Norwegian musician Øyunn Romtveit has a new album titled Kveding i heimetradisjon – Traditional Singing from Vinje in Telemark (Etnisk Musikklubb).
“I was brought up in Vinje, with West Telemark’s unique folk music,” says Øyunn Romtveit. “My family deeply respected this music. All of my close relatives sang or played an instrument. From birth, singing and fiddling were around me every day, so it’s not strange that traditional singing and hardanger fiddle playing is my kind of music. I am privileged to be part of this music, and the tales and stories that come with it. My husband shares my interest, making it easy to let music play a main role in life. My eldest daughter Tone has also taken it up, which makes it even more meaningful.
I started singing dance tunes and songs early. I sang the fiddle tune “Lappebakken” before I could speak. I was convinced I knew the Skomakarvisa (“The Shoemaker’s Song”) exactly as it should be. No-one could convince me that they knew it better! At home, I strolled around singing. I sang on the bus and in the car. “Thanks for the song!”, a bus driver once said as I stepped out of the bus – I remember how embarrassed I was. Today I know better, there was no reason for embarrassment. People complimented my singing !
Grandpa Romtveit always sang when we visited him, just as he did when coming to us after going to the store. He took off his rucksack, sat down in the log chair, picked up oranges for uskids, started to lie about all that had happened in the store – wild histories about what peoplehe met had said, what they had done – he joked and laughed – and then he started to sing.
I guess I didn’t emphasize learning from Grandpa Romtveit, but he sang every time we met, so I learned whether it was on purpose or not. However, I mainly learned songs and singing from my father. My other grandfather, Halvor Versto, also was a good singer. He died when I was twelve, and we were not together that often. I particularly remember him singing Gufseguten. In school there was no folk music until I reached junior high.
The music teacher was not a local, and thought it was important that we learned about our local music. We visited singers Aslak Brekke and Brita Bratland, and the fiddlers Lars Larsen and my uncle Tarjei Romtveit. It was rewarding to visit Brita Bratland, and great when Aslak Brekke sang for us. First he felt it was awkward, but as soon as he got started, it was incredible! In my youth, fiddle music interested me more than songs. In later years, little by little I picked up singing again.
I feel a strong responsibility to pass on the singing tradition I grew up with and belong to, and to make it more available for others to share. That is why I have recorded this CD.”