The News from... Sweden

translated by Fred Bialy

Items of interest from the world of Swedish folk music culled from issues of Dalarnas spelmansblad and Spelmannen.

The Musik vid Siljan festival awarded Lena Willemark the title of Folk Musician of the Year in recognition of her "solid artistic achievement which is fresh and pure like a spring's clear water." She has succeeded at two difficult tasks: helping to develop Swedish folk music into a respected musical genre and attracting many new listeners who have been previously unfamiliar with folk music.

Låtar från Dalarnes Bergslag III, the third volume of tunes collected by Ingvar Norman has recently been published. It contains 841 tunes from Hedemora, Husby, Garpenberg, Grytnäs, Folärna, Vika, Falun, Sundborn, Svärdsjö and Enviken.

The Tällberg Foundation scholarship was awarded in 1997 to Anders Almlöf, son of fiddler Kalle Almlöf from Malung. This scholarship provides funds for the winner to make a trip to the United States. Last year's winner was Eva Rune who will be travelling in the United States this coming September.

In the latest issue of Dalarnas spelmansblad, Maria Röjås reminisces about learning att köla, the art of kulning (cow calling) from Karin Edvardsson-Johansson. It was in the early 1980s when Maria received a stipend from the government in order to study for two weeks with Karin at the Starsåsen fäbod.

Maria remembers thinking that she would have an easy time of it since at the age of 21 her voice was in top form. But it was tough! Although she was 50 year's older, Karin could sing higher, stronger and hold a note twice as long as Maria. And Karin's teaching method consisted of singing an entire song, full of trills and complicated ornaments, once through, then commanding Maria, "Now you sing it!" The first time through, Maria would manage only a few notes. After another listening, maybe a single phrase. Then the lesson would be over. The cows were back home and needed to be milked!

So for two weeks there would be short lessons in the morning and the evening. In between, practicing was forbidden. The cows couldn't be called in from the pastures in the middle of the day! Much of those two weeks was spent perfecting non-vocal skills: churning butter, cooking messmör, and milking the goats and cows.

On her final day, Maria had her exam. She was instructed to go up the hillside to the edge of the forest and call for the cows to come to her. The cows, however, stood motionless half way up the hill looking back and forth between Maria and Karin who had stayed behind at the cow shed. After a fruitless fifteen minutes, Karin came sympathetically to the rescue (the cows came running at the sound of her first note!). "It was my fault that it went so badly" she said consolingly. "You know, the cows are so used to me that they were surely confused that we were standing in different spots. If I had just come up here with you, they certainly would have come immediately."

Maria had the rest of the summer to practice the tunes and to perfect Karin's special tungdrillar, a technique where she would amplify her trills by using the tip of her tongue on every note, much as you would when saying the letter "L." Plans for a reunion at the end of the summer didn't work out. It wasn't until 1986, after the midnight concert at Stångtjärn, during the Falun FolkMusic Festival, that Maria met Karin again. At the lake's edge, as the public made their way home, Maria got to practice her tungdrillar until Karin was satisfied. Further recognition came in 1989 when Maria was awarded the title of riksspelman for her kulning.

Swedish Radio's live recording of vallmusik (pastoral music such as cow calling, cow horn playing, etc.) at Stångtjärn won first place in the category "Best Sound Project of Radio Music Program" at the Guandong International Radio Music Festival in China. Two years ago, Swedish Radio was also the first place winner at this biannual festival with it's recording of a Nordan concert (featuring Ale Möller and Lena Willemark).

Sveriges Spelmäns Riksförbund, Sweden's national fiddler organization, currently has 6,736 members of which 1,325 belong to the Dalarna chapter. The next largest chapters are Uppland (544 members), Heimbygda (497), Skåne (438), Värmland (392) and Hälsingland (339).

400 people attended the Norrsken festival in Falun this past February. Participants enjoyed performances by almost twenty different artists and groups during concerts over three days. Exhibits and seminars rounded out the program. At a discussion titled "Spelman, musiker, musikant" Olov Johansson, Arto Järvelä, and Ånon Egeland gave their views on the musician's role today. Olov felt that all influential musicians have been innovative "revolutionaries" such as Byss-Kalle and Eric Sahlström. Ånon felt that national romantic myths were making a comeback. He thinks that musicians today can avail themselves of many more playing styles than were used in the past. Currently complicated tunes with quarter tones and parts with uneven measures are in vogue because it seems that the public prefers them.

