Tag Archives: Väsen

Artist Profiles: Roger Tallroth

Roger Tallroth at Forde 2010 performing with Vasen – Photo by Angel Romero

Roger Tallroth was born on November 21, 1958, With his specially tuned guitar (A-D-A-D-A-D), Tallroth has developed a distinctive sound of his own. In addition to the guitar, he plays the Swedish bouzouki and octave mandolin. Roger received his first guitar when he was thirteen. Since then he has studied at Sjovik Folkhogskola and Orebro College of Music and is presently a teacher at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. He has given numerous seminars around Europe and the United States.

Roger is best known as a member of the band Väsen. He has performed together with Nordman, Annbjorg Lien and the Gunnel Mauritzson Group among other artists and has also participated in several stage and theater productions.

Roger’s discography includes Nordman (with Nordman), Felefeber and Prisme (with Annbjorg Lien), Siluette (with the Gunnel Mauritzson Group), The Horse and the Crane by Ale Moller and Kat Kombat (Kombat). He also appears on the Annbjorg Lien recording Baba Yaga (2000).

Discography

* 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)

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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.

Discography:

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)

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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.

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)

Web site www.vasen.se

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Bloomington Mayor Names Street after Swedish String Trio Vasen in Honor of their 20th Anniversary

Vasen surprised with sign, left to right: Roger Tallroth, Mikael  Marin, Olov Johansson
Vasen surprised with sign, left to right: Roger Tallroth, Mikael Marin, Olov Johansson
On their 20th anniversary as a band, Vasen has a lot to celebrate: a new album, a long career of doing what they love, and now, they even have a street named after them.

 It started as a joke for some music lovers in Bloomington, Indiana – "We love Väsen so much, we should name a street after them." But the members of "Team Väsen" – as their fan club came to be called – started to take the idea more and more seriously; eventually, they petitioned the mayor’s office, and the result?

A proclamation from Bloomington’s mayor Mark Kruzan saying that given Vasen’s 20th anniversary of making music for the world, and given their performances at Bloomington’s Lotus World Music Festival, a "portion of Kirkwood Avenue shall be named Väsen Street."

Team Väsen member and longtime WFHB community radio volunteer Cindy Beaule calls the feat evidence of the "power of positive thinking." She said it’s also a "sign" that Väsen’s message of music bringing people together knows no boundaries: "I loved what Olov said, that there a lot of people who live on Väsen Street, people from all around the world. It’s more of a conceptual thing, not just a physical thing."

Before Väsen came onstage for their September 24th show, over a dozen members of Team Väsen stood on stage while city councilwoman Susan Sandberg read the proclamation, after which a wooden street sign was brought onstage and presented to the band. When Olov Johansson, Roger Tallroth and Mikael Marin came out, they were genuinely surprised that the efforts of Team Väsen had paid off.

"We don’t even have a street named after us in Sweden!" said Olov Johansson, who plays nickelharpa for the group.

After an electrically charged performance at the Buskirk-Chumley, Vasen received two standing ovations and performed an encore. Olov ended the night by saying, "Thank you so much, it’s been a wonderful night. We got a street." Roger immediately interjected, "I guess we’ll have to clean it now…we’ll bring our brooms next time."

The band’s genuine love of music and sense of humor was apparent throughout the night; after their first standing ovation, Roger said, "We love you – and yet, we don’t really know you." Olov added, "That’s a great feeling, you know?"

The band honored Team Väsen’s efforts by naming their latest 20th anniversary album Vasen Street," which is "a mixed repertoire with new composed material, old Väsen favorites not recorded earlier and some traditional Uppland tunes." The cd is now available in the US, released by Northside.

Väsen Street signs will be posted for the duration of the Lotus World Music Festival, September 24-27.

