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FACING NORTH 06: Traditional Music from The Nordic Countries

Per Gudmundson fiddle, octave fiddle, Swedish bagpipes, vocal
Ale Möller mandola, flutes, hammered dulcimer, folk harp, shawm, vocal
Lena Willemark vocal, fiddle, octave fiddle, wood flute

With Special Guest - Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, fiddle, hardingfele

"Frifot create powerfully contemporary music that gives new life to the old traditions" – fROOTS

As our world submits to the potent forces of globalization, an embarrassment of cultural riches lies beyond the horizon. Sometimes the most enigmatic of these are those closest to home, and Scandinavia’s rugged traditional music is a case in point.

Throughout 2006, Facing North will be shedding light on the lands of the midnight sun, and we start our travelogue in Sweden, with Frifot, its leading traditional ensemble. Over the last two decades, Frifot’s enduring partnership of Ale Moller, Per Gudmundson and Lena Willemark have spearheaded the Swedish folk revival, and this virtuoso trio enjoy the level of acclaim Ireland associates with musicians like Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny.

Any aficionado of those seminal Irish players will find much to savour in Frifot’s authentic roots, for Sweden shares common ground with our own tradition. Myriad regional variations feed into the canon, which is rooted in modal dance forms and unaccompanied song, and as here, the fiddle is everpresent. You’ll also find a signature rhythmic character and deft use of space, creating wonderful contours that complement the strident, near oriental timbres of indigenous instruments like the nyckelharpa and sackpipa.

Sweden’s vocal tradition is equally unique, especially kulning, the high pitched cries once used for shepherding livestock high in the summer pastures. Now revived, kulning is a striking sound, expressive and cathartic, especially when Lena Willemark lets fly. Sweden’s finest singer, she’s grounded in the rich tradition of her native Dalarna region, and yet undeterred by genres, frequently performing in improvised contexts with jazz luminaries like Bobo Stenson and Anders Jormin.

The innovative and charismatic Ale Moller has taken a more circuitous route back to tradition, starting his career as a jazz musician, followed by a period of intense study of Greek rembetika, and his modified bouzouki, and latterly the mandola, is a key element of the Frifot sound. The scholarly Per Gudmunson completes this triad of exceptional musicians. A master fiddler and an authoritative source of the old polska, vals, schottis, langdans and springlek dance forms, he’s also credited with the revival of the old art of Swedish piping.

Together, these three spelmen (traditional musicians) illuminate one of Europe’s undiscovered gems, reaching back into centuries of myth, folklore, songs and storytelling, reconciling the past and embracing modernity.

Facing North 06:
In 2007, a unique event celebrating the deep maritime and cultural links between Ireland and The Nordic Countries takes place when the Viking longship Hahvingsten Fra Glendalough sails to Ireland, its oarsmen vividly recalling the voyages of a thousand years previously. Its arrival will be preceeded in 2006, when the best of Nordic traditional musicians travel to Ireland for Facing North, a year long series introducing you to the heartwarming music of Europe's most bracing region.

In Ireland we're aware of great Nordic music making in jazz, rock and contemporary classical music, but less so with its traditional music. A hallmark of Nordic music has been the free exchange between different genres and styles, and as with areas like The Balkans, traditional music has been the catalyst for much of its musical creativity. Regardless of your musical interests, you'll find this a rewarding listening experience and a perfect introduction to the brilliantly diverse dance, song and instrumental traditions of Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway, brought to you by its most revered traditional artists. Those historical links with Ireland will be reinvented for the new millenium, and throughout Facing North 06, we'll also be inviting some of Ireland's leading traditional artists to join their Nordic neighbours in fruitful musical dialogue.

Facing North: 06 is produced by
Improvised Music Co & Tom Sherlock Management
Supported by NOMUS (Nordic Music Council)

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