Tag Archives: Sweden

Artist Profiles: Ola Bäckström

Fiddler Ola Bäckström was born in 1959 in Dalarna, Sweden. He is known for his work with The Simon Simonsson Kvartet, Den Fule (Quake NSD61), Boot (Virvla NSD639) and Traton (with Carina Normansson and Maria Jonsson).

Ola plays the viola d’amore”, a non-standard version of the Baroque instrument”, which has 5 playing strings and 4 resonating strings. The fiddle head features a dragon head carving”, a replica of an old Swedish fiddle. The inking on the side copies a Stradivarius violin.

Ola Bäckström formed Anglo-Swedish band Swap in 1995 along with British musicians Karen Tweed (accordion) and Ian Carr (guitar) and Swedish artist and Carina Normansson (fiddle, vocals).


Ola Bäckström (1994)
SWÅP (Northside Records, 1997)
Sic (Northside Records, 1999)
Mosquito Hunter (2002)
Du Da (Northside Records, 2005)
Boggdansen (2005)


Artist Profiles: Mikael Marin

Mikael Marin (left) with Vasen at Forde Festival in 2010 – Photo by Angel Romero

Mikael Marin is a violist who became a national fiddler in 1983 and was chosen to play in a world orchestra under the direction of Leonard Bernstein in 1989.

When not performing with one of Sweden’s leading contemporary folk music bands, Vasen, Mikael composes, produces and arranges music for artists such as Mikael Samuelsson, Nordman and The Kronos Quartet.


Hemlig stod jag (1991)
Timber! (2007)
Mot Hagsätra (2008)
Småfolket (2011)
Force majeure (2011)
Skuggspel (2013)
Tiden (2016)

With Vasen:

Olov Johansson: Vasen (Drone DROCD001, 1990)
Vilda (Drone DROCD004, 1992)
Essence (Auvidis Ethnic B6787, 1994)
Levande (Drone DROCD009, 1995)
Spirit, compilation (NorthSide NSD 6004, 1997)
Whirled (Northside, 1997)
Varldens (Europe: Xource/MNW XOUCD118 / US: NorthSide NSD 6006, 1997)
Gront (Europe: Xource/MNW XOUCD126 / USA: NorthSide NSD 6041, 1999)
Live at the Nordic Roots Festival (NorthSide NSD 6065, 2001)
Trio (NorthSide NSD 6077, 2003)
Keyed Up (NorthSide NSD 6080, 2004)
Live in Japan (2005)
Linnaeus Väsen (Northside Records, 2007)
Mike Marshall & Darol Anger with Väsen (Adventure Music, 2007)
Väsen Street (Northside Records, 2009)
Brewed (Northside Records, NSD7100, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Jonas Simonson

Jonas Simonson – Photo by Kristin Lidell

Jonas Simonson has a unique and profoundly personal approach to playing the flutes along with the bass saxophone. He began with classical training but converted to Swedish Folk Music and hasn’t been the same since.

His ornamented and cadence-rich style can be heard with the group Bask a trio with Sten Kallman and Hans Kennermark and in recordings with the bands Den Fule and Groupa.

Jonas Simonson has also worked with SÃ¥ngensemblen Amanda and Kapell Frisell. Also he has performed baroque music with Utomjordiska Theatre in Gothenburg. Jonas Simonson trained at the College of Music in Gothenburg.


Quake, with Den Fule

Bäsk, with Bäsk (Xource/MNW XOUCD 124 in Sweden NorthSide NSD 636 in USA 1999)

Slokt, with Bäsk (Xource/MNW XOUCD 136 2002)


Artist Profiles: Johan Hedin

Johan Hedin – Photo by Märta Hedin

Johan Hedin was born on December 10, 1969 in Trekanten, Sweden. He plays nyckelharpa oktavnyckelharpa (octave keyfiddle), octave mandola and is also a vocalist. He’s a well-known nyckelharpa player who is admired for his way of handling the instrument.

For many years he has worked on developing the keyed fiddle as an instrument for example by making several new models in different registers. He usually plays in small intimate constellations or as a soloist in various contexts.

Hedin has recorded with numerous artists, including Bazar Blå. He is also part of the duo Hazelius – Hedin, along with Esbjörn Hazelius.


Angel Archipelago (1998)
Innersta polskan (2004)
Om du ville människa heta, with Hazelius – Hedin (2011)
Sunnan, with Hazelius – Hedin (2014)

website: www.johanhedin.com


Artist profiles: Hoven Droven

Hoven Droven in 2001 – Photo by Peder Majiet

Hoven Droven’s music is a unique and powerful blend of traditional folk and fierce hard rock where violin and electric guitar duel for the audience’s attention. This combination is complemented by a diverse background created by sax, Hammond organ, drums, percussion and bass.

