Welcome to the world of new-folk. This is not just another ancient tune; this is modern music, old dances meeting the computer technology of today. It happened in Sweden, 1993. A group of young people started a new band called: Garmarna. Now, seven years later they are the innovators of the Scandinavian folk music. They are able to create a new sound that has respect for the past and fits into our modern world. This is the story of their lead singer: Emma Härdelin who I interviewed at the folkwoods festival in Eindhoven Holland, last august.
"I've always been busy with music. I come from a family of musicians and grew up with the violin and Swedish traditional songs. Of course I had to start playing the violin, not much choice when you were born in a family like mine. I thought that this was normal, that every child in Sweden was surrounded by music. When I was eleven years old I realized that it was not normal at all, but quit unique. That was the moment that I started to like playing more and more. I mean, we all want to be unique and I had something in my family that gave me the chance to be different than other children. It's not the violin that would stay as my biggest love. At the Waldorf school I visited we did a lot of singing and there I lost my heart to singing traditional Swedish songs and that is what I still do with both Garmarna and Triakel."
Herr Olof, the first garmarna song.
" I met the boys of Garmarna at a summercamp for violin players. We got along very well and later, during a midsummer night celebration I taught them the old song Herr Olof which you can find one the first Garmarna mini-cd. While they were busy recording this first cd, they asked me if I would like to sing this Herr olof song with them and record it. I thought that it would be fun and went to the studio. The cd got good critics and suddenly the boys told everybody that I was their lead-singer. They never asked me, they just told everybody I belonged to the group so there was no other choice than stay with them. When I listen to these first recording now I get a bit ashamed. Did I really sing this? Of course I know that you have to start at some point and that I got better and better but I can't listen to this first cd we hardly were able to hold our instruments! With each new cd our music changed. More and more we dared to use modern influence in our songs. At the beginning we were afraid of the reaction, we had too much respect for the old songs to give them a new impulse. We still have that respect but also want to interpretate the music our own way. And our last cd Vedergalningen is our view on the beautiful ancient music of Sweden. Violin, Hurdy gurdy but also computer samples play a big role in the songs.
For our new cd , that we probably will record somewhere this autumn, we used material of Hildegard von Bingen only. We were asked if we were interested to make a special concert tour with her music. We never heard of her but thought it would be a great challenge. They gave us a year time to work and for a few months I lived with Hildegard. Her music is very complex and I just lay on my bed listening and listening to her songs. I can't read any musical note so I had to do it this way. Then, after about three-four months I went to the boys and we started the process that we always use when we create a new song. I sing and the boys listen. Than they start to take their instruments and improvise. After a while we have a first version that will probably change a few times but the basic is there. Each time again I like it o see this process of seeing a Hildegard or old song change into a real Garmarna song. We went touring with the Hildegard program and had great success. Now we are ready to record them. It will be closer to modern music than our earlier work but of course it will have the typical Garmarna sound."
Only about eight hours after this interview Garmarna performed at the big stage in Eindhoven. Fast music, silent songs and weird progressive instrumental parts. A friend who had never seen them play before whispered in my ear during one of the most weird, progressive songs: " did anybody ever told them that this is pure Velvet underground?" From that moment, when I have to explain why I like Garmarna so much and I have to describe their music I speak of Underground-folk, be ready to get surprised!
Garmarna Garmarna massproduktion cds-54 debut EP
Garmarna Vittrad massproduktion/westpark 87042
Garmarna guds speleman massproduktion cd-69
Garmarna Vedergällningen massproduktion cd-337
Triakel triakel mnw/westpark
Emma Härdelin Innan gryningen monomusic mmcd-s 124
Photo Credit: All photos by The Mollis, taken at Folkwoods Festival 2000 in Eindhoven:
(1) Emma Härdelin
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