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.
Hedningarna – Kult (Silence Records SRSCD-4771, 2016)
Throughout the years, Swedish band Hedningarna taped a lot of great material during recording sessions that never made it to an album. Kult is a collection of previously unreleased material, spanning two decades, 1992 and 2006. The 20 songs were mixed by producer Dag Lundqvist.
Hedningarna became a sensation in the 1990s with its fantastic mix of Nordic folk and beautiful Finnish female runic singing. The group attracted tens of thousands of followers beyond Scandinavia, including Spain, far to the south.
The Hedningarna lineup changed throughout the years and the CD booklet helps the listener figure out who was around at a given time. Two members remained as the essence of Hedningarna throughout all these years, multi-instrumentalists Anders Norudde and Hållbus Totte Mattsson.
On Kult you’ll listen to a wide-range of traditional acoustic instruments and vocals. The song mix is remarkable, featuring irresistible up-tempo pieces as well as mesmeric songs.
Hedningarna has influenced numerous folk musicians in Scandinavia and beyond and you can see why on Kult.
Mats Edén was born October 30, 1957 in Södertälje, Sweden. has his roots in the rich soil of Värmland. A member of acclaimed Swedish folk ensemble Groupa since its inception in 1980, he also writes the majority of the band’s material.
Having studied composition at Norway’s Musikkskole in Oslo, it comes as no surprise to those familiar with Mats’ playing that he is a nationally recognized master accordionist, having earned the distinguished title of ‘Riksspelman’ (master musician).
His violin work is at once elegant and jagged and distinguishes the band’s sound with his own combination of the sounds of Värmland and of Norway. Mats’ third solo album Milvus (with Jonas Simonson) was released on the ECM label. He has also toured the United States of America and Europe with Ale Moller and Lena Willemark in the ECM project Nordan.
* Unga Värmlandsspelmän (Caprice, 1977)
* Lika många fötter i taket som på golvet, Oktober (1978, Amigo)
* Höppesving (Amigo, 1980)
* Av bara farten, with Groupa (Amigo, 1983)
* Vildhonung, with Groupa (Amigo, 1985)
* Utan Sans, with Groupa (Amigo, 1988)
* Månskratt, with Groupa (Amigo, 1990)
* Struling (Amigo, 1992)
* Imeland, with Groupa (Amigo, 1995)
* Nordan (ECM, 1996)
* Agram, with Nordan (ECM, 1997)
* Läckerbiten (Amigo, 1998)
* Milvus (ECM, 1999)
* Tokpolskan, with Ellika Frisell (Giga, 1999)
* Lavalek, with Groupa (Xource, 1999)
* Avtryck (Amigo, 2001)
* Träd, with Niss Kerstin Mattsson (Amigo, 2001)
* Fjalar, with Groupa (Xource, 2003)
* Vägen In, with Tina Quartey (Amigo, 2004)
* Crane Dance, with Jonas Simonson m.fl. (Nordic Tradition, 2006)
* Milvus (ECM, 2008)
* Frost, with Groupa (Footprint, 2008)
* Apple Blossom (2015)
Lars-Ante Kuhmunen was born in 1979. He is a musician and reindeer breeder from Rensjön in Kiruna, a small town in the territory of Swedish Lapland (also known as Samiland). Lappland is the region inhabited by the Sami, geographically distributed throughout northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
Kuhmunen specializes in yoik, the traditional vocal style of the Sami. In 2006 Kuhmunen released his debut album titled Birrasis, which won a national award that same year for best folk album. Birrasis includes a booklet with lyrics in the Sami language and Swedish as well as a comprehensive explanation in English of each song.
His second release was Somas Muittut, an album with strong political lyrics as well as subtle and poetic songs. In 2016, Lars-Ante Kuhmunen released Riihmagállis (A Legend), where he mixed Sami traditions and American roots music.
Hedningarna’s world is a place where primitive, energetic folk music collides with sampling and programming, developing a new direction. Hedningarna, “the heathens” in English, propel ancient Nordic music into the modern era paying no attention to the rules of the road.