So many great Swedish fiddle tunes! Where do they all come from? Who made them? What was the inspiration? The answers to these questions for a particular tune often tell a rich and colorful story. This is clearly illustrated by a recounting of the history behind Hjort Anders 60-årspolska (Hjort Anders' 60th birthday polska). And what a tune. 20 measures in the first reprise, only 12 in the second, but what a ride! Fingers spring back and forth over the strings. Long runs of sixteenth notes at full tempo.

The tune in its original form was more sedate when it was first composed by August Strömberg from Småland. A shoemaker by trade who was born in 1860 in Jät, south of Kalmar, Strömberg was also a great fiddler. He made concert tours throughout Sweden along with other legendary fiddlers of the time such as August Bohlin, Jon-Erik Öst and Hjort Anders. It was in honor of Hjort Anders' 60th birthday (in 1925) that Strömberg composed a tune called "Vid Åsens strand."

Upon first hearing the tune, Hjort exclaimed, "now that I can make a lot better!" He took up his fiddle immediately and started to embellish the tune, adding 4 measures, heaping on runs of 16th notes, and setting fire to the tempo.

One year later, the young Rättvik fiddler Börtas Hans got a transcription of the tune from his dad who had just heard it played by Hjort Anders and other fiddlers at Skansen in Stockholm. A few years later, Hans was himself living in Stockholm and playing in the Dalaförening spelmanslag together with Erik Ståbi from Orsa. Erik's son Björn began to meet with Hans and thereby learned the tune which he later shared with Pers Hans. And Per Hans and Björn Ståbi's recording of the tune for their premier album "Bockfot!!!"... well, the rest is history!

Dalarnas Museum in Falun contains a priceless treasure of field recordings that document and preserve the rich musical traditions of Dalarna. A recent article in Dalarnas spelmansblad illuminates the contribution to this massive collection by Gertrude Sundvik who is best know for her interest in Swedish folk songs. With financial help from the museum, she travelled around Dalarna during a three year period from June 5, 1968 to September 9, 1971, visiting the famous and not so famous. During that time, her boundless energy, curiosity and an exceptional ability to encourage the shy and reluctant enabled her to record over 1500 tunes and songs. Many of the people that she visited are now dead, their musical legacy, however, lives on.

The fifth edition of the folk music catalogue published by the Riksföreningen för Folkmusik och Dans (RFoD) is now available. The catalogue contains a wealth of information about performing artists, teachers of music and dance, arrangers, music and dance organizations and even an increasing number of foreign music groups active in Sweden. The catalogue costs 100 Skr. and can be ordered through RFoD at 011-46-8-791-46-30 or Svenska Rikskonserter at 011-46-8-791-46-00. There are plans to publish the catalogue on the Internet (check out RFoD's home page at

New Recordings from Sweden

FOLK MUSIC IN SWEDEN - Låtar från Dala-Floda, Enviken & Ore; Låtar från Rättvik, Boda & Bingsjö (Caprice). Reissue on CD of classic recordings.

SENADRAGE - "Minnen från Myrlandet" (MH). 11 person band from Västerbotten which includes accordion, fiddle, nyckelharpa, guitar and flute.

NIKLAS ROSWALL (Tongång). Last year's winner of the annual nyckelharpa competion. With friends.

VALRAMN - "Lure" (Tongång). Debut CD of group that includes Harald Pettersson (bagpipe, sälgflöjt, and hurdy gurdy), Esbjörn Hazelius (fiddle, bouzouki), Jonas Åkerlund (fiddle), and Fredrik Bengtsson (bass). Danceable.

ENTELI - "Live" (Amigo). Second CD from a group that mixes jazz and folk.

ÖSTERSUNDS SPELMANSLAG - "Ömse drag" (TLSM). Cassette with 20 tunes with mix of cuts by the whole spelmanslag and smaller groups.

