Synnøve S. Bjørset is one of the leading performers of traditional Hardanger fiddle music today. At her concerts she presents a collection of little-known tunes and recreations of familiar Norwegian standards, playing a wide range of scordatura (cross-tuning) tunings.
She regularly performs with fiddle group Majorstuen. Over the past few years, her performances have won her a series of awards.
Susanne Lundeng was born in 1969 in Bodø, Nordland County, Norway. She studied violin at the local music school, starting at the age of nine. She has been involved in important efforts to collect traditional tunes from older fiddlers in her region. Her work was especially significant since many of the fiddlers were quite advanced in age, and have now passed away.
Lundeng has been highly praised and is greatly respected for her work. Her music showcases her involvement in the rich tradition of the northern area of Norway. Lundeng is known for her energetic playing style and her ability to communicate with her audience.
* Havella (Grappa Musikkforlag HCD 7067, 1991)
* Drag (Kirkelig Kulturverksted FXCD 140, 1994)
* Norsk Folkemusikk 10 (Folkemusikk frå Nord-Noreg og Sameland) (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4070, 1995)
* Ættesyn (Kirkelig Kulturverksted FXCD 178, 1997)
* Vals Til Den Røde Fela (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2000)
* Forunderlig Ferd (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2004)
* Aejlies Gaaltije, with Frode Fjellheim (Vuelie, 2004)
* Nattevak (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2006)
* Waltz For The Red Fiddle (Laika, 2010)
* Mot (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2011)
* Wire and String, with Rolf Wallin (Simax Classics, 2011)
* Flåte, with Hammer & Hersk (Norway Music, 2013)
* Et steg ut (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2014)
Duende is the self-titled debut album by a Latin jazz trio featuring three talented Seattle-based musicians. The project is led by keyboardist, composer and producer Alex Chadsey, who has a background in jazz and classical music, and salsa bands as well. Chadsey connected with Uzbek bassist Farko Dosumov and percussionist Jeff “Bongo” Busch.
The three musicians share a passion for Afro-Caribbean music and this shows in the band’s music that is a well-crafted combination of contemporary jazz and Latin American traditions. In addition to the Caribbean influences, the album also shows Brazilian rhythms and funk.
Duende Libre goes beyond the Americas too. Salif is a tribute to Malian world music star Salif Keita, which is a new direction for Chadsey that he’d like to explore further.
On Duende Libre, Alex Chadsey, Farko Dosumov and Jeff “Bongo” Busch deliver a richly textured set of Latin and African grooves and melodies under a jazz perspective.
Susana Baca was born in Lima, although she grew up in the small black coastal barrio of Chorrillos, “populated with fishermen and cats,” Susana remembers, where the descendants of slaves have lived since the days of the Spanish empire.
She grew up surrounded by music and her mother’s good cooking. Señora Baca taught her daughter what she knew of both. “My father played guitar and my mother showed me my first steps – she was dancer, not a singer. I listened to the radio and watched Mexican movies, all those great rumba dancers and Cuban musicians like Pérez Prado and Beny Moré.”
As a child, she would accompany her mother when she cleaned homes and says that the only way she could keep still was when her mother put on classical music. Her father, who was a driver, was also the barrio’s own street guitarist and would often play outdoors with a group of neighborhood musicians. Their instruments were usually guitars and a percussive instrument called the cajón (a wooden box).
Despite childhood asthma, Susana avidly pursued folk singing and dancing. “Every June 29, there was the Chorrillos festival, with a religious procession for the patron saint. It was very pretty. The townspeople carried the image of Saint Peter onto a boat out to sea to bless the water and the season’s fishing. The next day everyone in town went down to the beach. The old folks played guitar and cajón, everyone sang.”
