During the period of six weeks, the group went through some incredible adventures in the homeland of Voodoo, rehearsed daily, played three shows and recorded an album. Later the album was completed and mixed in Finland, and it's release on May 7th 2013 was followed by a tour of 19 concerts in Finland’s major festivals.
HCE's music is all written by the band's guitarist Janne Halonen and percussionist/ lead vocalist Noël Saïzonou. The writing process started as early as 2009, when Halonen first travelled to Benin to learn the traditional rhythms of Voodoo. For three years Halonen and Saïzonou bounced ideas and searched for the right people for their project.
When Saïzonou visited Finland in 2011, drummer Juha Räsänen and bassist Sampo Riskilä joined the project. The quartet became the core of HCE, and it was to be strengthened with local super musicians, whether the band operated on European or African soil. The current line up of HCE is listed below.
Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble impresses it's listener not only with intense moods and joyful yet virtuoso performances, but also with fresh and carefully crafted songwriting. As composers Saïzonou and Halonen are enough far apart to make the cocktail something completely new, yet they both possess enough musicianship to complement each other's works.
Like fRoots magazine put it in their review: "Weather Report meets Fela, you might say. They are good enough."
Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble's Live line-up:
Noël Saïzonou (aka Noel Saizonou) - vocals,percussion
Janne Halonen - guitar, vocals
Sampo Riskilä - bass Juha Räsänen - drums
Menard Mponda -percussion,vocals
Visa Oscar - keyboards
Joakim Berghäll - saxophones,vocals
Mikko Pettinen - trumpet,vocals