The band’s name is a slang phrase which means uh “whatever” (at least in the province of Jämtland in northern Sweden). In their case it could just as well mean “things will take care of themselves.” Despite sometimes chaotic organizational methods none of them are able to explain how they have managed to perform on almost every major Swedish television and radio program and in North America. Looking at their individual schedules it’s a wonder that the band can get together to play at all.

Their first Swedish album “Hia Hia” was released in 1995 recorded at Peak Studios with engineer/producer Erik Benholm. Early in 1996 they got together again to record “Grov.” Selections from both of these releases are included on NorthSide’s 70+ minute compilation titled Groove — their first North American record release and one of NorthSide’s first releases.

Summer 1999 saw the band at the Winnipeg Folk Festival where they had 8 people on their feet hands raised high above their heads doing an ancient Swedish mosquito-killing dance. On their return home to Östersund they began recording their newest album.

More Happy Moments with Hoven Droven marks a number of departures for the band. Trumpet player Gustav Hylén left the band to spend more time with his family and set up Home Studios in Revsund where the disc was made. (You can see a “home movie” from the recording sessions on the NorthSide enhanced CD). New member Janne Strömstedt’s organ work now underpins the band’s sound making it heavier and more elegant all at the same time. For this release also the band decided to work with vocalists. On three tracks they are joined by the lovely female voices of Ulrika Bodén and Sofia Sandén (from Ranarim and Rosenberg 7.) Swedish music legend Stefan Sundström can be heard with the band on two of the five extra MP3 tracks which are included on the enhanced CD.
The English translation of the band’s name -helter skelter or, whatever – also happens to describe the band’s relationship to their Swedish roots.

Hoven Droven are:

Björn Höglund (drums and percussion) has toured with Swedish funk-rocker Paulo Mendonca and worships Peter Criss.

Guitarist Bo Lindberg claims he is a star in Japan with his former avant-rock band Myrbein. If the truth be known he’s a music teacher who’s been in almost every band to come out of Östersund in the past 1 years.

Saxophonist Jens Comén is often seen in rock-pop-jazz-big band-punk bands around town displaying his natural gifts (with his instrument).

Pedro Blom is the band’s bassist and plays in other roots music groups. Otherwise he’s a big fan of AC/DC and Mötorhead.

Hoven Droven’s violin-playing front man is Kjell-Erik Eriksson. His original interest in Swedish folk music has taken on a stronger bite and higher volume with Hoven Droven. He also plays traditional acoustic music in the band Triakel.

Janne Strömstedt (Hammond Organ) likes to play everything from salsa to country. In April 2000 Janne made the difficult decision to leave the band: “For a long time I’ve found it difficult to find a good way of combining the particular conditions under which HD is touring with the rest of my life. Unlike most of the others in the band I have a busy everyday life with another job apart from the music. I´m also touring quite a lot with Triakel.”


Hia-Hia (Xource/MNW XOUCD 110, 1994)
Grov (Xource/MNW XOUCD 114, 1996)
Groove, compilation (NorthSide NSD 6002, 1997)
More Happy Moments with Hoven Droven (Home 013 / NorthSide NSD 6043, 1999)
Hippa (Home 020 / NorthSide NSD 6062, 2001)
Turbo (Home 032, 2004)
Jumping at the Cedar, 2-CD live compilation (Home 044 / NorthSide NSD 6090, 2006)
Rost (Westpark PGM-87217, 2011)



Artist profiles: Hazelius Hedin

Hazelius Hedin – Photo by Rickard Eriksson

Two of Sweden’s most established folk musicians make up the duo Hazelius Hedin. Esbjorn Hazelius and Johan Hedin both grew up in the south of Sweden where the traditional couple dance slangpolska is prevailing.

They search all over Sweden for their repertoire which includes everything from medieval ballads sailor songs love ballads and instrumental dance tunes. Moreover Hazelius and Hedin pass on the tradition through their own compositions. They arrange the music carefully often inspired by Esbjorn’s Irish tradition of music arranging and they constantly look for new instrumental harmonies.


Om du ville människa heta (2011)
Sunnan (2014)

website: hazeliushedin.com


Artist Profiles: Groupa

Groupa in 1999

Groupa plays its own brand of modern Swedish folk music. Since 1980, the band has been in the vanguard of the Nordic roots music scene: deeply rooted in tradition, yet always embracing modern instrumentation and improvisation. In the music of Groupa, you find a composed picture of the traditions of yesterday, the whims of today, and the possibilities of tomorrow.

Groupa’s music emanates from the band’s three personalities’ innermost passions. Groupa draw much of their musical inspiration from ‘hallingar’ (a specialty of the Nordic folk song form that could be called a celebratory holler) as well as waltzes and polskas, both traditional and newly-composed. All these elements contribute to the rhythmic drive that gives their music its own tone and color.

Over the years, many important figures in the Nordic music scene have worked with Groupa, including Ale Moller and Lena Willemark from Frifot and the Nordan Project, Hallbus Totte Mattsson from Hedningarna, and Gustav Hylen from Hoven Droven.

