Pekka Pohjola

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Pekka Pohjola
Birth nameJussi Pekka Pohjola
Born(1952-01-13)13 January 1952
OriginHelsinki, Finland
Died27 November 2008(2008-11-27) (aged 56)[1]
GenresProgressive rock, jazz fusion
InstrumentsBass, keyboards, violin
Years active1970–2008

Jussi Pekka Pohjola (13 January 1952 – 27 November 2008)[1] was a Finnish multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer. Best known as a bass player, Pohjola was also a classically trained pianist and violinist.

Pohjola rose to fame as the bass player of the Finnish progressive rock band Wigwam, but he soon departed on a solo career, initially releasing Frank Zappa–influenced progressive rock albums. As his career progressed Pohjola developed a more novel musical style that could best be described as fusion jazz. In addition to Wigwam and his solo albums, Pohjola played with the band Made in Sweden, The Group [fi] and the bands of Jukka Tolonen and Mike Oldfield.

Pohjola belonged to one of the most prominent musical families in Finland. Conductor Sakari Oramo is Pohjola's cousin.


Early life and career[edit]

Pohjola was born in Helsinki, Finland[2] and studied classical piano and violin at the Sibelius Academy in the city. After a stint with The Boys [fi] (the seminal Finnish band led by brothers Eero and Jussi Raittinen), he joined Wigwam in 1970, contributing on two of their albums before leaving the group in 1972 to pursue a solo career (although he contributed again on Wigwam's Being in 1974). Pohjola's first solo album, Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva (Resin Eye Bark Ear), released in 1972, bears a notable resemblance to the work of Frank Zappa.

After leaving Wigwam, Pohjola played with the Jukka Tolonen Band for a short time. In 1974 his second solo album, Harakka Bialoipokku [fi] (Bialoipokku the Magpie), was released in Finland. The album saw Pohjola's sound developing in a more distinctive direction, with heavy use of trumpets, saxophones and piano. The somewhat jazz-influenced album sufficiently piqued the interest of Virgin Records executive Richard Branson for him to release it in the United Kingdom the following year under the name B the Magpie. The album was re-released, in October 2010, by Cherry Red Records.[3]

At the request of Virgin, Pohjola teamed up with Mike Oldfield to record and produce his third solo album, released in 1977 in Finland as Keesojen Lehto (Grove of the Keeso) and in the UK as The Mathematician's Air Display. The album was released, in Germany (1981, album and cassette) and Italy (1987) as simply Mike & Sally Oldfield / Pekka Pohjola. The album was also released in 1981 on the Happy Bird label, in the Netherlands, under the name The Consequences of Indecisions and credited to Oldfield instead of Pohjola. Oldfield asked Pohjola to join him on his 1978 tour and Pohjola can be heard on Oldfield's live album Exposed, released in 1979.

In 1978 Pohjola formed The Group [fi], which released a self-titled album that same year. In 1979 Pohjola released Visitation, his fourth solo album. All of Pohjola's 1970s solo albums exhibited fantasy influences, but these were undoubtedly strongest on his 1979 Visitation.


In 1980 The Group changed its name to Pekka Pohjola Group and released the album Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme (The Dragon of Kätkävaara), with musicians Pohjola on bass and with Ippe Kätkä (drums), Pekka Tyni (keyboards) and Seppo Tyni (guitars). The group disbanded soon after the release of their second album.

Pohjola's next solo album, Urban Tango, was released in 1982. It was a radical departure from fantasy- and nature-inspired works of the '70s. It was also the first Pekka Pohjola album to feature comprehensible singing, the vocals provided by Kassu Halonen. Urban Tango was also the first of Pohjola's albums to be released on his own Pohjola Records label. His next album was the soundtrack to Hannu Heikinheimo's 1983 movie Jokamies (released in 1984 under the title Everyman in the United States and Germany). The album was notable for an abundant use of synthesizers. Space Waltz, released in 1985, further explored the themes first heard on Urban Tango (1982). 1986's Flight of the Angel was to be Pohjola's last album of the '80s. The following year a compilation of his material was released under the name New Impressionist.

Pohjola's record label in the United States during the 1980s was Breakthru' Records, a pioneering audiophile record company started by Robert Silverstein in 1983. The advent of the compact disc in 1984 made it very difficult for independent American record labels to make CD pressings in the U.S. as the first plants, aside from the Sony plant in Indiana, were in Germany and Japan. As a result, Breakthru' scrambled and forfeited away its rights to unscrupulous distributors in an effort to adapt to the fast changing audio landscape of the music business during 1984 and 1986. With the 1985 release of Space Waltz, Breakthru' Records became the first label ever to release a compact disc by Pohjola. The first Pohjola album to be released on CD, Space Waltz was mastered in New York City by mastering engineer legend Greg Calbi. Pressed on CD in Switzerland, Space Waltz was also released by Breakthru' Records on audiophile vinyl and cassette. Robert Silverstein's 1980 interview with Pohjola can be found on the Music Web Express 3000 ( web site.

