Norwegian folk music, jazz and early music come together in The Magical Forest, a captivating album by Norwegian vocalist, kantele player and composer Sinikka Langeland.
Highlights of The Magical Forest are Sinikka’s gorgeous vocals, her mesmerizing kantele and the beautiful vocal interactions with Oslo’s Trio Mediaeval.
The artists featured on The Magical Forest are Sinikka Langeland on kantele, vocals; Trygve Seim on soprano and tenor saxophones; Arve Henriksen on trumpet; Anders Jormin on double bass; Markku Ounaskari on drums, percussion; and Trio Mediaeval featuring Anna Maria Friman; Berit Opheim; and Linn Andrea Fuglseth on vocals.
Born in 1961 to a Norwegian father and a Finnish mother from Karelia, Langeland was given a Finnish name, Sinikka, and felt the influence of two nationalities and cultures from the beginning. She lives in Finnskogen, 120 km north of Oslo, close to the border of Sweden. Finnskogen, the ‘Finnish forest,’ was first populated by Finns in the 17th century.
After an early education in classical music Sinikka started to look at contemporary folk music and the singer-songwriter genre, but this was soon displaced by an interest in older forms, intensifying as her research continued and underlined by a wish to “create an original music rooted in my own area, taking account of local possibilities and looking back into history to find out more.”
She highlights that her specific musical journey has “always been about searching. I love folksong but I’m not exclusively a traditional folk singer. There were always influences coming from other places, too.”
At 20 she changed from guitar to kantele, the Finnish table harp. She plays the 39-string concert kantele, with its five-octave range. “At first it was just an experiment – I thought it would be fun to have a Finnish instrument for one or two songs. But I became completely fascinated by it.” Meanwhile she was expanding her repertoire to include rune songs, incantations, ancient melodies from Finland and Karelia, as well as little known medieval ballads and religious folk songs.
Her work has flowed in several directions simultaneously. She gives, for instance, solo performances with voice and kantele, and she gives duo concerts in churches, together with organist Kare Nordstoga, in which old folk songs and Easter hymns are placed alongside with J.S. Bach’s transformations of the same sources. And, since the early 1990s, she has been working and recording with jazz musicians as part of her ensembles.
Swedish bassist Anders Jormin has been a regular colleague for more than a dozen years, joining her for the first time on the recording ‘Har du lyttet til elvene om natta’ (Grappa, 1995). Sinnika also played regularly with drummer Markku Ounaskari, a backbone of the Finnish jazz scene.
Sinikka’s songs often focus on the relationship between people and nature as it is expressed in traditional and modern poetry. Her CD Starflowers (ECM, 2007) includes her versions of the poems of Hans Borli (1918-89) and is performed with a remarkable ensemble that opens up the songs to improvisation. In its interweaving of folksong, literature, and Nordic jazz it may be considered a typical ECM production, but it is also a consistent extension of the work Sinikka has been developing over the last decades.
* Langt innpå skoga (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4074, 1994)
* Har du lyttet til elvene om natta? (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4107, 1995)
* Det syng, with Anne Marit Jacobsen, Halvor Håkanes, Eli Storbekken and Agnes Buen Garnås (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4123, 1997)
* Strengen var af røde guld (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4136, 1997)
* Lille Rosa (Grappa Musikkforlag HCD 7156, 1999)
* Starflowers (ECM, 2007)
* Maria’s Song (ECM 2127, 2009)
* The Land That Is Not (ECM, 2011)
* The Half-Finished Heaven (ECM Records, 2015)
* The Magical Forest (2016)
Starflowers is a stunning collaboration between Norwegian folk music composer, songwriter, vocalist and kantele player Sinikka Langeland and jazz musicians. The ambience throughout the album is ethereal and tranquil, full of beauty.
Sinikka Langeland’s concert kantele creates a trance-like effect, along with Sinikka Langeland’s evocative vocals. The jazz musicians add color to some of the pieces. The combination of vocals, kantele and double bass is one of the highlights of the album, together with the exquisite trumpet of Arve Henriksen.
