A few recommended Nordic roots music titles
Vrang : SaeterSoul
Lee Blackstone writes, 'The Norwegian trio features Jon Hjellum Brodal, Tuva Faerden, and Maja Gravermoen Toresen on hardanger fiddles, fiddles, lyres, and the occasional mandolin. Their full-length debut is beautifully produced, with plenty of space and depth that let the low mellow tones of the hardanger fiddle grow and the sprightly lyres shine. They combine a minimalist approach and a sly pop sensibility. They can sometimes remind the listener of Groupa with tunes that nod to their coloring and percussive romps. Vrang sparkle, and they are a band full of promise.' This is the RootsWorld Music of the Month selection for May, 2017. Highly recommended!
Zephyr : October Ocean (shipping in May)
From the review in RootsWorld: 'Görån Mansson, Jonas Simonson (from Groupa), and Richard Ekre Suzzi utilize a variety of wind instruments from Sweden and afar, such as the bamboo Bansuri flute. An all-flute trio can certainly have an ethereal sound, as the band demonstrates but Zephyr go well beyond such stereotyping and they construct compositions that indulge in world music influences. They are also a remarkably percussive group, the melodic washes are undergirded by deep tones that, combined, lend a slightly Asian air. Zephyr make a compelling and intriguing showcase for the power and universality of, and experimentation possible with, wind instruments.'
Vasen : Brewed
The Swedish acoustic juggernaut returns with a 2017 release of 15 original pieces, from the tradition but not bound to it. Olov Johansson's nyckelharpa (Swedish keyed fiddle) and Mikael Marin's 5-string viola are once again pushed along by the rhythm of Roger Tallroth's 12-string guitar. (Release date: 28 April, 2017 - e-mail me to reserve a copy)
Okra Playground : Turmio
Finnish folk music can sound other-worldly. The country's folk-epic, "The Kalevala," is laced with charms and spells, and its impact on Finnish folk culture has been immense. One can hear its echoes in this new recording. Three female vocalists are up-front. Both play the kantele, strung over their shoulders for a twin-stringed attack that any heavy metal band would envy. The men in the band round out the contemporary sound with bass, synth, accordion and percussion. Comparisons to both Värttinä and Hedningarna are inevitable. Okra Playground has an organic, acoustic base, but they frequently add electronic enhancements so that their overall approach appeals to both traditionalists and experimentalists.
Johanna-Adele Jüssi : Kiilid
"Kiilid" (Dragonflies) features the music of the violinist Johanna-Adele Jüssi, accompanied by Jo Einar Jansen (Norway), Sven Midgren (Sweden), Nicolaj Wamberg (Denmark) and Jalmar Vabarna (Estonia). Produced and recorded by Antti Järvela (Finland), the music is inspired by Estonian islands, Järvamaa and Denmark, her travels, the people she met on her way, and the marks they left, the truths that stuck to her. The song that shares the name of the album, "Kiilid", tells the story of dragonflies with dark blue wings, who fly above water bathed in the sun and remind us to be careful with what we wish for. Musicians: Johanna-Adele Jüssi - violin Jalmar Vabarna - acoustic guitar; Jo Einar Jansen - violin; Sven Midgren - violin; Taavet Niller - bass.
Ale Moller : Bouzoukispelman
This is one of the first recordings that turned me on to the folk revival of the 80s in Sweden. It includes an absolutely marvelous group of traditional and neo-traditional songs, as well as his infamous, high-spirited medley of Paul Simon songs (Mrs Robinson and 59th Street Bridge Song). It's a classic and the other musicians on the album are Ellika Frisell, Per Gudmundson, Totte Mattsson, Bill McChesney, Katarina Olsson, Simon Simonson, and Röjås Jonas, so it's a bit of a Filarfolket/Groupa/Nordan thing, as well. Highly recommended and brilliant, good fun.
Per Gudmundson : Sakpipa
Swedish folk music played on the bagpipe. The bagpipe is not well known in Swedish folk, but Gudmundson plays a type not too uncommon in the late 19th century and early 20th. He is joined by an ensemble of vocalists (Agneta Stolpe), violin, the lira, zither and harmonica played by Magnus and Ola Bäckström, Jan Winter and Erik and Ingrid Ingels. Heady stuff, originally recorded in 1982 and quite radical at the time.
Egeland, Molsky and Jarvela : Rauland Rambles
American Bruce Molsky, Finn Arto Järvelä and Norwegian Ånon Egeland join together in a traditional music tour de force. Fiddles abound, along with banjo and touches of ukelele, kantele and jew's harp. They play each others folk music like a natural part of their DNA. It's seamless and vibrant. And it is all recorded at a live concert.
Bragr : Danmarkar'n
A trio of strings and percussion, Bragr features Swedish guitarist and nyckelharpa player Perry Stenbäck, and two Danes - percussionist Christine Dueholm and Jesper Frost Bylling on acoustic bass. All provide vocals on some tracks. They blend tradtional music from regions in both countries, and make them personal and unique.
Trias : Efter Horisonten
Their second release. The band says: Efter Horisonten reflects our maturity which our music not always has been. "Efter Horisonten" has captured the spark of creativity, and together we have created our common expression.' Trias are: Søren Østergaard Pedersen Doublebas, Harmonium; Christoffer Thorhauge Dam Violin, Viola, Harmonium; Rasmus Nielsen Piano, Guitar, Harmonium; Jonas Kongsted Violin, Viola, Mandolin
Ostinat Expressen : Spor 2
Contemporary Danish folk firmly rooted in Nordic tradition, with Ivan Damgaard - Violin; Julie Heebøll Clausen - Clarinet; Steffan Søgaard Sørensen - Double bass; Magnus Heebøll Jacobsen - Percussion; and Jesper Vinther Petersen - Accordion.
