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Written in Folk Roots issue 149, 1995

Folk Music In Sweden: Varjehanda Folkmusik / Traditional Folk Music

Caprice CAP 21474 E (1995)

Folk Music In Sweden: Äventyr I Jazz Och Folkmusik / Adventures In Jazz And Folklore

Caprice CAP 21475 (1995)

76 minutes, 44 tracks of Swedish folk music, field recordings and album tracks: herding calls, spilåpipa, cow horn, work song, lullabies, nyckelharpa, ballads, joiks, skämtvisor, clog fiddle, religious songs, diddling, fiddling, harmonica, accordion right through to Väsen, Norrlåtar, Frifot and Hedningarna.
      And this, Traditional Folk Music (actually the Swedish title means “All sorts of folk music”), though a gem in its own right, is but a taster for the 24, yes 24, other CDs in the series Folk Music in Sweden which, a joint release by Caprice and Swedish Radio P2, is an expanded CD release of the Musica Sveciae set which first came out in 1977 on LP. Out so far are numbers 1 and 2, a double CD The Medieval Ballad; this one, which is number 3, and number 4 Adventures in Jazz and Folklore (see below).
     The rest will follow over the next three years, and will stand alongside the Grappa/NRK joint release of ten CDs of Norwegian folk music as classic evidence that there exist countries whose national media have not only encouraged their folk culture but make it available to their population in informative, elegant packages. And then there’s Finland, where from the nationally-funded Folk Music Institute emerges a steady stream of CDs.
      Sorry, BBC, I can’t quite hear you - what’s that, not enough money? - but isn’t the Lottery something to do with supporting national culture?
      In 1965 some of Sweden’s jazz-band leaders - Bengt Arne-Wallin, Jan Johansson, Georg Riedel and Bengt Hallberg - were let loose in Swedish Radio’s archives of traditional music recordings, and commissioned to come up with music drawing on them for a radio broadcast.
      It’s often the case that jazz musicians (for whom exploration is, after all, the true path) can be fired by the, to them, strange modes, tonalities and rhythms of the folk music of their own country. Though of course this is 1965 jazz, not the newly-evolving Nordic forms of the 90s which may well owe something to projects like this, the effect of the folk recordings, some of which are incorporated in the pieces, is to shift the modalities of the jazz in a very interesting way, even if occasionally swing fights back. It takes a lot to divert the grooves of a lifetime, but on this album you can feel the first blasts of that Nordic fresh air start to blow.

© 1995 Andrew Cronshaw

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