Buy Väsen’s recordings:

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Swedish Folk Masters Väsen to Perform in Philadelphia

Väsen
Väsen

On Tuesday, September 22, 2009, Crossroads Music presents Väsen, performing the traditional music of Sweden on nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle), viola, and guitar. The concert will begin at 7:30 pm at 801 South 48th Street (at Baltimore Avenue). Tickets are $10-30 and are available both at the concert and in advance from our website and at Last Word Bookshop at 220 South 40th Street.

When he first heard the Swedish folk trio Väsen, bluegrass fiddler Darol Anger’s impression was: "it was as if a whole new part of the world opened up to me. They illuminated a landscape I had never seen before, but which had been in front of my face all my life. I can’t imagine a world without that sound now!"

This musical landscape may have global resonance, but it is based on nyckelharpa player Olav Johansson and violist Mikael Marin’s home turf: the villages and village musicians of eastern Sweden, where they first dug into traditional tunes as teenagers.

In the towns and farms around Uppsala, Swedish legends like the farmer-fiddler Viksta Lasse shaped young musicians with famous dance tunes and madcap stage presence, while in places like Uppland, instruments like the nyckelharpa, a keyed fiddle with many drone and sympathetic strings that give it a rich, otherworldly tone, have long held sway. Roger Tallroth’s guitar, a distinct departure from tradition, adds an innovative, piquant third line to the traditional intertwining duos at the heart of Swedish instrumental music.

The creative spark the trio brings to centuries-old Swedish sounds has evolved over the group’s two decades playing together, improvising melodies, and kicking around beloved tunes, new and old. "Väsen is three soloists really, playing at the same time, but never dominating the others. Each of us is still very much considering what the others are doing," Johansson muses. "Very often, we keep three different lines going in and out of each other. We’re simply telling the same story in different words."

Crossroads Music’s programming is in part supported by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and the Samuel S. Fels Fund. This project is supported by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency, through the Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts (PPA), its regional arts funding partnership. State government funding for the arts depends upon an annual appropriation by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. PPA is administered in this region by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

Buy Väsen’s recordings:

More information at www.crossroadsconcerts.org or 215-729-1028

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Folk Music Explorers Väsen Take Swedish String Music Global

Vasen  - Vasen Street
Vasen – Vasen Street
Vasen Street(NorthSide), the new recording by Swedish contemporary folk music band Väsen is out today in North America. Väsen Street is a playful global byway that traverses the planet’s folk scene, passionately laid down by three friends from the Uppland region of Sweden.

The Swedish trio brings together a smorgasbord of personal tributes and Swedish folk gems that reflect the band’s international scope and impact and that honor the group’s many connections to friends and fans around the world, from cheeky Japanese managers ("Yoko") to Swedish-Italian percussionists ("Asko Pasko Polska") to bosom Bay Area botanist buddies ("Botanisten"). It even gives a shout out to fans in Indiana who spurred a local campaign to get a street in their town named after the group ("Väsen Street").

"It makes me feel happy and kind of humble, when people play our music," smiles nyckelharper or nyckelharpa player Olov Johansson. "One of the most memorable times we encountered this was after a show a few years ago in Tokyo. We walked into a basement and there were a bunch of Japanese musicians playing our music, but with an Irish accent to it."

Väsen has elicited a similar rave response from master roots musicians in various corners of the world, such as innovative bluegrass fiddler and classical violinist Darol Anger and mandolin master Mike Marshall who were so blown away by the trio’s music, they invited them to a session in Santa Cruz filled with several of the Americana virtuosi. Anger and Marshall appear on one track on Vasen Street and will be joining Väsen for several of their September 2009 USA tour dates. "When I first heard them, it was as if a whole new part of the world opened up to me," Anger reflects. "They illuminated a landscape I had never seen before, but which had been in front of my face all my life. I can’t imagine a world without that sound now!"

his landscape may have global resonance, but is based on Johansson and viola player Mikael Marin’s home turf: the villages and village musicians of eastern Sweden where they first dug into traditional tunes as teenagers. In the towns and farms around Uppsala , Swedish legends like the wild and woolly farmer-fiddler Viksta Lasse shaped young musicians with his famous dance tunes like "Eklundapolska Nr. 3" and "Polska Till Wik" and his madcap stage presence. "He was just a farmer, living in his own little world, but when he played the fiddle, he was fantastic," Johansson recalls. "He had this big expression when he played, jumping up and down and laughing all the time. It was his life. He was such a good fiddler… he couldn’t have been a very good farmer."

