Mäkelä & Sjöroos: Turku is a curious musical oasis

Klaus Mäkelä and Jori Sjöroos are top musicians, but in their own circles. During their meeting, they discuss prejudice and learning from one another.

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Unknown to each other before their meeting, Mäkelä and Sjöroos immediately hit it off and started the conversation: How did you start playing, what did you listen to as a child? As a conductor – do you get nervous before a concert, how do you think when you are composing? Do you have perfect pitch? What do you see behind the notes in the music? Do you see colour in sound? Do you observe boundaries in style, and how do you define a genre?

​​​​​​​The interviewees enthusiastically exchange ideas, shake hands and form a friendship from the inspiring new perspectives. All the while, however, we concentrate on one thing – music!

Jori Sjöroos is one of Finland’s most successful producers. The general public know him well as the producer with a golden touch for the band PMMP. Currently, he is pursuing a career under his own name and produces for new emerging artists, such as Vestaa. The hand of Sjöroos was also behind the new version of Finlandia, sung by Paula Vesala.

Klaus Mäkelä is not much into his twenties, but his self-confidence and exuberant charm fills the room. He is both a successful cellist as well as one of today’s most talked-about international conductors.

Mäkelä is the principal guest conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and operates as an artistic associate for the Tapiola Sinfonietta. He was appointed Chief Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic and will begin his role in 2020. He also brings leadership qualities to Turku as Artistic Director of the Turku Music Festival.

“I have lived a large part of my life in Turku. Here you can find one of the brightest and most colourful spirits of all the cities in Finland. It is no wonder really that here is where I’ve created all the music in my life,” Sjöroos enthuses.

For Sjöroos, Turku is clearly an old friend.

​​​​​​​“I have lived a large part of my life in Turku. Here you can find one of the brightest and most colourful spirits of all the cities in Finland. It is no wonder really that here is where I’ve created all the music in my life,” Sjöroos enthuses.

​​​​​​​Klaus Mäkelä’s home town is Helsinki but also acknowledges a strong connection to the city.

​​​​​​​“I am not from Turku but Turku is a true love of mine,” he reveals.

​​​​​​​The foundation of love is built upon the many moments accumulated with work, through which Mäkelä has become familiar with the local people.

​​​​​​​“Whenever I think about Turku, it has always produced a moment of artistic inspiration.”

​​​​​​​Both are of the opinion that Turku, in its own way, is Finland’s European city. The riverside, restaurants, atmosphere… both men continue adding to the list.

Turku’s unique musical life

​​​​​​​This year, the Turku Music Festival celebrates its 60th Anniversary. Mäkelä will immediately start to design the programme for the whole anniversary year.

​​​​​​​“It’s fiercely fantastic to be involved with such an institution, such a tradition,” Mäkelä exclaims.

The history and the unique nature of the city are also imprinted in his thoughts.

​​​​​​​“From my perspective, the musical life of Turku is quite unique. It is a place, which has witness the likes of Beethoven play. Its personality feels very modern, with utopian ideals!”

​​​​​​​For Jori Sjöroos as well, the musical character of Turku has always been pulsating. He has warm memories of the DBTL festival, where the clubs were really discovered.

“Well, it was actually the electronic music festival Koneisto in 2000 that was so significant. It really kicked-off the mainstream boom of Finnish electronic music and started the proliferation,” explains Sjöroos.

​​​​​​​He also performed at a few gigs himself.

​​​​​​​“Nobody knew anything about me then. At first the tent I played in was empty, but by the end of the gig it was full. Koneisto has remained an important and progressive event for artists like me,” Sjöroos asserts.

​​​​​​​“My best and funniest memory of Turku, was when my girlfriend Senja Rummukainen won the Turku cello competition and I came second,” Mäkelä laughs. However, he was chosen as the audience’s favourite.

​​​​​​​Both musicians refresh the rich cultural supply Turku has to offer. They both agree that it’s definitely worth being open-minded, as the genre doesn’t matter.

​​​​​​​“By experimenting and trying new things, you will encounter something really unique that will stay with you for the rest of your life,” advises Mäkelä.

Sjöroos is of the same opinion, and continues to recall his own experience of bold concepts, such as the Nuclear Winter Garden or the international-level club festival, Turku Modern. 

Waiting to collaborate

Since early childhood, both Mäkelä and Sjöroos have lived their lives strongly thorough music.

​​​​​​​Mäkelä comes from a musical family, and his father was a cellist.

​​​​​​​“My parents never pushed me into a career as musician, for which I am grateful. The best thing is to discover music for yourself,” he makes clear.

​​​​​​​Sjöroos is similar, even if the coordinates are a little bit different. However his childhood was strongly influenced by music.

​​​​​​​“Even in the daycare, I was in a terrible hurry to listen to Abba. Then at the age of ten, I’d decided that I wanted to live my life making music,” Sjöroos reminisces.

​​​​​​​“Yeah, at about the same age I made a similar decision,” Mäkelä states.

​​​​​​​So neither of them really considered any other options. It was all in, they say almost in unison.

​​​​​​​Whilst the main instrument for Klaus is the cello, Jori doesn’t have a main instrument.

​​​​​​​“I miss the cello, because what it produces is so physical and you can always dictate the tone and sound. When conducting the orchestra, you have to motivate people to produce a certain kind of sound,” Mäkelä compares.

​​​​​​​Sjöroos is self-taught, so to speak. He tells us that of course he has had some music lessons and been in loud funk bands, but the real revolution was the computer.

​​​​​​​“ I realised that I could use the machine to construct and programme music. It is an instrument that combines all instruments,” explains Sjöroos.

​​​​​​​The same could be said of a symphony orchestra.

Both come to a common agreement, that music doesn’t have to be understood in advance. Naturally, Sjöroos is a little sceptical about academic preconceptions. Mäkelä reassures, however, that there is no need to prepare for a classical experience. An open mind is enough to make the experience fantastic.

​​​​​​​Again we find that the tone is the same: you don’t need to classify genres, good music is always good music, nothing else is important.

​​​​​​​So, would it be possible for these two artists to produce music together?

​​​​​​​Absolutely.

Story created in cooperation with The City of Turku cultural office.
The interviews were conducted at the Turku Concert Hall, where Klaus Mäkelä has been a guest conductor since 2015.
Text Rami Kangas. Photos and video Kim Allen-Mersh.

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