Cool Sheiks are one of the most legendary Finnish black rhythm music acts as they have been playing during five decades already and still continue performing live. The group has often labeled their music as working class jazz. The band was founded in 1988 to follow the footsteps of club jazz orchestra The Bullworkers, which split up in 1991 and provided the rhythm section for them after that. Cool Sheiks has been described as the first Finnish band playing acid jazz, boogaloo and dancefloor jazz classics.
When they started, the outfit played regularly in famous night clubs Nylon and Groovin’ Victor’s in Helsinki making their reputation as the hottest jam band of the city. Ragga vocalist Hosni Boudali, percussionist Malang Cissokho and pioneering rap group Damn The Band with their MC J.A.K. also joined the group during those years making the sound funkier. Numberless other reputed Finnish musicians have been playing and especially featuring in the line-up during the years. However, the original members bassist Mitja Tuurala, drummer Keimo Hirvonen as well as saxofonist and flutist Heikki “Hepa” Halme still form the backbone of the band. Drummer Janne Haavisto was also active in the band during the first years.
Cool Sheiks have earned their undisputed status in the local scene primarily by their jamming live performances, since the band hasn’t released more than four marginally acknowledged albums altogether and the latest effort was already in 2001. Besides their recordings, moderate radioplay as well as numerous festival and television performances, they never got the nationwide recognizion as they always kept low profile. However, in Helsinki they have the reputation as one of the most famous and long-standing live orchestras, which year after another can fill up a venue again and again. On live occasions, they tend to play several live sets during the evening whenever this is possible.
Text: Joonas Kervinen / Funky Finland