In places like Uppland, instruments like the nyckelharpa, a keyed fiddle ripe with overtones, have long held sway, capturing both musicians’ hearts and space in the medieval equivalent of the police blotter. A 17th-century court record tells the tale of an angry minstrel who beat a careless handler of his beloved instrument to death with his damaged nyckelharpa. "He smashed it to the guy’s head and he died instantly. That was one of the first written proofs of the instrument," Johansson explains. "Maybe they invented the nyckelharpa helmet at that time, too."

Despite its striking sound and its bonus applications as a deadly weapon or what guitarist Roger Tallroth jokingly calls a "one-time portable barbeque" with strings perfect for grilling, the nyckelharpa is only part of Väsen’s appeal, which is about a lot more than funky Swedish fiddles. Tallroth’s guitar is a distinct departure from tradition, and adds an innovative, piquant third line to the traditional intertwining duos at the heart of Swedish instrumental music.

Tallroth’s tuning of A/D/A/D/A/D, based on his experiments with an oud (fretless lute) he found in Turkey , expands his instrument’s range and merges perfectly into Väsen’s preferred modes. "Roger had to invent all his own fingering and how to play chords and everything. But if you think of it, it is like a common traditional tuning on fiddles but just two of those stacked on each other," Johansson explains. "It’s very natural to play a second voicing for tunes, and you get all these ringing open strings. Most of the music we play is modal, based on a scale and a drone. From there, Roger developed a very interesting way of playing the guitar."

The artful balance between heritage and innovation have turned Väsen numbers like Mördar Cajsas Polska" into such instant classics, musicians and listeners alike believe them to be actual traditional tunes. "It’s very flattering," Johansson laughs, "but I’ve been playing this tune since I was 18. We had to reclaim it a bit by finally putting it on an album." The tune, which means Killer Cajsas Polska, was named after fiddling friend Cajsa Ekstav. During a hot summer fiddle session, Cajsa became so irritated with a swarm of wasps that she killed them all by smashing her beer glass onto nearby glass windows, as if possessed by demons. "It was quite a mess," remembers Johansson with a laugh.

The creative spark the trio brings to centuries-old Swedish sounds has evolved over the group’s two decades playing together, improvising melodies, and kicking around beloved tunes, new and old. "Väsen is three soloists really, playing at the same time, but never dominating the others. Each of us is still very much considering what the others are doing," Johansson muses. "Very often, we keep three different lines going in and out of each other. We’re simply telling the same story in different words."

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Skirball Cultural Center’s Summer 2009 World Music Concerts

Issa Bagayogo - photo by Fode Kone
Issa Bagayogo – photo by Fode Kone

 

The July and August free Sunset Concerts scheduled at Skirball Cultural Center include Issa Bagayogo; Mike Marshall, Darol Anger, and Väsen; Gadji-Gadjo; The Wild Magnolias; and Omar Faruk Tekbilek Ensemble.

On Thursdays in July and August at 8 pm, the series presents global masters of musical enchantment and cultural fusion at the Los Angeles museum and performing arts venue, often in their United States or Los Angeles debuts, all in a uniquely inspiring, intimate atmosphere.

But the Skirball does more than put on a fine show. It opens its galleries, currently featuring two exhibitions on the enduring art of comic books, for special evening hours. It offers a buffet dinner at the Skirball’s Zeidler’s Café, often serving cuisine from the region of that night’s performers. It even provides inexpensive and ample parking in the facility’s newly expanded parking lots.