LARS OLOF EJSTES - "Stämning" (Kulturstråk). Dalarna fiddler plays solo a mix of tunes from Dalarna, other parts of Sweden, and original compositions.

PERJOS LARS HALVARSSON & MATTIAS HELJE (Giga). Two fiddlers from Lima in Western Dalarna.

BJÖRN STÅBI - "Orsalåtar" (Giga). Solo recording.

KALLE ALMLÖF - "Lejsmelåtar" (Giga). Kalle solo.

SÄLTA (Amigo). Debut recording for group of four musicians at the College of Music in Stockholm.

SWÅP (Amigo). Ola Bäckström & Carina Normansson join Irish accordion player Karen Tweed and English fiddler Ian Carr.

FRIFOT - "Järven" (Caprice). Second CD from group of Lena Willemark, Ale Möller, and Per Gudmundson.

The News from... Norway

translations by Crystal Lokken

Items of interest from the world of folk music and dance in Norway culled from the pages of Spelemannsbladet.

A seminar on old tune forms and instrument traditions took place at the Valdres Folk Museum in Fagernes, in November, l996. Olav Sæta, Ånon Egeland, Leif Rygg, and Ingar Ranheim shared their view on a variety of topics.

Olav Sæta showed how the fiddling styles and ideals have changed through time. On the basis of many old recordings from Oppland, Hedmark and Nordfjord he has found that fiddle styles in the old days were many and varied. The old fiddle playing was characterized by two-part playing, shorter bow strokes, and a more 'floating' tonality. Although there were many similarities in style among fiddlers from different areas, there were differences in bow stroke and beat.

One fiddler mentioned by Sæta was Fel-Jakup (l821-l876) from Skjåk (upper Gudbrandsdal). Fel-Jakup favored unison playing, discouraging flourishes, vibrato, or school-learned playing methods. He was a fiddler who went beyond tradition, thus receiving legendary status, as did Myllargutten. Other fiddlers who were innovators were Kal-Fant and Anders Sørensen.

Ånon Egeland said that there is a great difference between hardingfele playing past and present. Using Anders Rysstad (l893-l984) as an example, he showed how Rysstad bowed on two strings, but fingered on only one at a time, so-called 'bordun' playing. In other words, a total absence of double fingering in contrast to Telemark fiddling of today, where double fingering is very common. Per Berge, from Voss, is an example of one-string playing in the hardingfele tradition, while an older fiddler such as Ola Mosafinn used both techniques. Jorn Hilme from Valdres, was named as another innovator, who, with his 'triolar' gets his inspiration from the minuet. There tends to be better distribution of sound and more tempered playing on the modern hardingfele. However, none of the innovators of the present can achieve the legendary status of the old-time fiddlers, he believes.

Leif Rygg warned that fiddling is beginning to be too standardized. In music schools, one gets only 20 minute lessons. In today's society, due to the cost, it is not easy for young people to travel to the home of a fiddler. There are those also who are perhaps too shy to approach a teacher. There is a shortage of historical knowledge of tunes, and the fiddle technique becomes neglected as one pays more attention to creating saccharin, sounds. "As a judge, I often wish that a young fiddler would 'squeak' a little!" he says. Rygg would like to create a forum where fiddlers can come together and discuss tunes and tune-forms, but he feels fiddlers are afraid to express their opinions.

Ingar Ranheim addressed the topic of modernizing folk music, using the langeleik in Valdres as an example. The traditionalists felt the instrument should not change. The modernists won out, however, and the temperate scale was introduced, thus assuring the survival of the langeleik. Ranheim traced folk music history from l900 showing that the "Ungdomslags" (youth organizations) were forward looking, and at the same time showed respect for the old traditions. In about the l950's, modernism was a new concept and belief in the future was 'in.' At this time it was not easy to walk through the streets of Oslo carrying a fiddle case.

