm

Interviews Music

A quick q&a with Martti Vainaa

Vainaa & Sallitut Aineet
. This pop band went big with the song Pelimies.
Even The Smurfs covered this hit. Moving towards a disco direction, the band
released last May a new single, Toinen Nainen, and prepares a new album for
this autumn.

What's the
background of the band? Where did you guys meet and come together as
a group?

Max is from
Jyväskylä, which is also the place where this band was formed. The others
have spent their early years in Pieksämäki. They actually have known each
other for many years before this band started in 2001 as a trio. The first
three members were Max, Dan and Dick. Lazy and Wolf joined finally in 2005.

When and
where was the band's first gig?

On the 20th
of May 2001.

What was it like to hear your song on the radio for the first time?

We felt
like singing along. Not! But close.

Since our
readers are mainly non-Finns can you explain/translate the band's name
for us? 

It's easy.
The name is: The Late Martin And The Legal Substances.

One of the
big questions many Finnish bands face is deciding whether to 
sing in
Finnish or English. What made the band decide to sing in Finnish
as opposed
to English?

We sing
stuff that is so down to earth so it's got to be the native caveman
language, Finnish. Even though Max writes some of our songs first in

So, you are
currently in the studio and working on a new album. What can fans expect
of the new single/album? Are you moving in a new direction?

It is going
to be more dance and more pop, but also more rock. What can we say?
Hope you like it. The single is called Toinen nainen and it's in
stores since May. The album release is in autumn.

What can
you tell us about your hit song Pelimies?

They are
still playing it in restaurants and clubs, and that's cool. It is a
sporty song with a hint of night and lovelife.

What has
been the effect of your success with the song Pelimies on the band?

We got a
record deal and some special fans because of it.

What has
been the highlight of the band's career so far?

"Onnellinen nyt" tour during which we were welded together as a

What's it
like to have The Smurfs cover your hit song Pelimies?

It's an

what are the band's plans for the coming months? Touring?

We are
currently in the studio, but we'll make just enough touring to keep us in shape
for autumn.


Name: Max
                                                 Name: Lazy

17th October in Jyväskylä                               Born: 14th March in Pieksämäki

Vocals                                                 Instrument:

Any Former
Bands: Duo Väkisin                                Any Former
Bands: About a dozen bands in childhood

Floorball, music, running                            Hobbies:
Running, reading and radio


Name: Dick
                                                 Name: Dan

11th February in Pieksämäaki                          Born 22nd February in Pieksämäki

Keyboards                                            Instrument:

Any Former
Bands: So many                                    Any Former
Bands: Several (currently also Portrait of Beyond)

Hobbies: Texas Hold'em, jogging,
floorball, reading    Hobbies:
Agriculture, taekwondo, languages, history


Name: Wolf

Born: 22nd July in Pieksämäki 


Any Former
Bands: Aikuiset Naiset, Pikku Enkeli

Outdoor activities, music, internet, Pro Evolution Soccer










Concerts Music

Metal veterans look back

{mosimage}Metallica, the elder statesmen of trash metal, misters Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett
and Trujillo, put up a solid show at
Helsinki Olympic Stadium, the second to last gig of their Sick of the Studio
'07 tour. Once again the middle-aged metal gods proved their mastery of
machine-gun-riffs and face-melting licks in the face of a worshipping crowd of
metalheads. Hard core fans and casual enthusiasts each got their fill from a
set which combined the best parts of Metallica's long career: the early days'
trash metal genius of staccato riffs and breakneck transitions, and the more
mainstream metal from 1991's Black Album


The band seemed to be in good spirits and appeared happy to
be playing older songs. Fan favourites from the past dominated the setlist,
only a few post-Black Album songs were played, and none from 2003's St. Anger. Instead, the first  three albums were well represented. Rob
Trujillo, who wasn't around when most of the songs were first composed, seemes
to have reclaimed his place in the ranks of the Metal Militia. Following Trujillo's
bass solo the band payed homage to deceased original bassist Cliff Burton by
launching into Orion, a meandering
instrumental bash-a-thon written by Burton. The main portion of the set finished
off with the crowd chanting to a thunderous Master
of Puppets, followed by a raging Whiplash.
The band  returned to deliver the
necessary crowd-pleasers from Sad But
True to One
, this time with added
fireworks and pyrotechnics to boot. Cheap tricks, sure, but who cares, they
worked. With Enter Sandman out of the
way, the band came back once more to play Am
I Evil?
and finally obliterated the venue for good with Seek and Destroy.