Sofia Jannock : áogáttis (by the embers)
The Swedish Sami singer will bring a number of references to mind, from the energy of Varttina to the jazzy sophistication of lena Willemark. But ultimately, she can stand on her own. This is her second recording, and its mix of sami roots, pop and jazz has many moods, from pure pop to complex new music. A fine singer, a great band and a willingness to experiement make this one well worth your consideration. Give her a listen.
Oddjob : Folk
Swedish jazz quintet of trumpet, alto saxophone, bass, piano, and drums. On Folk, Oddjob is inspired by and is improvising over ancient Swedish pastoral Music. Cow herdings and goat callings mixes fantastically well with the contemporary jazz played by this five piece band.
Emilia Amper : Lux
You may know her as a member of the quartet Blink, but this is her second recording up front as the leader, and it's beautiful. The singer and nyckelharpa player is joined by a great cast of musicians, too: FredrikGille, Dan Svensson, Anders Lofberg, Bridget Marsden, Emma Ahlberg-Ek and Olle Linder.
Moller, Willemark and Gudmundson : Frifot
The first recording by this trio, from 1990, is still considered one fo the classic of the new-folk movement.
Frifot : Jarven
Ale Möller, Lena Willemark and Per Gudmundsen created the ensemble Frifot to explore the roots of Swedish folk music in daring new ways
Dawda Jobarteh : Transitional Times
Dawda Jobarteh was born in Gambia, part of a family of hereditary musicians, including his grandfather, the legendary Alhaji Bai Konté. His new CD is a blend of tradition remembered and an immigrant's vision of new worlds. The music swerves from pure solo strings to jarring, modern motifs. He plays with pop and jazz idioms, but it always feels very rooted in the old world. This is a RootsWorld CD choice. These CDs are donated byt eh labels and artists to help RootsWorld raise money to remain online and on the air. All of your purchase gos to support those efforts.
More Music from Elsewhere
Issa Juma and Super Wanyika Stars : World Defeats The Grandfathers
Wanyika Stars was the defining sound of Kenyan Swahili rumba in the late 70s and early 80s, and Issa Juma was a pivotal figure in both creating and giving it new directions. His powerful baritone voice was indisputably the best of the Wanyika clan and, constantly experimenting, his style could change with each producer and session. Carefully re-mastered, full-length recordings that include bona fide hits alongside rare, never-before-released tracks, this album is a long-overdue homage to a brilliant vocalist and band-leader, an innovative and accomplished musician. Listen
9Bach : Anian + In Your Voice
A RootsWorld 'Music of the Month' selection. The Welsh contemporary folk band's 3rd album, released in 2016, is a superb mix of modern and ancient. David Cox wrote in RW that 'this is a pensive, sometimes mysterious disc, with a sound all its own… a pensive, sometimes mysterious disc, with a sound all its own.' The second disc is poetic reinterpretations of the Welsh lyrics in English poetry and prose. Highly recommended.
Various : Greek Rhapsody: Instrumental Music from Greece 1905-1956
152-page hardcover book with two CDs featuring 42 Greek instrumental recordings made between 1905 and 1956. This compilation offers, for the first time, a unique panorama of the instruments and styles of the Greek music from the first half of the 20th century. Author and compiler Tony Klein is a British musician, researcher, and writer, based in Sweden. He has played and researched Greek music for 40 years, and studied with, among others, the veteran Stelios Keromitis. In 2005, in collaboration with collector Charles Howard, he produced and annotated the CD Mortika Rare Vintage Recordings from a Greek Underworld.
Tao Ravao and Thomas Laurent : Au Bout Du Petit Matin
Malgache string player and vocalist Ravao and French harmonica player Laurent offer a window into primarily Francophone and Francophone-associated tunes. Though a few tracks would be well known to even casual listeners of jazz, rock, and Afro-Latin styles, the way Ravao and Laurent capture their energy with only two performers is much more novel. Ravao plays both guitar and kabosy, a box-shaped wooden guitar common in musics of Madagascar, while Laurent sports a twelve-hole chromatic harmonica not dissimilar to the voice-like emotionality popularized by musicians like Toots Thielemans and Gregoire Maret.
Alakotila, Järvelä, Kennemark : Nordik Tree
Arto Järvelä, Timo Alakotila and Hans Kennemark, three formidible artists from Finland and Sweden, in a collaboration for fiddles and harmonium (pump organ).
Afenginn : Retrograd
This unorthodox Danish small orchestra performs music that is high-energy, humorous and virtuoso bastard-ethno music: original folk music-based compositions containing odd meters, wildness, energy and catchy melodies, but also moments of meditation and melancholy. Thwre are hints of klezmer and other eastern European sounds, but the final mix is all their own
Trio Mio : Pigeon Folk Pieces
The second effort by the Danish tro led by violinist Kristine Heeboll with Jens Ulvsand on bouzouki and guitar and Nikolaj Busk on piano and accordion. A touch of the contemporary avant garde meets the deeply traditional folk in a recording that is .
Habadekuk : Kaffepunch
The second recording by this dynamic Danish roots mini-big band follows up their epic Hopsadaddy rather brilliantly, with more great brass, strings and reeds, some new attitude and solid musicianship, as expected.
Hwang Byung-ki : Kayagum Masterpieces Vol 2 (The Silk Road)
Korea's foremost composer and kayagum (6-string zither) master performing new works on this ancient instrument that crosses centuries, cultures and traditions. '...lyrical, picturesque, meditative and brief.... authoritatively produced and performed.' FANFARE Magazine (Korean Import)