At the helm of Hedningarna are the three founding members of the band, Anders Norudde, Hållbus Totte Mattsson, and Björn Tollin, who started the band in 1987. All three were involved with rock and had worked on world music projects, but they returned home to Nordic music.
In 1987, Hedningarna played together for the first time. Totte recalled: “When we joined together at the beginning Anders had his drone instruments, Björn had his tambourine and I had my lute, and, like an accident, we started to play together and these instruments, they loved each other…We’re not interested in trying to be authentic or historical; we don’t mind how it was done years ago, but we mind what wonderful instruments they had then.” He added: “Because we know the tradition, we write a lot of new stuff that is based on traditional ideas, scales, modes, rhythms and so on.”
Anders continued: “We seek folk music with harsh melodies, twisted rhythms and percussive bass notes, the kind that was played in a lonely glade somewhere in the northern parts hundreds of years ago. No other music reaches so far down to our collective roots. There is so much power in the old music.”
When the core trio, Anders Norudde, Hållbus Totte Mattsson, and Björn Tollin, heard female Finnish voices drifting through the halls of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Hedningarna invited Sanna Kurki-Suonio and Tellu Paulasto to join the band. Both singers later left the band to pursue other projects.
In 1999, Hedningarna added Magnus Stinnerbom on octave violin to their lineup. Magnus had his own band, Harv.
Through all the modern technology, Hedningarna remains true to the polska, an addictive three-beat rhythm unique to Sweden; a derivation of a dance from elsewhere in Europe in the 18th century. The polska is rhythmically complex and has many regional variations both musically and in dance forms. In modern day terms, the polska was the party music of that time, Anders explained: “People danced themselves into ecstasy to these compelling rhythms. This was not tolerated at all. The religious ‘revival’ movement killed much of the Swedish folk music tradition. The fiddle was regarded as the devil’s instrument and was burned. As industrialization crowded out village life, this form of music nearly died out completely. The folk music that survived was ‘refined’ and ‘respectable’ not sweaty and ecstatic.”
The lineup in 2016 included Hållbus Totte Mattson, Anders Norudde (formerly known as Anders Stake) and Samuel Andersson.
Swedish band Garmarna creates contemporary folk firmly rooted in Nordic folk music traditions. They have developed their own sound, influenced by the rock tradition they’ve all grown up with.
Garmarna ignores the unwritten laws of how traditional music should be performed; the musicians know no boundaries. The music is half new – and newly-written – and half traditional with ancient instrumentation next to sampled drum-loops, suggestive mouth harps, tender violins and distorted guitars.
Garmarna started in January 1990, just a week after a performance of Hamlet that featured very strong, old Swedish music. Stefan, Gotte, and Rickard were inspired by the show, and they began searching for old tunes and instruments. After a year of playing together, just before their appearance at Sweden’s biggest rock festival, Jens Höglin joined the band on drums.
In autumn 1992, the band recorded an EP. They realized that female vocals would provide a light contrast to the naturally dark moods of the music. Emma Härdelin (a longtime friend of the band) guested on that record, then joined the band in early 1993, completing the lineup. The debut EP sold well in Sweden, and helped the band tour in Scandinavia.
The following year, the band decided to add samples and sequencers to the mix, giving the old tunes a modern musical foundation. Still, the heart of the music remains the harsh Swedish harmonies created by acoustic instruments, topped off by Emma’s intense vocals. The album Vittrad (“crumbling away”) was immediately hailed by the press, calling Garmarna “probably the best folkmusic band in Scandinavia.” In the deep winter of 1994, Omnium released Vittrad in the US, with full English translations of the dark old songs and an extra track Kleveberg’s Fire, pointing the way towards a new style of retro-futurist folk music (including samples from prehistoric Scandinavia.) The band made the cover of Billboard and the CMJ World chart.
1996 started with a long German tour closely followed by the album Gods Musicians / Guds Spelemän (named after a poem by Swedish poet Nils Ferlin.) The Swedish press went wild over it, the album made it to the Swedish sales charts, and it was released by Omnium in September 1996. Again, the band appeared on the cover of Billboard with rave reviews in Wired and Playboy.