It's good to see Metallica at ease with their past and
performing with such energy. With a set leaning towards their early career,
they sounded – in a good way – like they might as well have performed in a
dingy basement club. Still, mr. Hetfield is a enough of a showman to grab
an  audience, and he has the skill to
bring out the dramatic arc in a byzantine metal-oddyssey. While the concert
offered nothing really new, it was an entertaining and well executed
cross-section of the career of one of the most important metal bands ever.

On a side note, certain Finnish tabloids have been following
HIM's ordeals as Metallica's
warm-up act, and apparently for a reason. They were just all wrong for the
situation. Sandwiched between first opener Diablo's
aggressive piledriver metal and the colossal main act, HIM's synth-heavy and
melodic rock seemed completely out of place. The band's poor performance didn't
help either, or the fact that a large portion of the audience was still queuing
to the stadium during the opening acts. Then again, it was hardly a total
disaster: at least people applauded politely after every song.

 This show and all the shows of the tour are available for purchase and download at: 



15 July 2007 – Olympic Stadium, Helsinki 

Creeping Death
The Four Horsemen
Kirk Doodle #1
Ride The Lightning
Disposable Heroes
Kirk Doodle #2
The Unforgiven
And Justice for All
The Memory Remains
No Leaf Clover
Rob Doodle
Fade to Black
Master Of Puppets
Kirk Doodle #3
Sad But True
Kirk Doodle #4
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman
Am I Evil?
Seek and Destroy

Concerts Music

They Might Be Giants (On Stage)

If Rubik were merely preceded by their reputation it would be almost impossible to live up to the expectations, but in their case it's also a matter of word-of-mouth, a solid debut album, Bad Conscience Patrol, and a kick-ass single, City And The Streets, which singer Artturi Taira believed was what drew most of the people to Tavastia. What ever their reasons for being there, the audience showed no sign of being let down. Instead, the band picked the crowd up instantly and wrapped them in a carpt of sounds and moods until the very end, which eventually came all too soon. For such a young band Rubik has quite a lot of experience and a long history together, as  their sure-handed playing, and in the ease and passion with which they throw themselves into the songs. While on album form they may at times come across slightly dry and academic, there's no trace of that on stage. 

There's a dynamic in Rubik's music that comes across even stronger live, as move from pounding a mallet to smothering a whisper with surprising ease. While Rubik on their debut album rely on rich arrangements to lift their angular and slightly hysterical prog-pop above the rest, their live sound seems no less lush and diverse. The band has grasped the importance of icing on the cake. The mesmerizing mood changes were emphasised by some very nice lighting effects and at times the combined effect was enough to transcend the walls of the club: looking up, you almost expected to see a blanket of stars and not the blackened ventilation pipes, or an approaching balloon! As a less successful gimmick some Rubik-balloons were floating around over the audience, but they soon turned from a nice visual touch to an annoyance. 

Judging from the starry-eyed mob gathered at Tavastia, Rubik have certainly found their audience in Finland. On stage they come across as an even bigger band than they perhaps actually are, which has nothing to do with cocksure arrogance, but wells from a firm belief in doing their own thing. Go see them live, you'll be rewarded.