It was at school that her talents were noticed, and as she took an interest in the poets of Peru, she began to see herself as a link in the cultural work of preservation and instruction. She formed an experimental music group combining poetry and song. Through grants from Peru’s Institute of Modern Art and the National Institute of Peruvian Culture, she began performing. At the prestigious international Agua Dulce festival in Lima, she took top honors.
Susana began to attract attention, the most flattering of which was the admiration of the late Chabuca Granda. One of the great figures of Latin American song, composer and singer Granda was known throughout the Americas for her works in many idioms, but it was only late in her life that she turned her attention to the sounds of Afro-Peru. In Susana she must have seen a worthy successor, and hired her as personal assistant, inviting the young singer into her home. “She was the mother of my singing,” Susana recalls. “One of her records she dedicated to me, and it had a lyric, ‘Don’t forget about missing me.'”
At Chabuca’s insistence, Susana was given her first opportunity to record professionally in Peru. But the composer’s sudden death in 1983 left all deals off. Susana’s work continued, but it would be years later before any label sought to bring her to a wider audience.
Her journey to success has been a long one. She fondly remembers the day in 1995 when she got a phone call in Peru saying that David Byrne wanted to meet with her. She could not believe it at first, and admits that, while she knew of him, she did not know much about him. “He wasn’t in my world at the time,” she says.
She decided that it would be better to cook a meal for him at her house rather than go out to a fancy restaurant. She recalls, somewhat embarrassed, that she had to take her large dog outside to keep him from excitedly jumping on Byrne when he arrived for dinner. It was the first meeting in what has proved to be a fruitful artistic partnering since she signed to his recording label, Luaka Bop.
“My repertoire is both old and new. It has to be that way. That’s how you mature in life, and how you grow into your culture. I have traditional songs about the life of our grandparents in the countryside, others are more about rhythm and dancing. These are the festejo, the landó, the golpe é tierra. There are songs more tied to city life and more ‘composed’ music: the waltz, the marinera and the zamacueca. Then there are those which in their joy and pain share a diversity of rhythmic and interpretative aims like Afro-Peruvian culture, they are mixtures of very different forms.”
The resilience of Susana Baca’s talent lies in these tensions, ones which have haunted a people for centuries, and continue to rattle like ghosts throughout the history of the Americas. With her gifts of song and dance, Susana lights a way beyond the past, a way into healing. “I never wanted to become a museum for the dead. Interpreting the old and traditional songs in a new way has always been my greatest goal,” she avers. “This is what unites the old and the new, all that is ours in an unending story.”
Susana Baca’s year 2000 release Eco de Sombras, represented her further emergence from the rich Afro-Peruvian musical tradition first introduced to North American listeners on The Soul of Black Peru, and her self-titled Luaka Bop debut. Alongside the cajón are the modern sensibilities of such guest musicians as John Medeski and Tom Waits, and veterans Marc Ribot on guitar and Oreg Cohen on bass.
Baca does not consider herself a pan-American artist. She is not seeking “crossover” success in the English-speaking realm. She is quite comfortable staying in Peru and worries what would happen to her art if she ever left for good. Besides, she says, “I suffer without the food of Peru.”
While she fully intends to stick to her roots in Peru, she was on quite a journey in 2005: recording her album ‘Travesias’ (Passages) in upstate New York in the spring, and traveling to the Congo before returning to the United States to begin a fellowship to study the music of the African Diaspora. As fate would have it, she began her fellowship in New Orleans-three weeks before Hurricane Katrina came along. The year-long fellowship began in August of 2005 at Tulane University, where Baca planned to study Creole music and the work of Louis Armstrong. When the hurricane hit the city, everything came to a halt.
“I couldn’t believe-the situation,” she recalled from her small office at the University of Chicago, where she was offered a place to continue her fellowship. “When you live in Latin America you expect the government to do nothing. You know that you are on your own.”
