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Written in Folk Roots issue 184, 1998


Amigo AMCD 733 (1998)


Amigo AMCD 737 (1997)

Mats Edén is the fiddler with Groupa, a key band in the Swedish revival since 1981. He has been, and remains, a strong influence on other musicians in the Swedish revival, with the memorable tunes he writes, his driving style, with a ringing-string sound linking with his love of Norwegian music, and his frequent use of the drone-fiddle - in effect a larger, lower-pitched relative of the hardingfele with five playing and five sympathetic strings, developed in the 70s by Anders Rosén and others from the various forms of viola d’amore which had been made in Sweden and elsewhere from the 17th century. The one Mats uses was made by Hedningarna’s Anders Stake.
      His last solo album, Struling, largely featured his own tunes, with a cast of other musicians. Läckerbiten is devoted, apart from the Edén-composed title track, to traditional tunes mostly from his native Värmland, and Dalsland, both up near the Norwegian border, and also from neighbouring Västmanland, and this time he’s entirely solo, playing drone-fiddle, viola, ordinary fiddle and one-row melodeon - at the age of 21 he was the first player of diatonic accordion to win the Zorn silver medal, which had previously only gone to fiddlers. (One of the boxes he uses here is specially quarter-tone tuned to match the subtleties of fiddle tunes). Edén has the ego-effacing ability to use high skill not to dazzle but to make the listener see the shape and allure of a melody.

      Groupa grew out of the duo of Mats Edén and Leif Stinnerbom. Leif’s son Magnus and Daniel Sandén-Warg have been creating a stir in Sweden with their hypnotic, powerful duets on drone-fiddles (which they call “hurv-fiol” and “harv-fiol”) and wittily dynamic on-stage body language. As with Edén’s style, even more so in fact, their playing has the ringing shimmer of Norwegian hardingfele music, and particularly the mad intensity of the special Norwegian gorrlaus rammeslag tunes. Using the drone-fiddles and occasionally viola or hardingfele they apply this approach to music from the Swedish side of the border, on Harv mainly polskas from Värmland, particularly from Lycke and Eda.

© 1998 Andrew Cronshaw

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