Concerts Music

Resistance was futile

Ladytron pioneered during the early 21st century electroclash boom, but has prevailed while many others have given up. The Liverpudlian foursome is fronted by two cutting edge entertainment units, Mira Aroyo, a Bulgarian import, and Helen Marnie. The males, Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu, stay in the shadows and concentrate on knob-twiddling and as of late, guitar maltreatment.  Their 2001 debut album 604 laid the groundwork with its cool, detached female vocals and vintage 1980 sounds coupled with fuzzy glam/punk for street cred. It was followed by the darker, more honed Light And Magic in 2002. For the next three years the band toured and worked on their latest, Witching Hour, which was released in 2005 and featured a matured, slightly more mainstream sound. The crossover from pure electronica to a broader pop sound has admittedly boosted Ladytron's popularity and songs from Witching Hour were received with much enthusiasm. But at times the new tour line-up with added bass and drums proved problematic with older songs: some of the innovative beats were drowned by the drummer's heavy-handed treatment of his kit. The impassively sexy cult hit Seventeen suffered especially, since its trademark bouncy drum machine loops were replaced by a monotonic thumping. On the other hand the added instruments did fatten the sound and worked fine for the most part.  In terms of visual style Ladytron has always been a fascinating mix of socialist uniformity, robotics and 80's futurism. The band has since switched uniforms and gender-concealing haircuts to sexier kimonos and the two frontwomen are taking some steps away from lurking behind their Korg synthesisers. Not much movement took place on stage though, but the lights and background visuals were atmospheric enough. The most lyrical moments were undoubtedly a chilling rendition of Soft Power, with its dystopian lyrics (we're not sleeping at the wheel / the wheel is turning the machine / that kills / for us…) echoing in the dark, or the dismal techno anthem Fighting In Built Areas, with Mira's Bulgarian vocals sounding about as warm and human as a dentist's drill. Aside from sending shivers down your spine the Ladytron apparatus also managed to compel most of the club to twist and shout, especially to older, more punky tunes such as the irresistible Playgirl. And after all, underneath the clinical, unfeeling machine surface there were very human feelings at work: things like loneliness, fear and longing. Moving away from a tight, well thought out concept seems to have brought more shades (of grey and black) into Ladytron's soundscapes, but also deeper human emotion. But that doesn't mean cracks in the system. Resistance is futile against the Korg.

Concerts Music

Tusks, Trunk and Ghetto Grooves

Upon arrival we were informed the opening act, arctic afro-beat posse Rhythm Funk Masters had just finished their set. Luckily they had left the crowd warmed up for DJ pair Infekto and Mr. Willy, who whipped up plate after plate of more or less eclectic funk gems and kept the floor moving. To break up the party it took the eagerly awaited Tuomo, who unwittingly started his set with some smooth balladry, and it took a few songs beofore he gained true command over the audience. Before setting out on the Motown path with his first solo outing, My Thing, Tuomo Prättälä has made his mark in noted jazz and nu-soul line-ups such as Huba, Q-continuum and Ilmiliekki Quartet. The lush orcherstrations audible on My Thing were replaced by a more stripped down sound, which permitted leeway the band was happy exploit for more protracted jams. The centre of attention was of course mr. Prättälä, seated firmly behind his Rhodes piano, which he stroked in a manner reminiscent of a young Stevie Wonder, singing with a silky smooth voice like a true gentleman. It was easy to see how he has managed to conquer the hearts and minds of the Finnish public.

Between the sets it was time for an excursion downstairs to the smaller Semifinal, but several meters before entering the club we hit a wall of human flesh. Inside we caught a glimpse of ”Finland's R. Kelly”, R'n'B prankster Stig Dogg brandishing what I hope was a microphone. Tonight his brand of humour was not quite appealing enough to merit squeezing through a crowd as dense as Rick James's cornrows.

Staying for the most part in more mellow territory Tuomo left my dancing feet calling out for some down and dirty deep funk, and that was just what The New Mastersounds delivered. With an overall sound resembling the funk stylings of The Meters bolstered by featured guest vocalist Corinne Greyson, the band wasted no time on stage. Seconds into their set they had turned the club floor into a steaming cauldron of twitching and swaying bodies, and while periodically taking it down a notch, they kept a steady, danceable groove going. The band played meticulously like a well oiled funk machine, but made it all seem so easy and organic, even downright gritty. Soulful vocals by the sassy miss Grayson softened things up in a couple of songs. Still, favouring endless funk jams the Mastersounds were more for the feet and less for the heart.

Features Music

We Don’t Need No Education

Lapko have been amassing a following in Finland for over ten years, and the prognosis is the trio will be alongside fellow "hair band" Disco Ensemble next to break overseas. Malja (vocals and guitar), Nordberg (bass) and Heikkonen (drums) have been friends since they were hanging around the schoolyard in the small town of Harjavalta, where they still gather to rehearse.

