FolkWorld article by Michael Moll:

The Swedes do it differently

Scanfolk Part III: Moving on to Sweden. Folk Music educations, concerts and dance, a lot of great music...

Stockholm; photo by The Mollis Stockholm is a very special town - also folk music wise. Having been in Stockholm now for more than two months, Michael Moll is trying to explain what makes the whole Stockholm, and also the Swedish, folk music scene special, setting it apart from most other countries' scenes.

The first concert I visited after having come over took place in Stockholm's newest and at the same time best folk music venue: The Stallet. Owned and run by the RFoD, Sweden's national folk music organisation financed by the state, the Stallet has the aim to present the best of Swedish and international folk music and dance bands, becoming the main stage for traditional folk music and dance.

Sweden in winter; photo by The Mollis This very concert was the graduation concert of a folk music student of the Royal Music Academie in Stockholm, the fiddler Hadrian Pratt. Mastering most of the concert on his own, with at times the addition of another fiddler, the surprise was when he came up with a very modern piece, with programming, drums etc. giving a totally different perspective to this musician.
The Royal Academie, offering since about 10 years folk music courses, has become a breeding ground not only for new traditional bands, but also for fusion bands with influences in rock, jazz, classic. Although the education is basically on traditional music, the Academy provides the possibility to meet up with the students of other music styles. It is quite obvious that the introduction of folk music courses has brought a very fresh wind into the Stockholm folk scene, not only regarding new exciting young bands, but also as these students are frequent visitors to concerts and dances, decreasing considerably the average age of the visitors.

A lot of the concerts I have seen up to now were in some ways related to the Academie. One of the most exciting ones was actually the surprise evening concert of students of the Academie, showing how much talent there is around, and how innovative these musicians are. The concert provided both very traditional fiddle music and modern influenced roots music, like a duo playing polskas on sopran and tenor saxophone. Those music students are in no way the "typical" alternative folkie; they present a very trendy image of the folk music scene. Which is a real joy to see.

Swap; photo by The Mollis Another special feature of the Stockholm scene is that concert and dance scene are closely linked to one another. Most concerts in the Stallet, as well as in the Folkmusikhuset, combine a first half concert, with the audience having the possibility to just enjoy the music itself, with a second half a dance concert, where the chairs are put away, and the dance floor is open to all who want to dance. A bit of a surprise for me!

Among the concerts I saw at the Stallet, there was also the CD release concert of the Finnish accordenist Maria Kalaniemi and the Swedish fiddler Sven Ahlbäck, joined by nyckelharpa player Johan Hedin and singer Susanne Rosenberg. This has been a wonderful concert, showing the full range of talent of these musicians, and linking Swedish and Finnish music traditions. Hopefully more live appearances will follow! For those of you who were not there, I can fully recommend the CD (see review section of FolkWorld!).

Swåp, the English-Swedish collaboration between Ian Carr and Karen Tweed, and Carina Normansson and Ola Backström, had an appearance, them playing also half the concert for dance. Ranarim were one of the representants of newly formed Swedish bands linked to the Royal Academie - to find out more about this magnificent band read the article about them!

Ranarim, press photo The concert "Mästarmöte" presented loads of female traditional fiddlers, all masters (as the title says), both young and older. Lena Willemark put this concert together. Providing more than 2 hours of just fiddle music, and mainly Polskas, partly solo, partly as fiddle duo, this was a special concert, although it became with the time a bit tiring to hear only fiddles, without any accompaniment. Yet it was a strong proof that the fiddle tradition in Sweden is in safe hands, as five of the ten fiddle masters presented in this concert looked like still being well under 30 years.

There is definitely a lot to discover on the Swedish scene right now; the amount of high quality CDs released in the last years is another proof of this.

The Swedish scene has some more mysteries which are astonishing for a German folky. One of these things is the strong financial support the Swedish state is giving to folk music, in particular to Folk Music recordings. But probably I should leave some stuff for Scanfolk's No. 4.

Further Reading and Info on the Swedish Folk Music Scene:

The first two parts of the Scanfolk series were featuring Denmark:

Photo Credit: Photos (exept 4 - press photo) by the Mollis: (1) Stockholm, (2) Sweden in winter, (3) Swåp, (4) Ranarim

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