FolkWorld Live Review 12/2001 by Michael Moll:
The small town of Falun in the middle of Sweden is best known for its copper mines, once upon a time producing two thirds of the world production of copper. These mines were seen by many as a wonder work of engineering, and plenty of kings and princes have visited the copper mines. Today, tourist masses come, as the Michelin travel guide has given both the mines and the museum three stars. Yet another attraction is probably much more worth a note, and that is the annual Falun Folkmusik Festival , Sweden's biggest folk and world music festival. Having stayed in Sweden for half a year, a visit to Falun Folkmusik Festival seemed to be the obvious event to finish off the pleasant stay in this wonderful country.
Falun is located in the region of Dalarna, the heart of Swedish folklore. As you can imagine, also in Falun you will find plenty of Swedish fiddlers. But for Falun Folk Festival, this is not all - the focus of the festival is to present a mixture of Swedish and European Folk and international World Music. Still the fiddle was in nearly all appearing bands a very central instrument - proved alone by the fact that there were two bands on the festival with the word "fiddle" even incorporated in the band name.
The festival has - only since this year - two central areas: The "Festival Area" features the main stage - open air without seats, the World Music tent and the "dance hall", as well as a food corner with diverse restaurants and bars (although the bars all serve the same beer, unfortunately one that is not really the best Swedish beer...). The other area is Dalarnas Museum, featuring two stages inside and one dancing tent. While the Dalarna Museum area focussed on Swedish music and join-in dancing, the "Festival Area" featured the main acts.
This year, the festival had quite bad luck with the weather - after a three week period of better and hotter summer weather than you could even dream of for a Swedish summer, with the start of the festival on the 11th of July clouds and chilly weather came up. I arrived just in time on Wednesday to catch the first big rain shower, making my way to the festival campsite next to the lake under an umbrella...
Wednesday evening was my Dalarna Museum area evening. The atmosphere needed still to warm up with the first act, Sågskära (unfortunately in smaller line-up than usual). When then later on Swedish fiddler Ellika Frisell and kora player Solo Cissokho from Senegal, living now in Scandinavia, played in the museum, the museum was packed. It was a fascinating concert where two traditions so far apart from one another would melt - and the result did not sound like a strange mixture, but worked really well, treating both traditions with respect, yet with a lot of pleasure.
When I later went on over to the Festival Area, the Greek-Armenian guitarist Haig Yazidjian with his band could not enthuse the audience at all. His calm music would simply not suit the position as final act of the evening, and the cool weather did not help. Yet nearby in the park you could find a spontaneous informal appearance of booked festival band Süperstar Orchester, a Swedish band playing powerful and lively Brass music from the Balkan music. This band really attracted its audience, there were plenty of young people dancing happily around the six lads. Wonderful stuff to finish off the night.
The next morning I went to explore Falun. On all days except Saturday there was not much going on during the day - some regular visitors told me that normally there would be plenty of session in the town and parks, but it seemed that the cold and rainy weather did not really help for that - this year, daytime was very quite all over Falun. Yet as a first time visitor it gives the possibility to explore the copper mines and the beautiful forests nearby. Still it would help to have a bit of programme also in the afternoon, besides music workshops.
At least the music on Thursday and Friday evening was a very tasteful selection of Euopean and international folk artists. I mainly went to see the concerts at the main stage and in the so-called dance hall (why it was called dance hall - I don't know. Every time I went there everybody came in and directly sat down on the floor...). I did not see much of the overcrowded World Music Tent, where Ale Möller and Jonas Knutsson invited three evenings folk and world music artists to play sessions on stage. As I have heard there was quite tremendous music also there.
My highlights of Thursday and Friday were Riccardo Tesi and his Banditaliano - a wonderful folk jazzy band around Riccardo's accordion, absolutely tremendous stuff (see the interview with Riccardo in this issue). And of course Oskorri, the old established band from the Basque country with their happy music and great performance. Then not to forget the very best live band in the world, La Bottine Souriante, who played a perfect and extremely long finish of the Friday night. Yet it was only when La Bottine Souriante played that the atmosphere became more relaxed, people danced, and there was plenty of enthusiasm in the audience. Before that, it seemed that the Swedes had returned with the cold weather into their winter mood of being more reserved.
Other bands that played Thursday and Friday were Slobo Horo from Finland (I could not really make much of their Finnish Soul-Folk-Rock), Sweden's own Garmarna with their eclectic dark Folk Hard Rock and the wonderful English duo accordion/guitar of Karen Tweed and Ian Carr.
Yet the real festival atmosphere came up on Saturday, the last festival day, when finally the Scots arrived. This year, the whole Saturday was dedicated to Scotland plus England, with a superb selection of 10 bands, featuring the best that Scotland has on offer these days. And it was the presence of the Scots - not only on stage, but also the musicians who became part of the audience - that made the atmosphere relaxed and more friendly. I directly felt much more at home (although, of course, I am not Scottish). Additionally, as soon as the Scottish programme started with the Old Blind Dogs, the weather turned towards nice weather for the whole rest of the day. And they say that it always rains in Scotland...
of the music, I was glad to see plenty of the best of Scottish bands again -
the Old Blind Dogs. Catriona MacDonald, the Shetland fiddler,
with her very own great four piece band. Later on once again Catriona, then
with her other band, The Blazin Fiddles. Rory Campbell had a bit
of an exciting afternoon, as his duo partner Malcolm Stitt did not arrived
until a few minutes before his gig - having missed his plane, he was stuck at
a London Airport. Yet when Rory and Malcolm played, and had also their special
guest, scratcher DJ Extra, it was a wonderful performance.
Swåp did a beautiful concert in the dance hall, with their exciting mix of Swedish, Irish and English tunes. Tarras meanwhile, the only English band, could not convince me; sounded too much like conventional folk pop.
Yet then there was my all-time favourite Scottish band, proving that night that they are still the very best traditional Scottish band around in Scotland: Deaf Shepherd. Still being a pure hobby band, their music sparkles in enthusiasm, power, inventiveness and talent; it is absolutely marvellous music with a great performance.
Fiddlers' Bid from Shetland are still worth a mention (at this festival often confused with the Blazin Fiddles), featuring four great Shetland fiddlers, along to a Clarsach player, a guitarist and a bassist. Lovely stuff. Finishing off the programme on the main stage were first Shooglenifty, then Capercaillie. Both were in extremely good shape in Falun.
The Festival finale lets many of the festival artists come back together on the main stage, and only at that point I actually realised what an enormous number of Swedish fiddlers had played at the festival. I could not discover any of the international artists on stage. These musicians would play a tune in the Spelmanslag tradition, along to the start of a fireworks display that celebrated the end of an all in all great festival. It was quite a special feeling, these fireworks at 12.30 am, with the sky of a Swedish summer night being still not totally dark. After having partied a bit with the Scottish musicians (who seemed to be trying to prove the Swedes that they are the better drinkers...), I went back to my tent at about 3, in beautiful bright weather with the sun already coming back up again... I just love Swedish summer nights!
Falun is definitely worth a recommendation. All in all it was a very pleasant weekend. The programme was rather superb, yet there was the lack of day time programme on Thursday and Friday which was missing. It was pleasant to see plenty of international folk music after half a year in Stockholm, where you would not be able to see anything else but Swedish folk music.
Watch out for the Falun Folk Festival Website: www.falunfolkfest.se
Additionally, you can read the last part of the Scanfolk series, focussing this time on the Dalarna region.
Photos: All photos by The Mollis
(1) Forests around Falun; (2) Süperstar Orchester; (3) Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliano; (4) Oskorri; (5) Deaf Shepherd, (6) Garmarna.
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