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Written in fRoots issue 379/380, Jan/Feb 2015

Pajala Tatawin
Knapsu Produktion, no number (2014)

Unlikely but appealing.
     At Sweden’s Urkult festival in 2007 Tunisian singer Amina Annabi, who as France’s entry tied for winner of Eurovision 1991, met roots band Jord from Pajala in Tornedalen up on the Arctic Circle where north Sweden borders Finland. Despite the distance between their homes, a band transpired, with Jord’s singer/bassist Erling Fredriksson and its singer/accordionist Jan Johansson plus guitarist and percussionist.
     What emerges isn’t at all a case of Swedes trying to be a Tunisian band; the songs, mostly co-written by Amina and Erling, draw on both their backgrounds, including two from the Torne river valley tradition, and are in Arabic, Meänkieli (the Finnish dialect of north Sweden), French and a touch of English. And the production isn’t at all Middle-Eastern and certainly not Eurovisionish, but a direct, down-home product of the recording’s location, the Parish House of the Tornedalen village of Tärendö (yes, that’s also the name of an IKEA table).
     Amina, mostly in alternating duet with Fredriksson or Johansson who sing in Meänkieli, takes a wide range of vocal approaches, from the Berber-like opener, through her delicate Love Song to her northern love, wild mawwal joined by group vocals in Koskenkorva over chunky accordion and bass instrumental line, Arabic interjections in the Tornedal traditional Maa On Musta, the jiggety-bouncy 6/8 Muhamed, piano-accompanied Natacha Atlas-esque curlicued in the leaving song Lilia, sultry in French and English in a tango, and joining the band vocals over muscularly hefty, gimbri-evoking fuzzy bass and chiming electric guitar for another traditional Tornedal song.
     Folk music – playing with your friends; it’s just that these days those friends may be from, and in this case still live, far away.


© 2014 Andrew Cronshaw

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