Multiculturalism is shaping up to be every bit the boundlessly unpredictable concept that media prophet Marshall McLuhan foretold some 40 years ago with his long-winded insight into the “global village.” As its reach extends deeper into the farthest corners of our planet, multiculturalism provides a wellspring of challenge and contradiction in style and form from its disparate clashing of cultures. And while in the arts this melding of cultures may seem as randomly contrived as a Jackson Pollock painting, it is in this diffuse rainbow of influences where unique expression and creativity—the bloodline of true art—flourishes.
Although the sprawling Scandinavian nation of Finland tends to conjure the blondest of visions, from snowblinding frozen tundra to igloo architecture, the truth is that not even this vast (Finland’s total population registers a cool five mil), geographically remote country is immune to the multifarious influence of foreign culture. Home to one-fifth of Finland’s gross population, the accelerated urbanization of Helsinki is most enriched by this capital city’s reversal from an emigration to immigration epicenter where now 145 different nationalities give this economically thriving metropolis an ever tinctured complexion. More revealing is the ascending rate of foreign influence: three times as many foreign nationals today call Helsinki home than in the early ’90s.
As is often the case, the most vital and recognizable manifestation of this flowering of diversity rests in Helsinki’s art, most notably in the medium of music. There the sounds of African and Latin-tinged Nu Jazz now reverberate through Helsinki’s clubs with the underground authority previously reserved by longtime fixture house and its various mutations garage, breakbeat, two step and drum-and-bass.
Evidence of the inevitable nature of creative amalgamation is the 15-plus-person collective Nuspirit Helsinki, which released its stylishly chilling, wildly eclectic, self-titled full-length debut this past spring on Guidance Recordings. Combining the house sounds permeating Europe with the retro of a big band jazz collective fusing funk, soul, Afro and Latin rhythms, Nuspirit Helsinki continues to transcend geographical boundaries by employing a multi-hued global influence. And while the ramifications of this eclectic marriage are sure to extend the reach of multiculturalism through Finland and beyond, for founding member and producer Thomas K (Tuomas Kallio), the definition of Nuspirit’s aesthetic was based more on creative freedom than an ideological vision to bridge distant societies.