The Skirball goes to these lengths for a reason that may surprise those who consider the Skirball as dedicated solely to Jewish culture. “It is essential to our mission as a Jewish institution to present global artists,” explains Jordan Peimer, Skirball Director of Programs. “At the heart of all of our programming is the core Jewish value of welcoming the stranger. It’s built into everything that we do.”

Along with openhanded hospitality, this welcoming spirit is reflected in the Skirball’s goal of promoting cross-cultural exchange. “Our mission is about inclusion,” continues Peimer. “World music celebrates people’s cultural heritage, the history and ideas they bring with them when they encounter new communities, the universal values that transcend time and place. The music we present is about the generational gifting of culture. We want people of all backgrounds to have an investment in their ethnic and cultural identities and to celebrate them within a society in which all of us can feel at home.”

To the Skirball, this is a gift that musicians share with each other, as well as with an audience: to create a forum for sharing stories and celebrating ancient legacies. Adds Skirball Music Director Yatrika Shah-Rais, “When artists collaborate with sincerity and true respect, what often emerges is an amazing fusion that stands out as its own unique music. That is what always comes across at our Sunset Concerts.”

In this summer’s 2009 season, Sunset Concerts will showcase innovative fusion, thanks to the electronica-fired Malian grooves of Issa Bagayogo (Thursday, July 16); the trans-Atlantic, bluegrass-meets-Swedish folk encounter of Mike Marshall, Darol Anger, and Väsen (Thursday, July 23; L.A. premiere); the Roma and klezmer-inflected jams of Montreal’s Gadji-Gadjo (Thursday, July 30; Los Angeles premiere); the serious funk of New Orleans beloved Mardi Gras Indian ensemble The Wild Magnolias (Thursday, August 6); and the Sufi-inspired virtuosity of Turkish multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek Ensemble (Thursday, August 13).

The young Issa Bagayogo, now known in his native Mali as “Techno Issa,” seemed destined for a career as a blacksmith, not as a global dance-floor sensation. Despite remarkable talent on the three-stringed n’goni lute, a long-lost relative of the banjo, Bagayogo was down and out in Bamako working as a bus driver when he ran into French electronica producer Yves Wernert. They teamed up to create a sound that showcases Bagayogo’s sixth sense for honoring treasured traditions while grooving to edgy beats.

Bluegrass innovators Mike Marshall on mandolin and Darol Anger on fiddle dreamed of jamming with the guys from Swedish instrumental trio Väsen after learning a few of their tunes from recordings. When they wound up on stage together one night, the five musicians realized how perfectly Appalachia’s fiddle tunes could intertwine with Swedish dances on the nyckelharpa. Transforming the sounds of their musical forefathers in the increasingly global spirit of folk, Marshall , Anger, and Väsen have discovered that for passionate musicians, the Atlantic is a bridge easily crossed. (Los Angeles premiere)

Gadji-Gadjo take their passion for the zesty sounds of Roma and klezmer-along with jazz and other beloved genres-and infuse it into soaring, elegant improvisations and songs with true joie-de-vivre. Based in Montreal and wryly referring to their non-Gypsy status in their name, the sextet moves effortlessly and irrepressibly through lightning-fast dances and playful choruses, paying merry homage to the myriad cultures that forged Eastern European Jewish and Gypsy music. (Los Angeles premiere)

[image2_right]The Wild Magnolias sound like the best down-and-dirty funk band you’ve ever heard. But they carry an entire history in their booty-shaking music and unforgettably flamboyant costumes. As Mardi Gras Indians, the Wild Magnolias represent the defiant demand for pride their African-American ancestors made when faced with the rising tide of racism in 19th-century New Orleans, as well as their gratitude to the Choctaws and other Native Americans who aided escaping slaves, effectively welcoming the stranger.

