Biography

“Pulverising avalanche of dark, primeval, sonic theatre.”
(Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney Festival)

Finnish accordion adventurist Kimmo Pohjonen is internationally known for revolutionizing accordion music, sound and performance. His custom-made, electrified and MIDI-fied instrument plus voice, effects, samples, surround sound and light show combine to make a unique and captivating performance experience.

A visionary of boundless energy, Pohjonen’s roots go back forty years in all forms of accordion music including folk, dance, classical, rock, experimental, theatre music and more.  His studies in the progressive and innovative Sibelius Academy Folk Music Department were a critical factor in Pohjonen’s transition to the boldly creative and versatile, internationally successful musician/performer he is today.

Pohjonen’s most recent project of 2017 is Ultra Organ. Commissioned by Köln Philharmonie, Ultra Organ features seventy minutes of new music composed by Pohjonen and sound designer Tuomas Norvio. The music is performed with organist and Pohjonen’s invention “organ-accordion”, the first accordion to play organ samples that he has programmed into the accordion. Ultra Organ premiered at Köln Philharmonie on March 15,2017.
Line up:
Kimmo Pohjonen – organ-accordion, voice
Mikko Helenius – organ, voice
Tuomas Norvio – sound design and live electronics
Otso Vartiainen – visual design, lights

Kimmo Pohjonen’s latest album is Sensitive Skin (2015: Octopus/Ondine). It features new Pohjonen compositions that explore dynamic new sonic territory with special guests Tuomas Norvio (electronics), Kronos Quartet (string quartet), Samuli Kosminen (drums, percussion), Timo Kämäräinen (guitar, bouzouki), Sami Kuoppamäki (drums), Inka and Saana Pohjonen (vocals), Arto Järvelä (nyckelharpa), Ismo Alanko (vocals), Lauri Porra (bass) and more. Sensitive Skin was produced and mixed by James Spectrum, known for productions with Finnish bands Von Hertzen Brothers and Pepe Deluxe.
The Kimmo Pohjonen Skin trio performs music from the Sensitive Skin album:
Kimmo Pohjonen – accordion, electronics, voice
Inka Pohjonen – guitar, electronics, vocals
Saana Pohjonen – drums, vocals

-Pohjonen celebrated his fiftieth year on Earth in 2014 with anniversary concerts at Helsinki Festival with Kronos Quartet and in Tamperetalo, Tampere, Finland with a two hour extravaganza of various projects from his career.

-Pohjonen and Finland’s top ballet dancer Minna Tervamäki present the project Bright Shadow. Tervamäki (previously with the Finnish National Ballet) has performed in all of the important classical ballets’ main roles and has worked with the most interesting contemporary choreographers, such as Ohad Naharin and Mats Ek. She also works actively as a choreographer. The artists’ co-operation began on the stage of the Finnish National Opera in 2011 and has evolved to the present day. Bright Shadow has been performed in Finland, Germany and Hungary.

-A full length documentary film about Pohjonen, entitled Soundbreaker premiered in 2012 in New Zealand, Australia and Finland and has been shown in over thirty countries. Directed by Kimmo Koskela, the film is a portrait of Pohjonen from early years to the present including archive and current material, interviews, concert video and more. Soundbreaker won the “Prix de la Création / Award for Creativity” at the 30th International Festival of Films on Art, Montreal, 2012. It was shown throughout Germany 2013-2015 in almost fifty cities and broadcast on 3sat TV in Germany, Austria, Switzerland. It is now available on DVD and online via Online Film and as iTunes app

-Kimmo Pohjonen and sampling master Samuli Kosminen meet Kronos Quartet in the Uniko project featuring music composed by Pohjonen and Kosminen. Uniko with Kronos has been performed in Helsinki, Moscow, Molde Jazz Festival Norway, BAM Next Wave festival in New York, Colours of Ostrava in Czech Republic, Palace of the Arts in Budapest, Barbican Centre in London and Katowice, Poland. The Uniko album with Pohjonen, Kosminen and Kronos was recorded in New York and Helsinki, produced by Iceland’s Valgeir Sigurdsson and was released worldwide by Ondine, Finland. The Uniko DVD with Kronos was released worldwide by CMajor.

-Uniko is also performed with Finland’s Proton String Quartet and with Ragazze Quartet of Netherlands.

-KTU (pronounced ”K2”) is the trio featuring Pohjonen with Pat Mastelotto and Trey Gunn from King Crimson. KTU has performed in Japan, USA, Mexico, Canada, throughout Europe and Russia. The first KTU album 8 Armed Monkey also features sampling genius Samuli Kosminen. The second KTU album, Quiver, was released in 2009 in Europe, Japan and America

-Pohjonen and Finnish artist Ismo Alanko premiered their collaboration project, ”pohonen alanko” in 2014 and have toured Finland up to present day. Their focus is vocal experimentation and excursions and features third team member Tuomas Norvio on electronics and samples.

-Pohjonen works with French drummer, Eric Echampard, in a 100% improvisational duo. They released a live album Uumen and have performed throughout Europe

-Heikki Laitinen and Kimmo Pohjonen collaborate on the project Murder Ballads with their CD of traditional Finnish murder songs.

-Pohjonen composed music for dance performances by choreographers and dancers Harri Kuorelahti, Lisa Torun, Tero Saarinen, Carolyn Carlson and Jorma Uotinen.

-Pohjonen has composed and performed music for three films: the British short film Flickerman and the Ivory-Skinned Woman, the Russian full length feature film, Majak and the full length Finnish feature film Jade Warrior which won the Finnish Jussi Award for Best Film-Score.

-Pohjonen enjoys a high profile UK with performances at WOMAD, The Proms at Royal Albert Hall London, Jazz Festival at the Barbican, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Royal Festival Hall. Pohjonen has performed at two Meltdown Festivals in London: Pohjonen / Kosminen Kluster at David Bowie’s Meltdown performed one set of Bowie music followed by their own show. At Patti Smith’s Meltdown at Royal Festival Hall 2005, Pohjonen and drummer Sami Kuoppamäki participated in the Songs of Experience concert performing music of Jimi Hendrix. Pohjonen also toured  his projects Earth Machine Music and Accordion Wrestling in UK. Pohjonen was nominated for BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards in 2002 and 2005 for the BBC Radio 3 Planet Award.

-Kimmo Pohjonen was awarded from the Finnish government the 2016 State Prize for Multidisciplinary Arts for outstanding achievement of high quality art, experimentation and diverse projects in multiple art forms. He was Named “Accordionist of the Year” for 2000 and 2001 in Finnish Jazz magazine Jazz Rytmit and received the Nordic Council Music Award. In December 2012 Pohjonen was awarded two prizes: the Aesthetic Act of 2012 Prize for his work with Romanian street musicians and the Order of the Lion of Finland, Pro Finlandia award, a prestigious medal awarded by the Finnish president annually to Finns who have distinguished themselves in the field of arts and science, and is one of Finland’s highest honours.

Additional projects:
-Kimmo Pohjonen’s Accordion Wrestling project featuring Pohjonen and ten Finnish wrestlers, is a revival of Finnish wrestling tradition from early to mid-1900s where accordion was included as musical accompaniment for wrestling matches. Accordion Wrestling expands the tradition into a theatrical sport, dance and music performance art piece with direction/choreography by Ari Numminen, light design by Mikki Kunttu, sound design by Heikki Iso-Ahola and Finnish wrestling group Helsinki Nelson. Accordion Wrestling toured in Finland, UK with performances at Hamburg’s Rantakala Festival, Holland Festival and Lincoln Center, NYC.

-Pohjonen’s Earth Machine Music project is a live concert program featuring Pohjonen in collaboration with farmers, featuring accordion with live and sampled sounds of farm machines and noises. Earth Machine Music began in Rämsöö, Finland in 2006 and has toured UK and Queensland, Australia

Discography:
Kielo  1999
Kluster 2002
Kalmuk 2002
Kalmuk DVD Symphony 2002
Iron Lung 2004
Kimmo Pohjonen and Eric Echampard – Uumen 2005
KTU – 8 Armed Monkey 2005
KTU – Quiver 2009
Kimmo Pohjonen / Samuli Kosminen / Kronos Quartet – Uniko 2011
Kimmo Pohjonen / Samuli Kosminen / Kronos Quartet – Uniko DVD 2011
Heikki Laitinen / Kimmo Pohjonen – Murder Ballads CD 2012
Sensitive Skin CD 2015

In the hands of avant-accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen, the mechanical intricacies of his instrument become agents of a great musical power, grace and expression. An instrumental virtuoso, Pohjonen has exploited the complete potential of the keys, buttons and air beneath his fingers by stretching both his instrument and personal performance capabilities. He has been stretching boundaries and defying expectations for more than a decade with mind-blowing concepts and visual performances. As a fearless adventurer in music, he remains doggedly unaffiliated to any scene, trend or ethos”. (All About Jazz)

“Pohjonen, … proved himself, in the course of that hour, to be truly an innovator on his instrument and in his conception of improvised music. Layering chords upon chords and building to crescendos of melodic and harmonic extravagance by means of a seamless production of gradually mounting orchestral body from his instrument, pedaled special-effects such as loops, sampling, and playback, and guttural vocalizations, moans, and insect-like buzzes via a tiny mic resting upon his left cheek, Pohjonen rocked back and forth demonically on his stool, his face often contorted in emotional pain. So distraught did he appear in his final ten minutes or so onstage, as he hurled himself forward onto his feet into a crouch several times, pumping the accordion and manipulating its keys and buttons as though possessed by a spirit (as well he may have been — the program parenthetically included as among his musical styles “shamanistic trance”), I thought that he would wrest the accordion from his shoulders by its straps and smash it on the stage….. …….Kimmo Pohjonen’s performance proved to be a riveting musical and surreal theatrical experience, a multi-dimensional display of totally original, astonishingly eccentric, and unabashedly uncompromising artistic genius. I can’t think of any performance of recent years that has so moved me”  (www.jazzhouse.org)