Interview with Fiddle Maestra Annbjørg Lien

Annbjørg Lien - Photo by Angel Romero, 2010
The concerts by Norwegian fiddler Annbjørg Lien and organist Bjørn Ole Rasch were some of the highest rated at the recent Førde Folk Music Festival. The combination of hardanger fiddle with organ was a mesmerizing experience and showed the versatility and inspiration of the two musicians. Shortly after the performance, World Music Central interviewed Annbjørg Lien, one of Norway’s most reputable musicians:

I saw you performances at Forde a few days ago which was a duo format with fiddle and organ. My international colleagues and I were very impressed by the result. How did you come up with this concept?

Thank you! The concept was a reaction to many years of full band setting, and the need of opening up the space for details and searching for a more naked room…. integrating the mechanical noise from wooden instruments and letting everything be a part of the music.

Annbjørg Lien (fiddle) and Bjørn Ole Rasch (organ) - Photo by Angel Romero, 2010

Is there a recording with the fiddle and organ format?

The Annbjørg Lien and Bjørn Ole Rasch duo recording is called "Come Home" and is released on Grappa Musikkforlag in Norway in 2010. Also available on the internet for download.

Even though most of your music is instrumental, you sang a beautiful piece. Will you be doing more singing in the future?

Thank you. Yes, I will. I have always been inspired by lyrics, and find it wonderful to use the voice as an instrument too.

What instruments do you play aside from the hardanger fiddle?

Annbjørg Lien on nyckelharpa - Photo by Angel Romero, 2010
I play regular fiddle and keyed fiddle (nyckelharpa) which is the Swedish national instrument.

Which is your favorite musical instrument?

The Hardanger fiddle.

Who makes your fiddles?

Most of them are old fiddles, and the builders are dead. Mine is built by Olav G. Helland from Bø in Telemark in 1898.

In the past you collaborated with other female fiddlers from various traditions in the String Sisters. Will you be doing more of these collaborations?

I hope so, the personal chemistry decide if the music will meet. I always try to keep windows and doors open, so birds can fly in and out. Regarding String Sisters, we are planning a new album, and we really enjoy playing together.

String Sisters
You seem to enjoy working with musicians from other cultures. Do you have any upcoming projects to share with our readers?

I`m working on a new solo album with guests from other countries. Very excited about it!

If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with who would that be?

I like for these meetings to just happen – let destiny decide and not plan it too much. It would be an honour to meet any musicians with their heart filled with personal colors, who want to show and share and have fun.

We interviewed the Senegalese singer Baaba Maal and asked what song was he completely addicted to – the one song that he will sing along with every time – and he told us his song was “One Love” by Bob Marley. What is your one song?

“One love” is a great song, I would sing along with it every time. So many great songs. While I’m driving, I very often sing out loud to good songs like ‘Hey Jude’ by the Beatles, ‘Hold on’ by Tom Waits, and ‘It’s so Quiet’ by Bjørk.

Annbjørg Lien - Photo by Angel Romero, 2010
Which music venues in Norway would you recommend for folk and world music?

Two festivals: Bø folk festival in Telemark and Førde Folk Music Festival. As far as venues, Riksscena in Oslo and Colombo Egg in Bergen, with a wonderful man behind it, Gabriel Fliflet, and great audience.

Where were you born?

Ålesund – west coast of Norway

What music are you currently listening to?

A new release of the great Hardanger fiddler Hauk Buen called “Meisterspel”. He has been my mentor, and big inspiration.

Where do you live now?

Kristiansand, southern Norway.

What do you like to do during your free time?

Walk in the nature, the mountains, and work in my garden.

What country would you like to visit?

The Faroe Islands.

Which is your favorite city?


What was the first big lesson you learned about the music business?

To listen to my own heart.

Recordings available:

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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