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Throughout 2006, our Facing North series has been illuminating Scandinavia’s rugged traditional music, and our focus now turns to Norway and its emblematic instrument, the hardingfele (hardangerfiddle). Its performed here by Spindel, co-led by Sigrid Moldestad and Liv Merete Kroken, two exceptionally gifted fiddlers from the old Hanseatic city of Bergen nestled into Western Norway’s dramatic shoreline.

With its hybrid tuning, sympathetic drone strings and highly ornate design, hardingfele invites comparison with Asian instruments like the sitar, though its exact origins remain ambiguous. What is certain is the sound, which is rich and complex, silvery and bright in the upper register, with an alluring tonal ambiguity beneath.

Just as relative isolation gave birth to regional variations within Irish music, Norway’s unforgiving topography of jagged fjords, mountain passes and deep valleys has preserved a rich local tapestry. Spindel draw freely from this trove, especially its dance forms such as reinlender, springar and halling, all characterized by the rhythmic ambiguity that has often inspired Norway’s equally potent jazz tradition.

Steeped in tradition as they are, Moldestad and Kroken typify the revival in Nordic traditional music, acknowledging their debt to past masters and mentors, yet purposefully striding into new terrain. To that end, they make their Irish debut with an augmented group rich in instrumental diversity, with outstanding Bergen players in guitarist Olav Tveitane, pianist Dagfinn Andersen and percussionist Ivar Kolve. Collectively, they’re charismatic ambassadors for the music of our Viking brethren of the far North, and this time, you’ll be glad they came!

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