Grannen (Frig00007, 2011)
If you like fiddles, Finnish-Norwegian band Frigg is as good as it gets. Fronted by five fiddlers, the Scandinavian band wows audiences with a combination of new folk and rearranged traditional pieces. Although some see Scandinavian music as melancholic and introspective, Frigg are introducing the fun and joy of Finnish and Norwegian music worldwide, pieces that you can dance to. “The overall picture people have of Scandinavians has very little to do with the music,” Antti Järvelä, fiddler and Frigg founder explains. “People think Finnish music in particular is melancholy and minor. But if you look at tunes from before World War II, seventy percent are in a major key. They are happy.”
Frigg’s new album is titled Grannen and they’ve been presenting worldwide, reaching audiences from the Rainforest World Music Festival in Borneo (Malaysia) to the American Midwest. Their fresh approach to Scandinavian folk dance music is attracting young international audiences and older generations as well. “Frigg is on the new edge,” Järvelä smiles. “And we are making very happy music.”
Most of the band members come from Kaustinen, a small Finnish town of 5,000 which has a reputation as hotspot for folk musicians, specially fiddle players. Although the line-up changes, Frigg also included the Larsen brothers from Norway. Frigg’s members learned the tradition from folk music jams, relatives and musical elders. “In the old days, we did things very particularly,” reflects Järvelä, who’s played with fellow Frigg fiddler Esko Järvelä since the two were barely out of kindergarten. “We really learned lots of details and were required to stay in the form of our teachings. Basically, when you smiled then, it meant you had made a mistake. Now when we smile, it has nothing to do with mistakes.”
Although Frigg’s music is deeply rooted in Scandinavian folklore, the band introduces elements from other traditions, such as Celtic music from Ireland and Scotland and contemporary bluegrass. “Someone will remember a good tune or come up with a good idea,” Järvelä explains, reflecting on the band’s creative process. “We try it out then and there, and if we feel there’s potential we leave it for a while, then come back to it. We build an arrangement up from the feeling we have in that moment.”
Frigg’s current line-up includes five fiddlers: siblings Esko and Alina Järvelä, Tero Hyväluoma, Tommi Asplund and Einar Olav Larsen; Tuomas Logrén on guitar, dobro and mandolin; Petri Prauda on cittern and mandolin; and Antti Järvelä (Esko and Alina’s cousin) on upright bass.
“There are some tunes that are hard to play on stage, old rocking waltzes and such. We go over the edge. We even lose track of where we are in the music,” Järvelä says. “But so long as someone keeps the tune going, it doesn’t matter. Different characters emerge from behind the instruments. And the audience goes crazy.”
Grannen easily blends tradition and modernity, showcasing the talent of one of Scandinavia’s finest folk bands.
In the United States you can get the album from CDRoots.