The night before the Wild Magnolias take the stage, the Skirball will screen Tootie’s Last Suit, an insightful documentary about late legendary Mardi Gras Indian Allison “Tootie” Montana, revered for turning Mardi Gras Indian life away from gang-style violence towards artistic accomplishment

Omar Faruk Tekbilek intuited the connection between prayer and music one afternoon while playing the flute as a child in Turkey. That connection has guided the masterful multi-instrumentalist ever since, as he evolved from sought-after young musician in Istanbul to immigrant blue-collar worker in the U.S. to world-recognized peacemaker and virtuoso. Tekbilek weaves melodies and songs from across the Eastern Mediterranean into stunning compositions reflecting the Sufi belief that all is one.

Buy the recordings by the artists featured: Mali Koura, Timbuktu and Sya by Issa Bagayogo; Rare Elements, Whirling, Fire Dance, Mystical Garden, One Truth, Crescent Moon, Tree of Patience, by Omar Faruk Tekbilek; They Call Us Wild by The Wild Magnolias; and Sur Le Toit Des Voisins by Gadji-Gadjo.

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Savannah Music Festival 2009 Will Present the Most Artistically Diverse Season in the History of the Organization

Mariza
Mariza

Savannah (Georgia), USA – The Savannah Music Festival (SMF) announces its most artistically diverse lineup to date for the upcoming 2009 festival, including several commissioned works and a wealth of original productions showcasing a wide variety of American and international musical traditions.

Committed to enhancing the cultural landscape of Savannah, SMF programs combine elegance and soul in a way that mirrors the history and culture of the remarkable city. The unique musical arts event is one of the highlights of springtime on the southeastern U.S. coast and a distinctive destination for cultural travelers.

The 2009 festival takes place between March 19 and April 5 in historic downtown Savannah and features more than 100 musical performances in intimate settings.

Original Productions & Other Highlights

• Long Time Travelin’, a celebration of American folksong traditions: Rayna Gellert of Uncle Earl with Patrick Sauber, old-time balladeer Tim Eriksen, National Heritage Fellow Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the Tatnall River Shapenote Singers, and host Jim Lauderdale, an acclaimed Nashville singer-songwriter

• Jazz Now and Forever, a series of jazz greats including Dianne Reeves, Chick Corea & John McLaughlin’s Five Peace Band featuring Christian McBride, Kenny Garrett and Brian Blade, and The Clayton Brothers

• The Gershwin Songbook, jazz pianist Marcus Roberts and classical pianist Sebastian Knauer performing the greatest compositions of this masterful American composer

• The Blues was Born Here, an authentic southern blues review showcasing Piedmont blues masters Cephas & Wiggins on a one-time only bill with Georgia’s own Beverly “Guitar” Watkins

• Resplendent Recitals, a series highlighting the world’s finest recitalists including tenor Ian Bostridge, guitarist Manuel Barrueco, and pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Marc-Andre Hamelin and Sebastian Knauer

• Big World of Music, leading international artists such as fado star Mariza, Mike Marshall & Darol Anger with Väsen, Bela Fleck’s Africa Project featuring virtuosos Toumani Diabate, Vusi Mahlasela, and D’Gary, and Indian maestros Zakir Hussain & Shiv Kumar Sharma.

• The 16th annual American Traditions Competition, some of the nation’s most talented aspiring vocalists competing for more than $30,000 in prize monies

• The three-night Savannah Jazz Party featuring Bucky Pizzarelli, Howard Alden, Howard Paul and Ken Peplowski; the Ellis Marsalis Quartet; and the 2009 Piano Showdown with solos and duos by pianists Eddie Palmieri, Henry Butler, Aaron Goldberg and Bob Seeley

• The Complete Brandenburg Concertos performed by the Academy of Ancient Music with Richard Egarr

• Organ Stops, a six-concert series featuring such internationally acclaimed organists as Janette Fishell