Ånon Egeland talked about the resurgence of interest in munnharp (mouth harp, Jews harp) playing. At one time it was not possible to get a harp to play the old tunes, so there was a break in the tradition. In the l960's there was a munnharp boom, with a flood of cheap and imported instruments. At this time there was also an attempt to reinstate munnharp production in Norway, but they were made of cast brass, and not very good. Cast harps are not as traditional as forged ones, and more difficult to play. In recent years Torleiv H. Bjørgum, got the smith Knut Tveit in Setesdal to recreate a forged harp after the old model. These harps are flexible and have a basic tone which makes it possible to play as they were played before.

The Valdres Folk Museum is interested in installing a workshop for making new and conserving old instruments. It already has budgeted money for that, but it is difficult to get monies from the public. Persons with special ability should be acknowledged by museums as 'living treasures,' an example of which is Olav Vike.

Folke Nesland, living in Bykle (Setesdal) has become one of the most respected munnharp smiths in the country. Folke, who is a technician in the Bykle County Offices, was a knife-maker earlier, but got bored with that and in '91 or '92, began making munnharps. He started by studying old munnharps, and from then on developed the process himself. His munnharps have been acclaimed the best at the landskappleik. The last man to forge good munnharps in Setesdal before they 'went out of style' was Knut Gjermundsson from Hovet.

Nesland believes that anyone who wants to can forge a munnharp - it is in the work with the spring and tone that the difficulty lies. Even in the rough stages, Nesland is able to decide what key the harp will be in, whether it will be a 'G'-harp or a 'D'-harp. The length and thickness of the spring are important factors here.

Nesland's market is broad - he has sent munnharps to the US, Japan, Chile, Paris, and other places. He was the subject of an article in a Japanese magazine. At home, he has made harps for Sissel Kyrkjebø, Rita Eriksen and the pop group Bel Canto.

"Herr Nilsen" is the name of the new folk dance pub in Oslo. It is centrally located, only a five-minute walk from Karl Johansgate (Oslo's main street), near Hambrosplass. Here a couple of dedicated young people, Inge Mitveit from Haukelid, and Ellen Persvold, from Krøgsherad, have organized a folk dance pub which is open every other Monday night. Both are students in Oslo and both are active in the kappleik milieu. Inge is a dancer, and Ellen is both a fiddler and a dancer.

The pub is much like an Irish pub, with spontaneous music by musicians who come by. People bring their fiddles, toraders, flutes and voices. They are encouraged to play solo or in groups. Performers have even included yodelers, and if someone comes and sings an Irish song, "that is completely OK!", say Inge and Ellen. Up to now, they cannot afford to pay musicians, but anyone who is in town is welcome to pop in. On other nights the pub offers jazz and folk singing.

On November 30, 1996, Anund Roheim, an 84-year old Norwegian fiddler from the US, was honored at a concert at the Gullbring cultural center in Bø, Telemark.

Anund Roheim was born in Telemark in l913, and was influenced when he was growing up by the many excellent hardingfele players who already had reputations, even outside of Telemark. Roheim also became a master fiddler. His playing is "clear as the autumn air, and spiced with color." Anund is best known in Norway for the tune "Longing for Spring" which he recorded for NRK in l950. When Roheim was at the height of his career as a fiddler, he went to America. He didn't plan to stay away so long, but he lived in the US more than 40 years. He has now moved back to Bø, living on the family farm, Bjønnemyre.

There were 350 people at the concert, something that could happen only in "innermost" Telemark. Master of ceremonies were Lief Rygg and Anfinn Staurheim. Among the many fiddlers performing were Gunnar Inleggen, Ingeliev Kjerland Kvammen, Leif Rygg, Hauk Buen, Kjell Sandbæk,and Olaug Slåtta Olsen, each accompanied by dancers. Loretta Kelly, from Washington, DC, also played and thanked Roheim for his contribution to Norwegian folkmusic in the US, for which he has been awarded the St Olaf medal, the highest honor given by Norway to people living outside of the country.

In one of the many speeches of the evening, Lief Rygg told of a meeting between Sigbjørn Bernhoft Osa and Roheim at the end of the 1940's, when Osa commented to Roheim, "You don't use so many fingers, Anund, but when you put them down, you put them down so damned right!"

