Kamu was born into a family of musicians. His father played double bass in the Helsinki Philharmonic. He began violin studies at age two and entered the Sibelius Academy at age six. He formed his own string quartet, the Suhonen, in 1964 where he played first violin. At age 20, he was appointed first solo violinist at the Finnish National Opera, and held this post until 1968. He then began to conduct, initially with the Finnish National Opera orchestra. Primarily self-taught, he became principal guest conductor of the Royal Swedish Opera in 1969, the same year as he won the first Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition in Berlin. From 1971 to 1977, Kamu was principal conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Outside of Finland, Kamu was principal conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic from 1975 to 1979. He has also held leadership positions with the Stockholm Sinfonietta. He has been chief guest conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Copenhagen Philharmonic, the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, and the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. He is currently principal guest conductor of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
Kamu was chief conductor of the Finnish National Opera from 1996 to 2000. He has been a noted conductor of the operas of Aulis Sallinen in the opera house where he conducted the premieres of The Red Line, King Lear and The Palace, and on record. In April 2009, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Kamu as its next chief conductor, as of the autumn of 2011. Kamu's initial contract was through the spring of 2014. In November 2012, the orchestra announced the extension of Kamu's contract through the end of July 2016, at which time he concluded his tenure in Lahti.
Kamu has recorded more than 100 discs for various labels, such as Finlandia and Musica Sveciae. For Naxos Records, he has recorded Franz Berwald's four symphonies and his piano concerto; Aulis Sallinen's Complete Music for String Orchestra; flute concertos by Penderecki, Takemitsu and Sallinen. Kamu's two discs of Berwald for Naxos both received the rare Diapason d'Or award.
- Vesa Sirén (28 May 2002). "Muhai Tang the unanimous choice at National Opera". Helsingin Sanomat. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- Donal Henahan (29 April 1983). "Finnish Opera Offers Sallinen's Red Line". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
- Andrew Clements (21 April 2006). "Sallinen: The King Goes Forth to France". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
- "Okko Kamu to be principal conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra from the autumn of 2011" (Press release). Sinfonia Lahti. 28 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
- "Okko Kamu to continue as principal conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra until 2016" (Press release). Sinfonia Lahti. 19 November 2012. Retrieved 2013-11-03.
- "Dima Slobodeniouk has been appointed as Principal Conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, starting in autumn 2016" (Press release). Sinfonia Lahti. 17 August 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
- Tim Page (6 January 1985). "New Disks Reveal the Individuality of Finnish Composers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
- George Jellinek (12 November 1989). "Sibelius, and Those Other Fellows From Finland". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
- Raymond Ericson (22 December 1985). "Recordings Track Scandinavian Music". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-30.
- Patrick Garvey Management agency biography on Okko Kamu
- Naxos biography of Okko Kamu
- International Who's Who entry on Okko Kamu (subscription access required; accessed September 4, 2006)
|Principal Conductor, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
|Principal Conductor, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
|Chief Conductor, Lahti Symphony Orchestra