They've remained a trio, welded together as a tight, powerful live act and matured from obscure indie faves to a full-fledged rock band with an unpolished sound of their own. "Actually we've regressed, up to the point where you concede you're too dumb to do anything other than play in a rock band,” laughs Nordberg.

Lapko's signature melancholic melodies and Malja's tightly wound vocals have attracted recurring comparisons to Placebo, but the band stands firmly on its own ground. "We moved on from our punk roots towards a broader definition of rock, and, at some point, we were a sort of mix between Rammstein and Placebo with Finnish vocals,” Nordberg recounts. The linguistic issue was reassessed when the vocals on a demo apparently didn't pass as Finnish for a record company.

English seemed more suited for the kind of volatile rock with a raw emotional core that they set out to play. Lapko released their first album, The Arms in 2004 through Tampere-based Jukeboss records, and moved on to Fullsteam Records for their 2006 sophomore effort Scandal.

{mosimage}The new album, Young Desire, celebrates Lapko's regression by going back to the schoolyard and teenage trash talk. "There's a whole leather theme going on; leather being the material of choice for teenage tough guys. It's about being hard and acting like a badass, but still having that insecure and emotional side hidden underneath.”

Following the release, the band will be touring Finland. The theme of acting a role goes further once they hit the stage. "Playing on stage always has an element of theater to it, and we've been looking to Queen for instance, for some inspiration on that,” says Nordberg. The theatrics come across on the album as well, in more stagy compositions. ”We've got guitar solos there.”

In contrast to those young and restless middle-school misfits, Lapko have improved their communication skills as they've grown as a band. They've learned to listen to other people's opinions, including each other's, and they're opening lines of communication to the general public.

A song from the new album can be heard for free over the phone by dialling a certain number. "It won't be released anywhere else as a single, and the phone preview will be available before radio play,” Nordberg explains. The title of the song? "Hugging the Phone"! All you lonely, insecure badasses out there, dial up and start hugging.

Young Desire is released 2nd May. You can catch Lapko live on tour and at various festivals over the summer.


To listent to Hugging the Phone, dial +358 (0) 700 122 55 (cost in Finland 0,10 c/min +local call charge)

Interviews Music

Pop out of joint

Rooted in
eastern Finland, Rubik found its current line-up in Helsinki at the turn of the
century, when vocalist Artturi Taira
and drummer Sampsa Väätäinen, joined
by guitarist Samuli Pöyhönen and Arvi Hasu on bass, rejected any master
plans and set out to make music with an attitude of open-minded
experimentation; merging shades of anything between and beyond indie rock and
ambient. ”Our sound has evolved quite naturally. We never rejected any idea
off-hand just because it didn’t fit some preconception of how Rubik should
sound”, Samuli Pöyhönen says.

{mosimage}With years
of gigging and an EP release under their belt, last summer Rubik sought the
solitude of a remote coastal villa to record their debut, Bad Conscience Patrol. The end result is an ambitious record that
takes pop melodies as a starting point, and ventures off in any direction it
damn well pleases. The songs take turns soaring and plunging, crawling under
your skin only to gestate and emerge in another burst of raw emotion. This
certainly merits the epithet of ”progressive”, but according to Samuli, Rubik's
cerebral reputation is mostly unintentional: ”we're not trying to be difficult
or strange. Fundamentally it's pop music, just a little disjointed.”

As for the
hype, the band pays no heed to it: ”we're not the ones creating it, so why
should we fret over it”, remarks Samuli. ”Of course we're excited over the
prospect of going abroad. We're working on it, but it all depends on whether
there's real interest in us”, he says with sober minded confidence. Indeed,
Rubik has good reason to be confident. After all, they've put out a debut album
that's quite likely to be one of this year’s hardest hitters.