Roheim was overwhelmed with the large turnout for the concert. He said, "I don't believe I am worth all this, but it has, in any case, been a great concert and a fine evening."

Some results from the Landskappleiken in Ål: Spel hardingfele class A: 1) Olav K. Øyaland (Tinn), 2) Egil Syversbråten (Hemsedal) 4) Øystein Romtveit (Vinje), 5) Alf Tveit (Sullarguten), 7) Leif Rygg (Voss), 8) Sigmund Eikås (Indre Sunnfjord), 10) Lars Underdal (Vinje), 18) Harald Røine (Øystre Slidre). Spel hardingfele class B: 4) Vidar Underseth (Sogn og Fjordane), 34) Elizabeth Foster (Hemsedal), 37) Sarah Kirton (Øystre Slidre). Spel fele class A: 1) Øystein Rudi Ovrum (Sør-Fron), 2) Mari Eggen (Brekken), 8) Åsmund Svenkerud (BUL-Nidaros). Vocal class A: 1) Øyonn Groven Myhren (Laget for folkemusikk), 7) Olav Sem. Vocal class B: 1) Marit Karlberg ((Øystre Slidre). Lausdans class A: 1) Sigbjørn Rua (Kongsberg), 2) Vidar Underseth (Sogn og Fjordane), 5) Mads Bøhle (BUL-Nidaros). Dans hardingfele class A: 1) Geir Helge Espeseth and Gunnlaug Lien Myhr (Hallingspringar), 4) Hellik Dokka and Ingeborg Herigstad (Numedalsspringar), Olav Sem and Mari Sem (Telespringar), Vidar Underseth and Leikny Aasen (Springar frå Solund), 11) Johan Vaa and Marit Vaagen Lilleland (Vest-Telemark springar), Johan Vaa and Aud Manheim (Vest-Telemark gangar), 16) Hallgrim Berg and Maria Høgetveit Berg (Hallingspringar). Dans fele class A: 1) Anders Sødal and Oddrun Klemmetvoll (Rørospols), 2) Peder Gullikstad and Randi Gullikstad (Rørospols), 6) Mads Bøhle and Bente Hjellum (Pols frå Østerdalen). Dans fele class B: 1) Harald Tamnes and Ranveig Bakka (Rørospols), 3) Svein Olav Sollie and Borghild Reitan (Pols). Munnharpe senior: 3) Hallgrim Berg (Ål).

New Recordings from Norway

HALLINGTONAR - Egil Syversbråten (Hardingfele), Gunnlaug Lien Myhr (Songs). Music from Hallingdal: springars, hallings, songs, religious folktunes, and tralling.

DVERGMÅL - Songs and tunes from Blåberglandet. Featuring Jon Anders Halvorsen, Marit Karlberg, Øyonn Groven Myhren, Turid Spildo Nedrum and Åsne Sunneve Søreide. Recorded in honor of Ivar Aasen (creator of NyNorsk).

GATELANGS MED RIL OG REINLANDER - Tom Rustad (Toråder - button accordion). Traditional and new compositions; Gammel dans, pols, reels, halling, songs and listening tunes.

LANGT INN I HUGHEIMEN - Knut Buen (Hardingfele), Kåre Nordstoga and Knut Arne Urdalen Snøas (Organ), Agnes Buen Snøas (Voice). Songs, poetry and music written and composed by Buen.

EG OG DU - Øystein Ellefsen (Hardingfele). Thirty traditional Telemark slåttar: springars and listening tunes.

HULDREJENTA - Knut Buen (Hardingfele). Tunes and stories about the supernatural.

MYLLARFUKEN - Knut Buen (Hardingfele). Tunes for dancing in which Knut shows how fiddlers improvised multiple versions of a tune and grouped them into medlys.

Letters to the Editor

Editor, NCS News,

In the lead article on page 1 of the Spring 1997 issue, reference is made to the langeleik being a dulcimer-like instrument. Although both langeleiks and dulcimers do belong to the zither family, a dulcimer is struck with hammers or beaters. Perhaps the comparison should be to the so-called "Appalachian dulcimer." Both it and the langeleik belong to the family of plucked zithers rather than struck zithers.

Wes Ludemann