Luckily, an artist friend arranged for a car to get her out of the city shortly before it was decimated. As she fled New Orleans with nothing but a suitcase, she looked out at the drowning city and felt an intense, deep-sinking feeling as she saw the faces of people staggering on the side of the road. “I felt that they had been abandoned,” she said softly, tears welling up in her eyes. “I felt paralyzed.”
She was scheduled to perform a series of concerts in Helsinki immediately after the evacuation and described the experience as cathartic following the destruction in New Orleans. “I had to alleviate that tragedy through music.”
It is this kind of quiet intensity that pervades her Travesias album. It is a record she describes as a personal dialogue, a collection of intimate moments for the person who is alone and who is in love. The songs are stripped down, quiet, like a late-night conversation.
In the hauntingly poignant “Merci Bon Dieu,” which was written by Franz Cassius, the childhood music teacher other guitarist Marc Ribot, she sings:
Thank you Lord Keep all that nature provides for us Keep it for when misery comes for us
While she does not consider herself a religious person in the traditional Roman Catholic sense that dominates Latin America, it has influenced who she is. “The first thing you learn in religion is to share. I feel that that is what I am doing.”
Baca and her husband, Ricardo Pereida, started a cultural center, the Instituto Negro Continuo “Black Continuum” in Lima in 1998 with the goal to teach children about music and art in her hometown of Santa Barbara, Peru.
She is very hands-on with the center and describes a Christmas concert the children performed as one of the happiest days of her life. One of her ideals is to give a voice to people who otherwise might not be heard. “I proposed to learn the foundations of our past – to know more about the blacks and their grandparents, who were my grandparents as well. I wanted to know that, aside from being good football players and cooks, we were a culture that had contributed to the formation of a nation,” she says.
Years of labor have created this facility for the exploration, expression and creation of black Peruvian culture. “It began as a need for a place where young people could experience cultural investigation and music making. Now we have a library, an archive, a performance and dance space.”
The artistic growth demonstrated on her debut album have developed concurrently with the institute. “I express myself with the songs and poetry of my people,” Susana explains. “I choose songs that speak to me: they’re tender, melancholic, rhythmic and poetic. And a few of them are a little risqué.”
Despite the tenderness in Baca’s music, it is influenced by a history of political engagement that was aroused with her increasing awareness of societal oppression. As a young woman, Baca was compelled to protest the stark role for women in the church and in a machista society. “I have always been a leftist,” she says, adding how she would sing with a feminist group at fiery, anti-establishment rallies.
Her main literary influences include writers like Arturo Pérez Reverte, Alfredo Bryce, Javier Marias and Mario Vargas Llosa. She has a kinship to Vargas Llosa, in the tradition of Peruvian social protest in her understated manner and actions against machismo and racial prejudice-a manner that never becomes propaganda.
On her trip to the Congo, she saw firsthand the legacy and impact of colonialism on the population. “It’s hard to get people to think and act for themselves after so many years of colonial rule,” Baca says. While there, she performed along with a children’s choir for a series of concerts. “When children learn to think for themselves, it opens doors,” she says.
Her success and performances around the world have admittedly changed her perspective on life. “It’s embarrassing to be applauded in restaurants.” But she takes it all in stride.
The String Sisters is a collaboration of the Celtic and Nordic music world’s top female fiddlers: Annbjørg Lien from Norway; Catriona Macdonald from Shetland; Liz Carroll and Liz Knowles from the United States of America; Mairead ni Mhaonaigh (Altan) from Ireland; and Emma Härdelin from Sweden.
The String Sisters began at Celtic Connections in January of 2001, when Catriona Macdonald saw one of her dreams become a reality by assembling some of the world’s top leading female fiddlers. Colin Hynd at Celtic Connections grabbed the chance to premiere the event at his festival, and the experience was nothing short of earth shattering for all who participated. The Glasgow concert was a great success and the project was rebooked for the following year. However, despite the repeated success, the Sisters were not since been able to reunite prior to undertaking a grand tour of Norway in 2005.