Art Features

An easterly breeze hits Kiasma

Along with China's economic miracle and recent
development in the region as a whole, Asian contemporary art is on the rise as
well. Biennials and art festivals are numerous and ever growing and there's
increasing international interest – enough to constitute something of a boom in
Asian contemporary art. Kiasma's exhibition brings an interesting selection of
works to Helsinki.
”The purpose of this exhibition is not to cover the whole field of contemporary
art in Asia, but rather to present visitors with perspectives on it”, says
senior curator Marja Sakari from




three countries represented in the exhibition are quite different, but they
also share several characteristics, such as mounting pressure for change, vast
population, political conflicts and natural disasters, which cause these
societies to be in a constant state of transformation. There are questions of
how an individual fits into the larger scheme of things. All this in turn is
reflected in the artists' interpretation of their surrounding reality”, Sakari
tells us. Also in common are powerful traditions. Beneath contemporary
political and social preoccupations with global consumer culture and
modernisation, traditional culture and spirituality are present in many of the
works displayed.

a swiftly growing urban expanse afflicted by an enormous population and a
building frenzy which leaves little trace of the city's vernacular history, is
home to two of the artists. Photographer Hu Yang lets us peek inside Shanghai households in
his photo series Shanghai Living,
which features ordinary Shanghainese from all walks of life photographed in
their living spaces with a short interview attached. The series offers a
compelling inside view of the human consequences of recent development in the
city's infrastructure and social fabric. Also hailing from Shanghai is Yang Zhenzhong, who represents a
new generation of Chinese artists who've grown up during China's open
door policy and economic prosperity and are well acquainted with new media and

colonial past and history of 
authoritarian regimes is reflected in works by Yogyakartan artists Heri
Dono and Eko Nugroho, who deal with issues of political pressure and social
control with equally playful yet ambiguous ways. Since the fall of Suharto in
1998 there have been significant changes in Indonesia's political system but
images of oppression and blind faith in authorities are nevertheless vivid in
their art. Many of Dono's installations include puppet-like sculptures with
some robotic features producing sound and movement. The complex installation Political clowns represents his brand of
satire: a series of clown-faces with tubes drip-feeding urine to their heads.

of the most puzzling and fascinating works are by Chinese artist Chen Zhen, who
died in 2000. Zhen moved to Paris
in 1986 and made most of his career in the west. Many of his works contemplate
on broad humanistic themes, but also on Asian art as part of the whole
international sphere of contemporary art. In fact, all the participating
artists are to some degree integrated into the international art world, but
mostly maintain focus on their local Asian realities and often draw on
traditional art forms. The surging popularity of Asian artists calls to
question our entrenched notions of the centre and periphery of contemporary art
in a most welcome manner.


The exhibition Wind from the East – Perspectives on Asian Contemporary Art opens
Feb 17 at Kiasma museum of contemporary art.

Art Interviews

Interview with Eko Nugroho

Your home city Yogyakarta is said to have a
thriving contemporary art scene beyond any other city in Indonesia. What makes
it so special?

A number of
reasons. The Indonesian Art Institute is in Yogyakarta, and so many artists
come there to study. There's a lot of history there, a lot of culture and
tradition and people appreciate art more. Generally the atmosphere is really
creative. There's a lot of public art on the streets. Not just graffiti and
tags et cetera, but also plenty of legal street art, all kinds of different

Is that how you got started, doing street art?

Yes. When I
was growing up there were graffiti groups and street artists in Yogyakarta who
were sort of competing with each other. Some were graffiti kings, you know,
interested in spray-paint, tags and slogans. But the group I ran with was into
more visual and artistic expression. I like to do art in public, for people to
experience outside the museums and galleries. Also the murals, I like to do
them in public and invite people to watch and participate. I did one in Berlin,
which was really lovely, they gave me a big building neighboured by graffiti

You're painting a mural here in Kiasma. What's
the main idea behind this one?

It's called
Pleasure under pressure, it's about
how living in Indonesia you're are always surrounded by political things; even
if you don't choose political subjects, the media and everyday life are
constantly full of politics. It's about the political situation in Indonesia,
but it's not attacking things directly. It's softly critical, for people to
recognise what's happening around them.

{mosimage}Is it hard to be an openly political artist in

political situation is changing all the time, mostly for the better, but after
the previous regime people want things to get better fast. And a lot of things
still remain, corruption and political power centres. The people are really
politically active, calling out for things and being vocal with their opinions.
For artists, however, open criticism that's too direct is not permitted. You
know 70% of the people are Muslim and some of them want an Islamic state, but
not everyone is happy with that. There's a lot of tension between politics,
society and culture.

