Short History

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Mr. ZELO, Harri Sissala, Soul-Sissala, whichever way you like it! Harri Sissala's career as a musician started at the Music Institute of Hämeenlinna in Finland at the beginning of the 1960s, and later at University of Tampere. He studied classical violin, music theory and ear training. Harri had some of the top names of the time as his music teachers, for example Matti Piipponen, Sulo Aro and Naum Levin. Later, Harri's teacher in violin was Lajos Garam.

A few years into Harri's studies, the youngsters of Hämeenlinna were captivated by pop music, just like other young people everywhere in the world. Harri went along with this wave and, with his friends, founded a pop band which was to be called ETERNAL. The hottest time for the Eternal were the years 1967 – 1970.

The phases of the band Eternal can be read in a book called "Homma kävi", edited by Jukka Mäkelä. The story encompasses all the central characters of pop music in Hämeenlinna at the time. Irwin Goodman, with his unique style, merits a chapter of his own.

The Eternal got a chance to get together again in 2001. The band was partially retired, but the elderly blood still warmed when a chance to play a gig at the "Nostalgia" festival in Petäys in the summer 2001. The concert was recorded and the Eternal made an hour–long CD which was mainly for the group members as a memory of the pieces they played. The covers for the CD can be seen at these pages. If there is demand for the CD, more copies can be printed. Since the Petäys Nostalgia festival, the Eternal has not performed in public in its original form.

In 1970 Harri decided to try his luck in Sweden. He worked as a carpenter there for a few years, and also played in a band for a while.

After this brief stint in Sweden, Harri returned to work in the store warehouse of a publishing company in Hämeenlinna. However, he wanted to study and, of course, play. So he went to a folk high school, and after graduating applied to the University of Tampere. He was accepted and started to study music and social sciences. Right after beginning his studies Harri joined a music group called PEUHU. The group played folk music, but as new arrangements and also polyphonically.

Harri was chosen for the culture delegation, which travelled to the World Youth Festival that was organized in Havanna, Cuba in August, 1978. In Cuba Harri played violin with the Peuhu band and introduced Cubans to old Finnish folk instruments, also in local television.

Harri graduated from the University of Tampere in 1979. After that, he concentrated more on the violin. He joined the Vantaa Orchestra, played in the City Orchestra of Hämeenlinna and partook in music jobs of different kinds. Harri also taught violin for many years.

In 1990's when Harri was playing in the Vantaa Orchestra, the so–called banking crisis took place in Finland. The Helsinki Savings Bank had supported the orchestra by sponsoring the soloists and giving loans to musicians, among other things. When the bank collapsed, it also affected the orchestra. Many concert performances were cancelled and people were let go, Harri among many others.

This was the situation in which Harri established a band called ZELO and started making CD recordings in the studio of Martin Brushane. The band Zelo is a trio in which Kari Korpinen plays the bass, Fredi Ahlberg is on guitar and Harri, as Mr. Zelo, plays the violin. Their first CD was composed of Hungarian violin music. It has seven pieces, which were – and probably still are – well known in Hungary, and perhaps elsewhere in the world as well, as popular folk songs. Harri developed his fondness for Hungarian music when, organized by a local musician, he had a chance to stay in Budapest and study Hungarian musical tradition during his university years.

Since the Brushane studio was closed after the sudden death of Martin Brushane in 2008, Harri has continued recording at Juhani Liski's studio.

Today Mr. Zelo mostly performs accompanied by a guitar. His most recent CD is called "Mr. Zelo Harri Sissala: Musical Mosaic" and is composed of recordings from the years 1998–2012, including two hymns, accompanied on the organ (Vanha virsi Taalainmaan karjamajoilta i.e., Old Hymn from the Cowsheds of the Dalarna, Sweden, and Ave Maria). The hymns have been recorded in the new church of Hattula, Finland. Most of Harri's recordings are also available in YouTube. In the future Harri plans to keep on working on more pieces at the recording studio.

Mr. Zelo's musical style could be described as entertaining. Harri's way of handling the violin is genuine and personal and, even more, unique, resembling nothing somebody else would have taught him.

Kari Korpinen

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