Episode #96: Jussi Reijonen

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Born in Rovaniemi, a small town on the Arctic Circle in Northern Finland, fretted/fretless guitarist and oud player Jussi Reijonen is truly the product of a life lived transcending boundaries. Having grown up in Finnish Lapland, the Middle East and East Africa, and spending much of his adulthood in the United States, Jussi has lived a life soaking up the sounds, sights, scents and shades of Nordic, Middle Eastern, African and American cultures, all of which are reflected in his creative work as composer and performer.

Along his path, Jussi has worked as bandleader, sideman, composer or arranger with a diverse array of world-renowned artists. He has collaborated with Jack DeJohnette, Pepe de Lucía, Javier Limón, David Fiuczynski, Simon Shaheen, Bassam Saba, Arto Tunçboyacıyan, Dave Weckl, Hüsnu Şenlendirici and the New York Gypsy All-Stars, among others. He has performed extensively at prestigious festivals and venues throughout the United States like Lincoln Center and the Library of Congress, as well as in Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Germany, France, Canada and Lebanon.

Jussi’s Independent Music Award-nominated debut album un | ان was released to great critical acclaim in early 2013 on his unmusic label. His latest album Three Seconds | Kolme Toista, a long-form suite for a new transcultural 9-piece ensemble, features musicians from Jordan/Iraq, Palestine, Turkey, Japan and the United States and was released worldwide on October 14th, 2022 via Challenge Records International.

Alongside his solo work, he co-leads Sawaari, a quintet exploring the nexus of Indian rhythms, Arabic maqamat, and trance music from North Africa and Southern Italy. He collaborates with Swiss vocalist Gabriela Martina, and is a member of the New York Arabic Orchestra.

Through his work as an educator and doctoral researcher at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland, Jussi continues to promote and provoke transcultural dialogue and conversation across boundaries and disciplines beyond mere identity politics. In this episode, Jussi shares his background, education, and musical journey.

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