The lineup on Starflowers includes Sinikka Langeland on vocals and kantele; Arve Henriksen on trumpet; Trygve Seim on tenor and soprano saxophones; Anders Jormin on double bass; and Markku Ounaskari on percussion.
Starflowers is a spellbinding and memorable Nordic folk recording showcasing the remarkably expressive vocals and kantele of Sinikka Langeland.
Sinikka Langeland is a singer, composer and kantele player from Norway. In recent years she has been exploring the boundaries between folk music and contemporary jazz. The Land That Is Not is the sequel to her previous ECM album titled Starflowers.
The Land That Is Not combines Langeland’s marvelous voice with Scandinavian poetry and the spatial chamber jazz that ECM is well known for. Sinikka Langeland provides vocals and plays kantele. She is joined by an excellent group of jazz musicians that includes Arve Henriksen on trumpet; Trygve Seim on soprano and tenor saxophones; Anders Jormin on double bass; and Markku Ounaskari on drums.
On this new recording, Langeland uses the poetry of Edith Södergran (1892-1923) and Olav Håkonson Hauge (1908-1994). The two poets now count as forerunners of literary modernism in Sweden and Norway. Södergran was a Swedish-speaking poet in Raivola, near St Petersburg. She is regarded as one of the pioneers of modernist Swedish poetry. Olav Håkonson Hauge was an influential Norwegian poet who wrote modernist poetry.
The CD booklet features lyrics in Swedish and Norwegian with English translations.
The Land That Is Not is a remarkable exploratory album that brings together one of the finest folk singers from Norway and a superb group of contemporary jazz musicians.
Although Sinikka Langeland is a Norwegian folk singer, don’t expect an album of virtuoso hardanger fiddles. Instead, Starflowers, her latest recording, is an intimate recording, featuring tranquil pieces with voice, kantele (Finnish zither) and, at times, saxophone and trumpet. It’s an ECM production so will find the usual elements of atmospheric, nearly minimal, jazz and also instrumental exploration and improvisation.
Starflowers‘ lyrics are based on poems by Hand Borli, from “We Own the Forests and Other Poems.” The CD booklet includes the original Norwegian lyrics together with English translations by Louis Muinzer.
The best musical moments are when Sinikka accompanies herself with the scenic and dreamy sounds of the kantele.
There has been a great deal of interest in new music coming out of Norway, mostly in the field of jazz/ambient, so it is good to hear something which has its origins in older words and music. In this case it is rune songs, which are partly based on shamanic incantations. Since these don’t have melodies as such, Langeland has borrowed themes and tunes from Finland and Karelia.Runic incantation is often used for healing and protection and requires a powerfully emotive delivery. She certainly follows this tradition. Her voice is clear, intense and covers a wide range of expression. Of course, I don’t actually know what she is singing about but the power and purity are moving and transcendent. She fixes the listener’s attention as she shifts from near whispers to sustained vocal somersaults.
Although this is an older music there are contemporary presences here in the form of Arve Henriksen and his weird otherworldly trumpet, bassist Bjorn Kjellemyr and drummer Pal Thowsen. They are all skilled improvisers, an important concept in rune song, and they contribute varied settings, both sparse and rich, alongside her commanding voice. Henriksen’s vocal style of playing is a perfect foil to Langeland, especially on Ukko and Tirun Lirun. But look out for the rhythmic bass which drives Pakeneva.
Further instrumental colour is added by Langeland’s kantele, that ancient stringed instrument which produces cascades of ringing crystal notes that, alongside bowed bass and trumpet, enhance the haunting atmospheres of tracks like Vinterrune.
At times she displays a hard edged tone to her singing, a bit like Julie Tippetts. At others there’s a trace of Mari Boine Persen. But that apart I can’t readily think of any real comparisons. It is a refreshing sound and one that I would like to hear more of.
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion