Artist Profiles: Väsen

Väsen in 2010 – Photo by Angel Romero

Väsen plays Swedish folk music with complex arrangements, with one foot firmly planted in the Swedish fiddle tradition, and the other in new acoustic music. The pieces are equally suitable for dancing, as well as for listening.

The instruments used include the nyckelharpa (a keyed fiddle unique to Sweden), viola, twelve-string guitar, and percussion. Rock, jazz, traditional, and classical influences weave together, making a music that’s beautiful but never too sweet. You always hear the inspiration and improvisation of the moment: “Playing’s got to be fun, and the audience has to have fun, too.”

In 1980, Olov Johansson (nyckelharpa) and Mikael Marin (viola) met as teenagers, and began to play together. Nine years later, Olov and Mikael met Roger Tallroth (guitar) in Roros, Norway. They played all night, and when finishing in the early morning hours, were offered a recording contract by the record label, Drone.

A first CD, Olov Johansson: Väsen, was released in 1990. Väsen was actually the title of the record, but when calls began coming in and promoters inquired after the group called Väsen, the musicians realized the name was already established.

In 1994, a group called Nordman made the Swedish charts, mixing rock and folk music. Väsen went on tour twice with Nordman. On the first tour, they met Andre Ferrari (percussion), who played the drums. They quickly became good friends and Andre performed on occasion with Väsen. Two years later, Andre became a permanent member of the group.

Väsen in 2009 – Photo by Maria Camillo

Väsen released its fifth CD, Varldens Väsen, in 1997. They toured Norway, Denmark, Finland, Italy, France, and Sweden. They signed a recording contract with NorthSide, and toured the United States of America and Canada.

Varldens Väsen was awarded a Swedish award in the category of Folk music/Ballad, 1998. They toured many parts of Europe and went on tour for the second time in North America.

Väsen’s first 4 discs released in Sweden and Europe are compiled on their American debut Spirit (NorthSide), plus live tracks and unreleased studio sessions.

The Väsen live experience was recorded during their unforgettable performance at the 2000 Nordic Roots Festival on Live at the Nordic Roots Festival. The band was joined by Norwegian fiddler Annbjorg Lien on Roger Tallroth’s Dragos and by the “bad fiddles from Sweden” Harv (Magnus Stinnerbom & Daniel Sand?n-Warg) on Polska After Mats Berglund / Sold or Sale.

In the fall of 2002, Väsen made a brief tour of the U.S. without percussionist Andre Ferrari, just as the original trio that they were from when the band was started in 1989 up until 1996 when Andre joined. Initially the idea of the tour was to play some older, pre-quartet material that they had not played for some time. But as they got together to rehearse, they realized that they all had new material which lent itself quite well to trio arrangements. The result was an entire set of new material, and the audiences loved it.

The tour was such a success that the band decided to do more regular trio tours in the future, as well as continuing with their quartet work. Regular trio performances called for a new trio CD which represented what the band was currently playing. And that’s how the Trio CD was born. The enhanced CD includes two videos of live Trio performance from the 2002 Nordic Roots Festival.

Keyed Up maintains a loose and fresh approach, capturing the band’s unique balance of structure and improvisation by keeping things “live” in the studio.

In January, 2005 the Väsen trio returned to Japan for their second tour, and their 3-night stand in Tokyo was recorded for posterity by their Japanese record company. Those performances, it turns out, were among the strongest in the band’s history, which says quite a bit for a 16-year old ensemble known for its great live show.

Väsen compiled Live in Japan, a selection of 17 tracks which draw heavily from their two recordings Trio and Keyed Up. A bonus “home movie” DVD is included, which contains interviews covering the history of the band, band-shot video clips from over the years, and exclusive live performance clips.

Väsen Musicians: Olov Johansson on nyckelharpa; Mikael Marin on viola; Roger Tallroth on guitar; and Andre Ferrari on percussion.

In 2019, Väsen released Rule of 3, a collection of 15 new original compositions.

Discography

* 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)
Rule of 3 (Northside Records, 2019)

Web site www.vasen.se

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. 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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