• Everybody Dance Now, a three-concert series of dance parties featuring Eddie Palmieri & La Perfecta II, Zydeco great Cedric Watson, and the rising young Cajun ensemble, Feufollet

• Georgia On My Mind, a four-concert series including Savannah’s own Bobby Lee Rodgers & Friends in a one-time only event, as well as the Marcus Printup Quartet, Caroline Herring, and Sacred Harp Singing with Tim Eriksen

• Swing Central, a three-day high school jazz band and competition capped off by Battle Royale, the closing night finale concert featuring a cutting contest with trumpeters, saxophonists, trombonists and rhythm sections. Featured performers: Marcus Roberts Trio, The Clayton Brothers, Wycliffe Gordon, Terrell Stafford, Scotty Barnhart and others

• Roots & Twang, a varied series featuring Neko Case with Crooked Fingers, Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile, The Infamous Stringdusters and The Lovell Sisters, and The Blues was Born Here

• Tap master Savion Glover, combining two different projects on a Savannah stage

Tickets go on sale at 9 am EST on November 13 and are available online at www.savannahmusicfestival.org or by phone at 912-525-5050.

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The Greatest Swedish Import Since ABBA: Väsen

Vasen
Vasen

I often enjoy the stories of how bands formed. For instance, Väsen formed when Swedish nyckelharpa player Olov Johansson met guitarist Roger Tallroth at a music festival in Roros, Norway. When Olov asked Roger if he wanted to jam, the guitarist was mainly concerned with taking a shower and he turned down Olov’s offer. However, someone else was using the shower at the time, so Roger then agreed to jam with Olov and this jam session lasted well into the night. Olle Paulsson witnessed the jam session and decided to start a label, Drone Records to release recordings by the musicians.

The first CD which featured Roger, Olov and viola player Mikael Marin was titled Väsen and soon the name of the CD became the name of the trio of talented musicians. The fateful encounters took place in 1989 leading Väsen to record several albums as a trio then later as a quartet when percussionist Andre Ferrari came on board in 1996.

Over the years, Väsen has performed as a trio and as a quartet in North America and across Europe while garnering enthusiastic responses from fans and the media. And anyone who thinks that Scandinavian folk-roots music is not worth their time, would be in for a shock. Groups such as Väsen, Värttinä and Wimme appeal to audiences from all age groups and backgrounds. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s hard to pinpoint why Väsen is so special. Could it be the beautiful music created by a guitar, nyckelharpa and viola or is it the mind bending music that the musicians compose? Certainly a musical chemistry simmers between Roger, Olov and Mikael then further enhanced by a healthy dose of humor and innovative thinking.

Väsen’s music is both ancient due to the fact that the nyckelharpa invented in the 1300’s and also contemporary, after all these musicians have worked with rock musicians (Nordman) as well as, the equally inventive Kronos Quartet among other musical architects. And yet, the music (mostly polkas, marches) that I have heard Väsen perform falls too deeply into intuitive territory to be dissected. And it’s far from a cliché to say that there is something for everyone on Väsen’s recordings.

The following short interview took place over the Internet (E-mail) to announce Väsen’s US tour occurring this fall. Väsen will be performing as a trio, supporting their latest CD, Trio.

CCWM: On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 pure traditional & 1 pop music), where does Väsen fit in?

Olov Johansson: I would say from 1 to 6 depending on what tunes we play, what kind of gig we are doing. Some things we do is very traditional and some things could at the moment only be described as Väsen-music.

CCWM: That question is for people who have discovered Swedish folk roots music for the first time. I know that Frifot researches traditional songs from previous centuries, going through old song books and arranging the old songs on their CDs, do members of Väsen also studied the song books of Sweden’s past?

OJ: We have learned many hundreds of tunes from older musicians and we have looked others up in old transcriptions. But when we play concerts we play mostly new composed material. Some of it in a very traditional style, and some of it in a more contemporary Väsen-style.