Garmarna did a series of concerts in churches in the North of Sweden presenting their interpretation of the medieval works of 12th century German abbess Hildegard von Bingen, together with actress Felicia Konrad. It was Garmarna’s interpretation of her work placed in a 21st century environment. The reviews were great, the shows sold out and the audience was very enthusiastic.
In 2003, Garmarna re-released its first EP as a full album with six bonus tracks.
In 2016, the band released its sixth album titled 6.
Some of Garmarna’s album were released in the United States under Northside and Omnium.
Cellist and composer Beata Söderberg was born in 1976 in Linköping, Sweden. As a child, she learned piano from her mother and sang in a children’s choir. At the age of eight, she began to play the cello – the instrument that would soon become her most important means of expression and a constant companion in life.
During her school years, Ms Söderberg divided her time between music, acting and her studies, but after high school she decided to focus on music and attended the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. On receiving her Bachelor’s degree in 1998 she moved to New York City with a full scholarship to study at the Manhattan School of Music where she received her Master of Music degree in 2002.
In New York, she discovered Argentine tango music and dance. Her passion for the genre resulted in various collaborations with New York tango musicians, playing both traditional tango, Astor Piazzolla and Tango Nuevo – the newest form of the genre.
After finishing her studies, Söderberg wanted to try something she had not yet done: to write music. In her music for quintet (cello, piano, bass, bandoneon and drums) she presents a new tango sound, with the cello as the leading voice.
Beatitudes, her début CD, was recorded in the legendary Estudios Ion in Buenos Aires in June 2004 together with some of the greatest tango musicians in the world: Walter Ríos (bandoneon), Juan Esteban Cuacci (piano), Roberto Tormo (bass) and José Luis Colzani (percussion). The disc received outstanding reviews from all major magazines and radio stations in the country, and in April 2005 it was nominated for the Argentinean equivalent of the Grammy Awards in the category “Mejor Album/Artista-Tango Nuevas Formas” at the “Premios Carlos Gardel.”
In November 2005, Söderberg recorded BeSo – her second full-length album of original tango composition, accompanied by her band JusTango: Christian Zarate (piano), Roberto Tormo (bass), Horacio Romo (bandoneon) Jose Luis Colzani (percussion).
Bailata was released in 2008. It is an album dedicated to the devoted crowd of tango dancers around the world.
Ale Möller found his roots in Swedish folk music by way of first falling in love with the sounds of Greece. En route, he became a master of the bouzouki and a multi-instrumentalist with a lot of different flutes in his belt. He has played with Filarfolket, Enteli and Nordan to name but a few.
Today he tours the world as part of Frifot, but foremost he is just Ale, the multi-musician and performer who is a master at making people join him in joyful musical experiments.
When he released Bodjal, the first CD using the name of Ale Moller Band, the album earned Ale the top Swedish music award and numerous other awards. Ale returned to Sweden after Celtic Connections 2006 to receive the prestigious Musician of the Year Award from the Swedish Event Academy on the following day.
The World Heritage Orchestra emerged from the Stockholm Folk Big Band, a child of Stockholm’s Cultural Capital of the Year Bash in 1998, and the strange rumblings created in the last couple of years at Falun Folkmusik Festival. And it is a very rich heritage of world music that Ale and companions as trustees have been trying to investigate, develop and regenerate within that framework.
Audiences have crowded into concert venues to embrace the legacy of music taking new shapes before their very eyes, quite often in chaotic circumstances and divinely guided by inspiration and the moment shared. In the very best moments, everyone present becomes part of the creative process and of the music itself.
The Ale Moller World Heritage Orchestra features singers, players and dancers from Sweden, Greece, Senegal, Quebec and Mexico, whose combined expertise also takes in Jazz, Afro-Cuban and Indian music.
Moller plays mandola, accordion, flutes, shawm (skalmeja), cow horn, etc.