Later life and death[edit]

During the late '80s Pohjola composed Sinfonia No 1 ("Symphony No. 1"), which premiered live in 1989 and was released on CD in 1990, performed by the AVANTI! music group. Returning to the music scene in 1992, Pohjola released his ninth solo album, Changing Waters. The album's sound differed greatly from Pohjola's guitar-driven works of the '80s, offering a softer, more piano-based soundscape. Changing Waters was given in an international release in spring 1993. The album featured Finnish top musicians Seppo Kantonen (keyboards), Markku Kanerva (guitar) and Anssi Nykänen (drums), who became Pohjola's regular band. In May 1995, Pohjola released Live in Japan, a recording from three shows in Tokyo in November 1994. Later that year, Pohjola released a double CD, Heavy Jazz - Live in Helsinki and Tokyo. His next studio album, Pewit, followed in September 1997. In May 2001 Pekka Pohjola released Views, on which he toned down the rock-solid guitar-based sound of Urban Tango (1982) and Space Waltz (1985), instead focusing more on jazz and pop-classical arrangements, leaning heavily on strings and brass arrangements. The only song on Views to feature a guitar is "The Red Porsche", after a poem written by Charles Bukowski.

Pohjola's piece "The Madness Subsides" from B the Magpie (1974) was sampled by DJ Shadow as the main bass line in his song "Midnight in a Perfect World", from the wildly successful debut album Endtroducing..... (1996).

On 27 November 2008 Pohjola, who had alcoholism, died of an epileptic seizure at the age of 56.[4]


Pekka Pohjola was part of the renowned Pohjola musical family. His father was choir director and cellist Ensti Pohjola [fi]. Choreographer and music pedagogue Erkki Pohjola and violinist and conductor Paavo Pohjola were his uncles, and pianist Liisa Pohjola was his aunt. His younger brother Jukka Pohjola is a violinist. One of his three sons, Verneri Pohjola, is a trumpeter, and another one, Ilmari Pohjola, is a trombonist. His cousins include conductor Sakari Oramo, cellist Matti Pohjola and composer Seppo Pohjola.


Year Artist Original title Alternate titles
1970 Wigwam Tombstone Valentine
1971 Wigwam Fairyport
1972 Pekka Pohjola Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva
1974 Wigwam Being
1974 Pekka Pohjola Harakka Bialoipokku United Kingdom B the Magpie, released on Virgin Records[5][6][7]
Sweden Skatan
1976 Made in Sweden Where Do We Begin?
1977 Pekka Pohjola Keesojen Lehto United Kingdom The Mathematician's Air Display
Sweden Skuggornas Tjuvstart
Netherlands The Consequences of Indecisions (credited to Mike Oldfield)
United States Italy GermanyUntitled (credited to Mike & Sally Oldfield, Pekka Pohjola)
1978 The Group The Group
1979 Mike Oldfield Exposed (live album)
1979 Pekka Pohjola Visitation
1979 Gábor Szabó Belsta River
1980 Pekka Pohjola Group Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme
1982 Pekka Pohjola Urban Tango
1983 Pekka Pohjola Jokamies United States Everyman
1985 Pekka Pohjola Space Waltz
1986 Pekka Pohjola Flight of the Angel
1986 Espoo Big Band Yesterday's Games
1987 Pekka Pohjola New Impressionist (compilation)
1990 Pekka Pohjola & AVANTI! Sinfonia No 1
1992 Pekka Pohjola Changing Waters
1995 Pekka Pohjola Live in Japan
1995 Pekka Pohjola Heavy Jazz - Live in Helsinki and Tokyo
1997 Pekka Pohjola Pewit
2001 Pekka Pohjola Views


  1. ^ a b "Basisti Pekka Pohjola on kuollut" (in Finnish). Ilta-Sanomat. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 27 November 2008.
  2. ^ "Pekka Pohjola - Biography, Albums, Streaming Links - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  3. ^ "B The Magpie – Pekka Pohjola". Archived from the original on 27 June 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  4. ^ "Trumpetisti Verneri Pohjolan suhde alkoholisti-isään jäi etäiseksi: "Suren, ettei poikani ehtinyt tavata ukkiaan"" [The relationship between the trumpeter Verner Pohjola and his alcoholic father remained remote: "I'm sorry my son did not get to meet his grandpa"] (in Finnish). 5 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Pekka Pohjola - B The Magpie". Discogs.
  6. ^ "PEKKA POHJOLA - Harakka Bialoipokku [Aka: B The Magpie] (1974)".
  7. ^ "B the Magpie - Pekka Pohjola | Release Info". AllMusic.

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