Jukka Bonsdorff, born in Helsinki, Finland, is a musician who played drums in the 1970’s in a Finnish band called Kolera. Later he toured Finland with an evangelistic rock band Pro Fide. In this page Jukka gives us a glimpse of his present life but before that he wants to share a bit of the journey here, and how it all started.
I was born in Helsinki into a middle-class family. I had a generally happy childhood although the family had gone through a great tragedy two years before my birth. The youngest child of the family had drowned near the shore at our summer place.
My father, a fine art painter, who also had worked as a journalist, took up a more bourgeois job as a school principal. This allowed us as a family to spend the long school summer holidays in the country. That was the best thing I knew.
Music becomes all
One evening at our summer place I happened to hear on the radio a program playing the most popular pop songs of the week. A song caught my attention because, in my ears, it sounded unspeakably good, and made a deep impression on me. Number one on that list was ‘All My Loving’ by the Liverpool long-haired bunch, The Beatles.
It was then and there that my serious orientation began toward listening to pop and rock music and following various bands. With it grew a desire to play an instrument myself. I started to pester my parents about buying me a drum set, or even just one drum. I was successful in my efforts, and soon had my first second-hand drums on which to start learning.
At age 14, two friends and myself put together my first ’band’ called Witchcraft. It didn’t last long in the end, and we all went our separate ways. Later on, each of my band mates made successful careers as guitarists. Both Sami Hurmerinta and Ile Kallio still play actively.
A little later I was asked to join the band Kolera, based in Helsinki, as their drummer. We participated in the first national rock music championships and came out very near the top. It was 1969. During that time I also did a few gigs with the late Finnish guitar virtuoso Albert Järvinen.
Music culture in Finland was going through a major transition at the time. Drugs were finding their way into our remote country. Especially among musicians, drugs were used with the purpose of gaining new experiences. It was considered appropriate to test how smoking hashish influenced playing music. Among all the rest, there was I, too, doing it. It didn’t take long for the experiments to lead to serious drug addiction. Stronger drugs, such as LSD, appeared in the scene as well.
Kolera soon developed into a band that was ‘high’ all the time. We couldn’t have practice sessions without smoking pot continuously. That, of course, began to take its toll in the end. I became very passive. Drug abuse showed in my health. Band practice times grew more and more infrequent although playing music was the only thing I really wanted to do.
I had met Remu Aaltonen, who later became a true Finnish rock legend when he put together the band, The Hurriganes. Every now and then he and I went to hear bands from other countries. We were once walking down the street in Helsinki when Remu (who certainly was no Sunday school boy) suddenly asked me: “Have you ever read the Bible?” I had no difficulty answering, ‘no’. “I read it when I was in prison for a bit”, he said, and continued, “That book has got stuff that certainly no man can have thought up by himself.” I wondered at his words for a moment but soon forgot them.
I carried on living my life my way. And then, what was inevitably going to happen sooner or later, happened. It was the summer of 1973, when one morning our doorbell rang. Two drug squad police officers in plain clothes came to arrest me. The case was one of the biggest drug cases of the time, and in connection with a major confiscation. A large number of users and dealers were busted. I, too, was taken for police interviews and pre-trial detention.
In the end, I was charged with possession, use and minor dealing of hashish. While in detention, it occurred to me for the first time to wonder whether this was now the prelude to a future prison career.
Next I needed to make preparations for court. I went to visit a lawyer who was to prepare me for the trial.
Unexpectedly, our discussion led to questions about my direction for life and my future. I was suddenly faced with nearly the same question that Remu had asked me much earlier: “Do you believe in this book?”, the lawyer asked, holding a Bible in his hand.
And so began a conversation that would change the rest of my life. There came a moment when my understanding of God changed. Although my parents had sought comfort in prayer, to me God had been either dead or at least not a person. During our conversation I understood that there is, after all, a living God. He has made everything ready so that man can be awakened from his state of spiritual death and be brought back to fellowship with God. As Remu had said, “no man can have thought up things like that”. I began to agree with him.
Then there came the moment to do a switch with God. I gave my sins to Him, and He forgave them because of the death of Jesus. The gate was open, and I was allowed to go in. That day I was given the power to do so, and at the same time I was also liberated from my addiction to drugs. It was then that truly a new page in my life was turned, and that page keeps on being written.
Gospel music years
For some time I had hoped to play the guitar and leave the drums at least for a while. I was in the process of actually buying an instrument when God stepped in and prevented the purchase. It seemed that He wanted me to carry on playing the drums. Soon after my conversion He led me to the gospel rock band Pro Fide. They had been looking for a new drummer for a good while.
Together with Pro Fide, I toured Finland in 1974-1985, a total of eleven years. It was a rich and rewarding time. There was then among the youth in Finland strong spiritual quest. We saw it for example in school concerts, churches, army bases and prison gigs, all of which we did all around the country.
In addition to playing music, I also took a 3-year study program in the Finnish Bible Institute and graduated as church youth leader. As it turned out, I never actually worked in that profession but the studies gave me a lot of nourishment for my own life.
I had married, and our first child had been born. I wanted to spend more time with my family, and so it was time to resign my place in Pro Fide. The band still functions and is faithful to its original mission although the players have, along the years, changed many times over.
After years of touring and travel I wanted to recharge my batteries and find a new direction for life. I also wanted to develop my other skills which led me to three years of training to become a restoration painter. Consequently, in 1989 I set up my own company of furniture restoration and renovation.
A couple of years earlier the guitar had come to my life, and later on the flute. I also began to make my own music although up until that time I had left composing to others. In the years following this, my attitude toward making music had become more and more serious although I didn’t play in any band.
Constructing a tube amplifier
Early in the year 2000, my friend Mr. Jaakko Jussila, a bass player and electronics expert, and I began to work on developing our own tube amplifier for guitar and bass. Our aim was to build a unique amplifier and cab that would hopefully present us with the kind of sound qualities we were after.
The result was two different amplifiers based on Jaakko’s circuit diagram, and a 4 x 12” cab with a unique structure.
I myself designed the units and to a large degree also built them.
The equipment turned out excellent. We named our amplifier Harden, and it has been used also on the recordings presented on this website.
Strength from faith
The years as an entrepreneur, father and husband have been eventful. Christian faith has been the foundation that has kept me going the right way and has given my life meaning. For a long while I’ve been asking God whether He still has something for me to do, and whether He could use my music.
At the moment, I’m making music full time in the quietness of the country outside of the town of Porvoo. Here I feel that I’m close to God, and also the nearness of forests and the sea give me inspiration.
Life has not always been easy or smooth but God has been good and faithful. It is only thanks to Him that I can still say that I am a Christian. It’s a great privilege to be disciplined by God and to learn to know His will. What I want to say with my music is what faith in God means to me today and what God has given to me.