During the winter of 2005, the sisters went on tour in Norway, in cooperation with the Norwegian National Concerts, and Grappa Music Group. The tour was Annbjørg Lien’s initiative.
A live album and DVD recorded in Norway, titled Live, was released in 2007. The String Sisters were joined by David Milligan on piano, Conrad Ivitsky on double bass, Tore Bruvoll on guitar, and James Mackintosh on drums and percussion.
Steinar Ofsdal was born in 1948 in Oslo, Norway. He has a varied musical background and is regarded as one of Norway’s top flute players.
He has worked within several musical genres in addition to folk music. Throughout the years he has collected instruments from all over the world, and his solo CD features compositions tailored specifically to these instruments. Ofsdal has collaborated with many other musicians, and is a member of the group Bukkene Bruse.
* Bukkene Bruse (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4053, 1993)
* Åre, with Bukkene Bruse (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4100, 1995)
* Seljefløyta, with Hallgrim Berg and Hans Fredrik Jacobsen (Grappa Musikkforlag HCD 7131, 1997)
* Steinstolen, with Bukkene Bruse (Grappa Musikkforlag HCD 7145, 1998)
* The Stone Chair, with «Bukkene Bruse» (North Side, 1999)
* Oslo-viser (Tylden & Co, 2000)
* På Stengrunn (Grappa 2001)
* Den fagraste rosa, with Bukkene Bruse (Grappa, 2001)
* The Loveliest Rose, with Bukkene Bruse (North Side, 2002)
* Sjøfløyta (Heilo, 2004)
* Spel, with “Bukkene Bruse” (Heilo, 2004)
* Kaké, with Aw-Ofsdal-Sereba (2004)
* Live at Sioux Falls, (Grappa GRCD4237, 2006)
* Sviv (Musikk & mystikk MMCD0801, 2008)
* Fjellfløyta/Vårfløyta (Musikk & mystikk MMCD0802, 2009)
Steel Pulse was formed in 1975 in the UK with a firm commitment to fighting injustice, educating the masses, and promoting positive messages through spiritually uplifting music.
Probably the UK’s most highly-regarded roots reggae act, Steel Pulse originally formed at Handsworth Wood Boys School, Birmingham, and featured David Hinds (lead vocals, guitar), Basil Gabbidon (lead guitar, vocals) and Ronnie McQueen (bass).
However, it is Hinds who, as songwriter, has always been the foundation of Steel Pulse, from their early days establishing themselves in the Birmingham club scene onwards. Formed in 1975, their debut release, ‘Kibudu, Mansetta And Abuku” arrived on the small independent label Dip, and linked the plight of urban black youth with the image of a greater African homeland. They followed it with ‘Nyah Love’ for Anchor.
Surprisingly, they were initially refused live dates in Caribbean venues in the Midlands because of their Rastafarian beliefs. Aligning themselves closely with the Rock Against Racism 1 organization, they chose to tour instead with sympathetic elements of the punk movement, including the Stranglers, XTC etc.: “Punks had a way of enjoying themselves – throw hordes at you, beer, spit at you, that kind of thing“.
Eventually they found a more natural home in support slots for Burning Spear, that brought them to the attention of Island Records. Their first release for Island was the ‘Ku Klux Klan’ 45 rpm, a considered tilt at the evils of racism, and one often accompanied by a visual parody of the sect on stage.
By this time their band had swelled to include Selwyn ‘Bumbo’ Brown (keyboards), Steve ‘Grizzly’ Nesbitt (drums), Fonso Martin (vocals, percussion) and Michael Riley (vocals). Handsworth Revolution was an accomplished long playing debut and one of the major landmarks in the evolution of British reggae.
However, despite critical and moderate commercial success over three albums, the relationship with Island had soured by the time Caught You (released in the US as Reggae Fever) came out. They switched to Elektra, and revealed their most consistent collection of songs since their debut with True Democracy, distinguished by the Garvey eulogizing ‘Rally Around’ cut.
A further definitive set arrived in Earth Crisis. Unfortunately, Elektra tried to coerce Steel Pulse into a more mainstream vein, asking them to emulate the pop-reggae style of Eddy Grant. Babylon the Bandit was consequently weakened, but did contain the anthemic ‘Not King james Version’, which was a powerful indictment on the omission of black people and history from certain versions of the Bible. Babylon the Bandit won the Best Reggae Band Grammy award.
Their next recording was State of Emergency (MCA), which retained some of the synthesized dance elements of its predecessor. Though it was a significantly happier compromise, it still paled before any of their earlier albums.
Spike Lee met Steel Pulse at the group’s fund raising concert in Washington DC for the Jamaican victims of 1988’s Hurricane Gilbert. This resulted in David’s composition ‘Can’t Stand it’ featuring in Lee’s Do the Right Thing movie soundtrack.
Rastafari Centennial was recorded live at the Elysee Montmartre in Paris, and dedicated to the hundred year anniversary of the birth of Haile Selassie. It was the first recording since the defection of Fonso Martin, leaving the trio of David Hinds, Steve Nisbett and Selwyn Brown.
In the United States their reputation was growing, becoming the first ever reggae band to appear on the Tonight television show.
Their profile was raised further when, in 1992, the band filed a $1 million class action lawsuit against New York City’s Taxi & Limousine Commission. The group charged that cabbies refused to pick up blacks and Rastafarians throughout the streets of New York. This lawsuit initiated a video, Taxi Driver, with a supporting cast that included the Reverend Al Sharpton, Jay Leno, Branford Marsalis, C. Thomas Howell, Robert Townsend and the late Tony Johnson, the inspiration behind Sunsplash.
“We just can’t ignore the politics, because every life and soul that’s born on this earth is a political maneuver for someone, at some stage“, Hinds explained. “From a spiritual aspect, it’s really an upliftment through facing reality – what’s out there. We deal with positive spirits. It means putting aside the guns, the drugs and all of the things that are ailments of society – especially the black communities right now“.
In 1993, at the request of the Clinton Administration, Steel Pulse became the first reggae band ever to perform during the inaugural festivities in Washington DC.
The following year, the group headlined large-scale music events including the US Reggae Sunsplash Tour, Japanslpash, Northern California’s Reggae on the River Festival and embarked on a successful tour of South America.
1995 saw an extensive Caribbean tour followed by an appearance in January 1996 at the prestigious Hollywood Rock Festivals in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo which featured Page and Plant, The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins and Aswad amongst others. Later that year Steel Pulse released their derivative best of album titled Rastanthology and followed this up in 1997, with the Grammy nominated, Rage and Fury album.
Extensive worldwide touring throughout the remainder of that year and 1998 included shows at MTV’s Boardaid in California and the environmental Waterman’s Ball in Los Angeles. December ’98 saw the return to Africa for the first time in fifteen years when they played the Ivory Coast. Hind’s notes “//it was a tremendous sight to behold and the ecstatic moral boost to our existence was so energizing//”.
For 1999, the group was headliner for the world-wide Spirit of Unity Tour and in August 1999 released a second live album titled Living Legacy (Tuff Gong international) that was recorded Live in Paris, Holland and Puerto Rico.
Parashqevi Simaku was born in 1966 in Kavajë, Albania. She is a popular and beloved singer from Albania. As a teen she represented Albanian culture, singing folk songs on national television and radio and performing to international audiences.
Simaku won many competitions and awards, worked with many well-known composers and musicians, ventured into modern pop and created the first music videos in her country.
currently living in New York City, Simaku writes and produces recordings with her American husband, guitarist Robert Nolfe. Simaku made a modern world music album, Echoes From Iliria, that is rooted in undiscovered Eastern-European folk traditions.
Canadian band The Jerry Cans is based in Nunavut, in Canada’s far north. On Inuusiq they present a unique mix of folk-rock, pop, indie rock, reggae and Inuit throat singing.
The band indicates that their songs talk to young people and their challenges, trying to make music that equalizes traditional and contemporary life.
One of The Jerry Cans’ initiatives is the creation of the first record label ever in Nunavut, Aakuluk Music. “We had thrown around the idea to start a label to support Inuktitut music. We have four young artists singing in Inuktitut,” says vocalist and guitarist Andrew Morrison. “We’ve often heard as we were pitching our work, that if you want to succeed, you have to sing in English. We don’t accept that. We wanted to create a business entity to support it.”
The lineup includes Nancy Mike on throat singing and accordion; Brendan Doherty on bass; Steve Rigby on drums; Gina burgess on fiddle; and Andrew Morrison on lead vocals and guitar.
The CD version includes a booklet with Inuit and English-language lyrics.
With Inuusiq and their new record label, The Jerry Cans give a fresh, creative new voice to Canadian Inuit culture.
Born in 1961 to a Norwegian father and a Finnish mother from Karelia, Langeland was given a Finnish name, Sinikka, and felt the influence of two nationalities and cultures from the beginning. She lives in Finnskogen, 120 km north of Oslo, close to the border of Sweden. Finnskogen, the ‘Finnish forest,’ was first populated by Finns in the 17th century.
After an early education in classical music Sinikka started to look at contemporary folk music and the singer-songwriter genre, but this was soon displaced by an interest in older forms, intensifying as her research continued and underlined by a wish to “create an original music rooted in my own area, taking account of local possibilities and looking back into history to find out more.”
She highlights that her specific musical journey has “always been about searching. I love folksong but I’m not exclusively a traditional folk singer. There were always influences coming from other places, too.”
At 20 she changed from guitar to kantele, the Finnish table harp. She plays the 39-string concert kantele, with its five-octave range. “At first it was just an experiment – I thought it would be fun to have a Finnish instrument for one or two songs. But I became completely fascinated by it.” Meanwhile she was expanding her repertoire to include rune songs, incantations, ancient melodies from Finland and Karelia, as well as little known medieval ballads and religious folk songs.
Her work has flowed in several directions simultaneously. She gives, for instance, solo performances with voice and kantele, and she gives duo concerts in churches, together with organist Kare Nordstoga, in which old folk songs and Easter hymns are placed alongside with J.S. Bach’s transformations of the same sources. And, since the early 1990s, she has been working and recording with jazz musicians as part of her ensembles.
Swedish bassist Anders Jormin has been a regular colleague for more than a dozen years, joining her for the first time on the recording ‘Har du lyttet til elvene om natta’ (Grappa, 1995). Sinnika also played regularly with drummer Markku Ounaskari, a backbone of the Finnish jazz scene.
Sinikka’s songs often focus on the relationship between people and nature as it is expressed in traditional and modern poetry. Her CD Starflowers (ECM, 2007) includes her versions of the poems of Hans Borli (1918-89) and is performed with a remarkable ensemble that opens up the songs to improvisation. In its interweaving of folksong, literature, and Nordic jazz it may be considered a typical ECM production, but it is also a consistent extension of the work Sinikka has been developing over the last decades.
* Langt innpå skoga (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4074, 1994)
* Har du lyttet til elvene om natta? (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4107, 1995)
* Det syng, with Anne Marit Jacobsen, Halvor Håkanes, Eli Storbekken and Agnes Buen Garnås (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4123, 1997)
* Strengen var af røde guld (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4136, 1997)
* Lille Rosa (Grappa Musikkforlag HCD 7156, 1999)
* Starflowers (ECM, 2007)
* Maria’s Song (ECM 2127, 2009)
* The Land That Is Not (ECM, 2011)
* The Half-Finished Heaven (ECM Records, 2015)
* The Magical Forest (2016)