Can you tell us a little about your work with

I do some
comics on my own but mainly I work with a collective called Daging Tumbuh (Diseased Tumour). We
compile art from contributors: comics, illustrations et cetera, all
photocopied. Ordinary people can write or paint about their personal things and
so on. Every six months we publish a new issue, only 150 copies or so, which is
circulated from hand to hand on the streets.

Sounds very underground. You're also connected
to the world of institutionalised art, museums and galleries. Do you think it's
important to keep in touch with the underground?

There's a
lot you can do only in the underground, like criticise certain things in
society. In Indonesia the political situation is getting better, but there's
still a lot of narrow-mindedness and social pressure, and that's exactly what
I'm critical of in my work. Also, I like to be in contact and communicate with
people, hear their stories and experiences.

Some of your works include embroidery. How did
you get interested in that?

Some time
in 1999 there were a lot of social problems with urban youths and they formed
street gangs. It was a part of their fashion to have a cool embroidery on the
back of their leatherjackets. The gangs vanished after 2000, but they inspired
me because in their way they were rebelling against the system. Later I found a
small town in Java called Tasikmalaya, which was famous for embroideries, and I
studied it there myself. Nowadays I have skilled craftsmen do most of the big
ones for me based on my design.

Features Music

A tsunami of Japanese Rock

Japanese rock (J-rock), or rather a particularly flamboyant subgenre called visual kei, is hitting it big all over Europe. Visual kei stands simply for “visual style”, and refers to a movement that pays specific attention to the visual side of ands. The look, eccentric and exaggerated, often draws inspiration from anime, video games, goth or punk subcultures, and usually involves theatrical costumes, clots of make-up, hints of androgyny and enough of bling to make Finland’s own Hanoi Rocks look like the Dave Matthews Band.

Musically most visual keibands fall under categories of goth rock or heavy metal, but subcategories abound. “There’s for instance angura kei, which is darker and not as particular about the visuals, and oshare kei, which is more cute and fluffy”, explains Annika Vellonen, also known as Matron, co-manager of JaME-Suomi web portal and an active member of the JrockSuomi association. “The categories mainly delineate a certain visual style, but it usually also reflects the music.Angura kei band MUCC, for instance, blends aggressive metal and punk rock.


J-rock fandom is often closely associated with a general interest in Japanese youth culture, and within the variety of styles represented by J-rock groups any Japanophile can find hers. The fans are truly dedicated, and in fact the recent invasion is mostly orchestrated by an underground army of fans. “There were a lot of fans and demand for gigs in Finland, but nobody was doing anything about it, so we decided to do it ourselves”, says Annika. JrockSuomi took the initiative and brought the first visual kei band Blood for a gig to Turku in 2005 and collaborated with King Foo Entertainment to bring in other names like D’EspairsRay andMUCC.

Once proven popular, bigger promoters are joining the game. This summer’s Ankkarock is the first Finnish rock festival to get on the J-rock bandwagon by adding visual kei heroes Dir en grey to their line-up. Bands are also springing up in China and Korea, and recently a group in Greece proclaimed themselves the first European visual kei band. There’s plenty of potential there, and right now J-rock is hotter than lava.

Features Music

How much would you pay for music?

{mosimage}”There's been a lot of talk about
high record prices in Finland
and we thought it would be interesting to see how much people would actually
pay for music if given a choice”, says singer/guitarist Sami Konttinen from ultrasport. ”On the other hand we just wanted
to put out some quality music for a price you can definitely afford.”

Ultrasport's guitar-driven pop
builds on catchy up-tempo melodies and bittersweet lyrics with a geeky slant.
Their first album, entitled Nothing Can
Go Wrong
was released in 2005.The
new album is more energetic”, Sami declares. ”Juho [Kosunen, singer/guitarist
for ultrasport] describes the new sound as 'The
playing Springsteen',
which is pretty accurate.”

Of course there's the possibility
that shoppers will decide to pay the bare minimum for the record and the band
ends up suffering a serious financial loss. They are fully prepared for such a
scenario, says Sami: ”We're definitely not expecting to make a lot of money
with this, but hopefully people will enjoy the album and appreciate what we're