Queen of Norway, Her Majesty Queen Sonja, is the patron of the Førde Folk Music Festival. On July 8th of 2010 she inaugurated the opening event at Førdehuset (the main venue) titled Fridom og undertrykking. This series of concerts is an appetizer of what’s to come. A small selection of the musicians participating in the festival presented one or two pieces of their repertory.
The first concert of the evening was by Lars Ánte Kuhmunen, representing the Sami minority of Sweden. Kuhmunen is a yoiker and successfully combines the ancient Sami singing tradition with electric instruments. His debut CD is titled Birrasis and won Best New Artist at the 2006 Norwegian Folk Music Awards. Although Lars Ánte Kuhmunen performs with his band throughout Europe, he makes a living as a reindeer herder.
The rest of the international musicians featured included Aurelio Martinez (Honduras), The Kamkars (Iran), Amal Murkus (Palestine/Israel), Malouma (Mauritania), Kroke (Poland) and Parno Graszt (Hungary).
Aurelio Martinez is one of the leading cultural figures in the Garifuna community of Honduras, which is the largest in Central America. Martinez has been involved in many of the most successful Garifuna recordings and has a solo career now. His most recent album is Garifuna Soul, although a new album will be coming out soon which features as guests top Senegalese acts such as Youssou N’Dour and Orchestra Baobab. Martinez performed a couple of pieces of his high energy African-rooted parranda music.
“Aurelio Martinez is currently the leading Garifuna musician and activist,” said World Music Central’s Angel Romero. “Despite many obstacles, he is keeping the Garifuna culture of Honduras alive. I had a long interview with him during the festival and World Music Central’s readers will get an in depth look at the life and music of Aurelio Martinez.”
The Kamkars is a large ensemble of musicians from the Kurdish region of Iran. The ensemble presented an impressive performance showing the dazzling virtuosity of all the musicians. “I had heard about the band, but had never seen them live,” said Angel Romero. “Excellent music and dazzling virtuosity.”
Malouma has been fighting for women’s rights in Mauritania and is a pioneer in the development of modern Mauritanian music. She gave a powerful performance, combining Berber and West African roots with American funk and rock. “Malouma is a charismatic performer with a powerful rhythm section that is downright funky,” says Angel Romero. “However, the electric guitarist played clichéd rock phrasings and the music could have benefited from another guitar style or even some other type of amplified traditional stringed instrument.”
Representing the Palestinian community living inside Israel, Amal Murkus has a wonderful voice. Her music has roots in Palestinian folk music, classical Arabic and Mediterranean melodies. She sings in Arabic about suffering and sadness as well as hope. She was accompanied by a small group of virtuoso musicians on oud, flute and percussion.
“Amal Markus has a prodigious voice,” said Angel Romero. “Several colleagues alerted me about the quality of her music and it was definitely one of the highlights of the evening.”
Kroke is one of the best known bands from Poland. The trio of masterful musicians has researched and recovered the Klezmer traditions of Poland and has become one of the leading acts in the genre. During their performance Kroke demonstrated spectacular fiddle work by Tomasz Kukurba and went beyond Klezmer, incorporating elements of jazz, classical and Polish folk traditions.
“I was fascinated by Tomasz Kukurba’s fiddle wizardry,” said Angel Romero. “He can easily navigate classical and folk traditions. He and his colleagues are fabulous instrumentalists.”
Parno Graszt is one of the most popular Roma (Gypsy) groups in Hungary. The group gave a lively and passionate performance at Førdehuset. In addition to instruments such as the guitar and tanbura, Parno Graszt uses spoon and milk jug percussion.
The concert was sold out,” said Torill Faleide, Førde Folk Music Festival’s communications manager, at a meeting with the foreign press the next day.
All photos by Angel Romero