CCWM: Is it true that most of the Swedish folk music composed in the past and today is folk dance music?

OJ: Yes, dance and ceremonial music.

CCWM: I read that you began playing the nyckelharpa at age 14, what event or person led you to this instrument?

OJ: My uncle played the nyckelharpa and my mother and I who were interested borrowed it from him for awhile. Then my mother bought one for herself but as it turned out, I am the one who mostly played it.

CCWM: What do you like most about the nyckelharpa? The least?

OJ: The sound when it is in good tune and shape. All the over-tones and the resonance from the sympathetic strings is just great when everything works fine. The worst thing is to keep the instrument in good shape. All the fixing with the playing mechanism and all the tuning takes too much time.

CCWM: Also I find it intriguing that Roger performs on a 12 string guitar since it also has sympathetic strings as well as, his unique tuning (A-D-A D-A-D) and Marin plays a 5-string viola. Do you ever have problems tuning the 3 instruments to one another?

OJ: When we are playing in situations with fast climate changes it is a problem. For example: Clubs with very strong lights that are turned on when the gig starts, after you have tuned and instruments have adapted to humidity and temperature in the room, air-conditioning, outdoor concerts in strong sunlight or late in the evening is other situations with lots of tuning and you can’t take the time to get it exact during a gig.

CCWM: I also read that many Americans have been learning the nyckelharpa and I wondered if those folks are from all age groups or mainly children? I recently met students of the hurdy-gurdy and they were middle age people who discovered the instrument later in life or so I think.

OJ: From my experience most nyckelharpists in the US are middle age but you also meet children and older people who play the nyckelharpa.

CCWM: Finally, Väsen has toured internationally and I wondered which culture/country has shown the most enthusiasm for your music besides Sweden? When I have asked other musical groups this question, the answer is often Japan.

OJ: The US, Finland and Denmark. We haven’t been to Japan yet but we will go there next year, so you have to ask that question again next year.

Please visit The Whole Music Experience or Cranky Crow Whole Music
(This interview originally appeared on Cranky Crow World Music in 2003).

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Land of Fiddlers

Frigg - Oasis
Frigg – Oasis

 

Scandinavia is a land of excellent fiddlers. In the past months, a new batch of recordings featuring top folk violinists from the Nordic countries ha appeared in record stores.

Frigg’s latest offering is Oasis. The Finnish band specializes in the folk songs of Finland and Norway, with a bit of bluegrass added for spice. Even though the fiddles play the leading role, Frigg also uses wind instruments, bagpipes and other elements. The song selection ranges from lively dance pieces to delightful melodic compositions.

 

Swåp - Du Da
Swåp – Du Da

 

Swedish band Swåp presents a captivating combination of Celtic music with Swedish folk on Du Da. The Swedish and British musicians that form the band explore these sounds with the help of accordion, fiddles and guitars.

One of the stars of contemporary Nordic folk music is Swedish group Väsen. The virtuoso instrumentalists perform their new brand of Swedish folk music throughout Europe, North America and Japan. It is in Japan where the brilliant trio recorded its most recent offering, a live album.

 

Väsen - Live in Japan
Väsen – Live in Japan

 

Live in Japan portrays three excellent musicians playing smoking live versions of Swedish polskas, bluegrass-influenced tunes and other folk styles using fiddle, nyckelharpa (Swedish hurdy-gurdy) and fiddle. The double set includes a DVD with a documentary about the group.

 

Rusk II
Rusk II

From Norway comes Rusk II, featuring the vocals of Unni Lovlid, the accordion of Frode Haltli and the hardanger fiddle of Vegar Vardal.

The song selection includes folk songs from Sweden and Norway, ranging from pols dances and hymns to drinking songs and even a tribute to Johnny Cash. Nevertheless, the ambiance is not merry, but rather evocative and melancholic, with a chamber music ensemble feel.

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