Forde Festival: Not just a “booking festival”, but also a “producing festival”

Hilde Bjørkum
Photo by Angel Romero
The Førde Traditional and World Music Festival (http://www.fordefestival.no), held this year July 5-8 in Førde, Norway, promises to be a musical treat. The dozens of featured musical bands and dance troupes include Renata Rosa from Brazil, Sidi Goma and Anoushka Shankar from India, Musicians of the Nile from Egypt, Ivresses from Iran/Tunisia, Park Kyung-so from Korea, Bassekou Kouyaté from Mali, Septeto Santiaguero from Cuba, Damily from Madagascar, Sergey Starostin from Russia, Frikar from Norway, Kamel el Harrachi from Algeria, and Ellika from Senegal – to name just a few!

Hilde Bjørkum, artistic and managing director, Førde Festival, joins us in this exclusive interview where she shares the Festival’s vision, highlights, evolution, and special treats for this year’s festival. In the coming weeks, we will profile these unusual bands and provide live coverage of the festivities as well.

Q: When was the festival started, and what was the vision?

Sidi Goma
The first festival took place in 1990. The vision was, and is, to get the richness of the world’s music traditions and cultures better known for a broad audience, by making Førde a meeting place for outstanding musicians from around the globe. It’s also a vision to showcase the rich musical heritage from Norway to local and international audiences.

We emphasize presentation of artists and music cultures pretty unknown to a Norwegian audience; helping young artists in their artistic career by presenting them for a big audience; and providing “low threshold” to musical experiences by offering free entrance events and low ticket prices for children. We aim to be not only a “booking festival”, but also a “producing festival”, by initiating and producing new performances, order new music pieces, and so on.

We also offer concerts not only in the Culture House, but also in the town center, in squares, pubs, churches and son — altogether around 30 different venues. We use the unique nature around us — fjords, lakes and waterfalls — as a frame for the unique music we present.

Q: How has the festival evolved over the years, in terms of format and mix of artistes?

Fiddlers Marie & Julie – Litjtausa, featuring Marie Forr Klåpbakken and Julie Alapnes
The vision remains the same, but the festival has grown in all aspects. We have got stronger financial support over the years, and are now considered as one of Norway’s “hub festivals” with support from the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the regional authorities and the municipality. We have become more professional in our work and have more staff. In the first year, we had a half-time job for one person, now we have six employees and more than 300 volunteers.

The audience has grown from around 6,000 visitors the first year, to around 25-30,000 the last years. The program has also been extended over the years; we now present around 80 events across four days and nights. We do more of our own productions and also have activities with concerts, seminar, workshops and conferences throughout the year in addition to the festival itself.

Q: What is the theme for this year, and what are some special treats and surprises this time?

The special theme for this year is “Coexistence.” Coexistence is exciting and challenging, but first of all enriching! Through musical expression and traditions, we want to highlight how people and cultures have interacted with each other throughout the ages. No civilization exists in a vacuum; on the contrary, cultures grow and thrive through interaction with the outside world. Music arises as a result of peaceful encounters and coexistence between people, with new traditions growing forth from impulses from within our own community and from elsewhere.

This is the way it always has been and still is today – multiculturalism is nothing new. Many musical traditions and expressions are the result of a meeting of different cultures and people. Many of the artists we have booked for this year’s festival illustrate precisely this point with their music itself. In addition, we have artists and program also outside the special theme.

Q: How does this festival differ from last year’s festival?

Anoushka Shankar live in India
Photo by Romel Dutta
We always book different artists, of course, so the audience will get bright new musical experiences and meet new and exciting artists from all corners of the world. In addition, I must mention the very special project “8”, a new production where the Norwegian FRIKAR dance company meets monks from China, and the famous Norwegian male solo dance “halling” meets Chinese kung-fu! With new written music and eight fantastic dancers on stage, I believe that this will be one of the greatest experiences in this year’s festival program! Wonderful artists from India will also be presented, like the brilliant Anoushka Shankar with her “Traveller” project, and the exciting Afro-Indian ensemble Sidi Goma.

We also have other new productions at the festival, and some new festival venues, such as mountain tops with a great view over Forde; in small restaurants where the music is combined with gourmet meals and local food; children concerts and workshops in a lavvo; and lots of additional dance events, visual art projects, and festival films.

Q: What is your message to the attendees of the festival this year?

Be a musical explorer! Visit concerts, see artists and listen to music that you do not know much about. There are good chances of getting big and good surprises and unforgettable experiences! Close to 80% of the audience who visited our festival in the past comes back for the next year. So be on alert, the Forde Festival is addictive and dependence-producing! And bring your whole family: to have shared good experiences among children and adults is of great value!

More information at: http://fordefestival.no

Author: Madanmohan Rao

Madanmohan Rao is an author and media consultant from Bangalore, and global correspondent for world music and jazz for World Music Central and Jazzuality. He has written over 15 books on media, management and culture, and is research director for YourStory Media. Madan was formerly World Music Editor at Rave magazine and RJ at WorldSpace, and can be followed on Twitter at @MadanRao.

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