In 1991 they were awarded the top Swedish music award for their album Manskratt. The jury’s verdict read: “For pulling the old woolly feeling off folk music with a curious smile!”

In 1992, the band’s founder, Mats Eden, was appointed the Composer of the Year at the “Musik vid Siljan” festival. The band won its second Swedish award (equivalent to the Grammy in the US) in 1996 for their album Imeland.

In 1998, NorthSide marked the band’s achievements with Fifteen Years, a 70-minute collection of some of their finest moments and their first North American record release.

Their blending of old folk melodies, contemporary improvisational style and creative instrumentation has influenced a whole generation of musicians.

Groupa are: Mats Eden on fiddles and accordion; Jonas Simonson on flutes and bass saxophone; and Terje Isungset on percussion.


Av Bara Farten (Amigo Music, 1983)
Vildhonung (Amigo Music, 1985)
Utan Sans (Amigo Music AMCD 721, 1988)
Manskratt, with Lena Willemark (Amigo Music AMCD 725, 1990)
Imeland (Amigo AMCD 73, 1995)
Fifteen Years (NorthSide NSD615, 1997), retrospective compilation
Lavalek (Europe: Xource/ North America: NorthSide NSD63, 1999)
Fjalar (Xource 134, 2002)
Frost (Footprint FRCD4, 2008)


Artist Profiles: Frifot

Left to right: Lena Willemark, Per Gudmundson, Ale Möller. Photo by Tomas Gidén

Frifot brought together three of the most colorful characters on the Swedish folk music scene, all of them with deep roots in the tradition. The group was formed in 1987 and thanks to their successful tours both in Sweden and abroad, they won a large following beyond just the normal folk circles. Together they created powerfully contemporary music that gave new life to the old traditions without losing touch with the thoughts, feelings and expressions of our own day.

Frifot were:

Per Gudmundson — fiddle and bagpipe.

With his poetic interpretation of traditional tunes, he has made a name for himself as one of Sweden´s best fiddlers. His musical home and source of inspiration is the fiddle tradition of Rättvik which provides the distinctive color in the language and keynote of his music, both on the concert stage and to accompany dancing. He has also made crucial contributions to the revival of the Swedish bagpipe tradition.

Ale Möller — mandola, hammered dulcimer, flutes.

Ale is a master of many instruments who has found his way home to Swedish traditional music by many devious routes. He is one of the major forces in the search for new sounds and expressions of Nordic music. In close collaboration with different fiddlers he has brought new instruments to the old music, at the same time as he has also become an expert on old folk instruments.

Lena Willemark — vocals and fiddle

From her home in Älvdalen in the north of Dalarna she brought with her a treasure chest of extraordinary tunes and songs that she interprets both as a fiddler and, above all, as an extremely distinctive singer. Her meeting with the jazz tradition has taken her music along several paths. With traditional music as her guiding light she has sparked off inspiring work together with some of Sweden’s leading jazz musicians and managed to create new forms.
These three musicians also formed the basis of the Nordan Project, who e released various successful recordings on the ECM label.


Frifot (1991)
Jarven (1996)
Summer Song, compilation (NorthSide 1998)
Frifot (ECM, 1999)
Sluring (2003)
Flyt (2007)


Artist Profiles: Dram


Dråm is a Swedish folk music group specialized in the sackpipa, the Swedish bagpipe. Dram means “drone” in a Swedish dialect.

Dram’s members, Erik Ask-Upmark and Anna Rynefors have both received the prestigious Zorn award and the title of Riksspelman (official master musician) for their playing and exposure of the Swedish bagpipes.

Aside from the Swedish pipes, Dram’s other instruments include different Swedish folk whistles and the nyckelharpa keyed fiddle.



Artist Profiles: Den Fule

Den Fule

Den Fule (the ugly one) was primarily a collection of veterans from the groundbreaking Swedish folk-rock scene of the 1970s from bands such as Filarfolket and Groupa. They released two albums in Sweden (compiled on Groove) and broke up in 1998.

Stylistically Den Fule combined R&B grooves with rock riffs and jazz phrasing while the melody maintained a loyal reading of a traditional fiddle tune.

Throughout it all the music was always rooted in the folk tradition of Sweden and incredible playing was always at center stage.

The Quake album released in the United states compiled Den Fule’s two Swedish releases “Lugumleik,” winner of a Swedish Award for Best Folk Album of the Year) and “Skalv” which introduced vocalist Henrik Wallgren to the band.

The group re-formed in 2007 and released two additional albums. Contrabande includes kora player and vocalist Solo Cissokho and singer Adama Cissokho.

The band:

Stefan Bergman – bass

Christian Jormin drums and percussion

Sten Källman saxophones percussion

Jonas Simonson flutes bass saxophone

Henrik Wallgren vocals


Lugumleik (1993)
Skalv (1994)
Quake (Northside 1997) compilation
Quake (1997, CD compilation of first two albums)
Halling i köket (2010)
Contrabande (2013)