FolkWorld #81 11/2023
© Grappa Musikkforlag AS

A Fresh Take on Nordic Roots Music

Norwegian Folk-Metal Rockers Gangar is Releasing Their International Debut ´Stubb´! The band has in a very short period of time become one of Norways biggest exporters of Norweigan roots music!


Artist Audio Gangar "Stubb", Grappa / Heilo, 2023

Norway's Gangar brings a fresh take on Nordic roots music. The young, five-piece ensemble digs deep into Norway’s extensive folk music archives to come up with rare traditional tunes. -- and give them new, modern arrangements influenced by rock, folk-metal, and jazz improvisation. Inspired by such artists as Hoven Droven, Meshuggah, and AC/DC, Gangar's Gangar's sound is driven by the unique sound of Norway’s Hardanger fiddle. Once vilified as "the devil's instrument" in folktales and banned in churches, the hardanger is now celebrated as the country's national instrument, and gives Gangar its distinctive swing. The band's mission is to bring traditional Norwegian melodies to a wider audience. The group’s full-length debut album, Stubb, is set for international release today. Available on vinyl and all digital platforms on the Heilo Records label.

Stubb delivers on the promise of Gangar’s 2022 EP, Tre Danser, which cemented Gangar’s status as one of Norway’s most original new acts, capturing the wild, youthful, cannonball energy of their live shows in the studio for the first time.

Stubb's title is taken from their former band name: Gangarstubbgutta (“The boys who play short dance tunes” in Norwegian), and is the culmination of several years of hard and detailed work. The album collects the repertoire the group has researched and honed in live performances all over Europe, with guest appearances from top performers and close friends in the Norwegian folk music scene. Stubb was recorded at Athletic Sound in Halden, and was recorded, produced and mixed by Dag Erik Johansen. Mastered by Karl Klaseie at Øra Mastering in Trondheim.


Artist Video Gangar @ FROG

Frontman and fiddler Mattias Thedens finds the melodies in old archival recordings — primarily at the National Library of Norway in Oslo, and the band members arrange them together. “It has been an exciting process for us to move these songs from the stage to the studio,” says Thedens. “We’re mainly a live band, so it definitely was a different thought process. I think we have solved that dilemma in a good way, where we have kept the energy we have on stage, while adding an attention to detail the we often have to sacrifice on stage for the sake of the show.”

On Stubb, there are melodies from all around Norway, with tunes from Bygland, Tovdal, Møre and Romsdal, Rindalen, Telemark and Røros. The album’s eleven songs encompass styles as diverse as folk metal in “Synnjavinden” and “Dorisk Reinlender to alternative in “Skrebua”, and tongue-in-cheek cowbell-driven dad-rock with “Hennar Valborg” and “Slarkjen”.

Gangar make the oldest Norwegian music fun and accessible to a new audiences, with craft, care, and wit — without ever compromising the tradition. Get ready to dance!

About Gangar

Since their first concert in 2021, Oslo-based Gangar have established themselves as one of Norway’s most in-demand musical exports; with a fresh, original take on traditional Norwegian folk and roots music. Gangar’s five members, Mattias Truell Thedens (Hardanger fiddle), Oskar Goendvrind Lindeberget (saxophone), Richard Max (guitar), Jonas Thrana Jensen (bass), and Henrik Dullum (drums), bring an array of musical styles and expertise to bear on their music, creating a unique, hybrid approach to traditional folk music.

Gangar are known as a formidable live band that consistently delivers shows filled with energy, audience interaction, dancing, and top-shelf musicianship. This combination makes it hard for any audience to keep their feet off of the dance floor. They’ve forged a deep bond with audiences at home and abroad, playing shows all over Europe, including Finland’s Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, Germany’s Rudolstadt Festival, Estonia’s Viljandi Folk Music Festival, and the Groningen Performing Arts Festival in the Netherlands.

In 2022 Gangar was one of four Norwegian artists invited to play a showcase at the Nordic Folk Alliance in Gothenburg, Sweden; they also were chosen to participate in the prestigious Global Music Match program that same year. In 2023 the group played an official showcase at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, USA, Gangar is scheduled to tour concerts and festivals in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Australia throughout 2023 and 2024.

Gangar released their debut EP Tre Danser, on Heilo Records in the autumn of 2022, which Metal Storm called “a short but sweet EP” and “a promising sign of things to come”. Stubb delivers on that promise.

The album’s first single, "Sukkeri er søtt" (“Candy is Sweet”) features Synnøve Brøndbo Plassen, one of Norway's most promising young folk singers. Together they breathe new life into an old folk song, learned from a recording from Aslak Brekke (1901 - 1978) from Vinje in Telemark, combined with a Reinlender learned from a recording from Ole “Ola" Løseth from Rindalen (1897 -1978).

Frontman Mattias Thedens says:
- This is one of the first songs we rehearsed, and one of the first where we started to think freely in a new way when coming to the arrangement process. The reason why the Reinlender from Rindalen caught our attention, was the interesting combination of major and minor, which characterizes much of the material in that region of Norway and their folk music. We put together the text from Telemark with the Reinlender spontaneously in rehearsal, and kept this combination ever since. This song has been an important part of our live show. At first we were thinking that we should only teach the “tra la la” part to the audience abroad, but we were proven wrong and really surprised because it didn't take long before there were 2,000 Estonian audience who were roaring "Sukkeri er Søtt sa'n" at the top of their lungs in Viljandi Folk Music Festival 2022!

There was never any doubt who Gangar wanted to include, when they needed a singer for the single. It had to be their good friend and colleague - Synnøve Brøndbo Plassen. Plassen made her debut a short time ago herself, and has already made an impression in the Norwegian folk music scene as one of Norway's most promising folk singers. She was nominated for the Norwegian Grammys for her debut album in the traditional music category in 2021, and won the folkelarm prize 2022 in the Solo category.

Synnøve Brøndbo Plassen

Artist Video

Synnøve Brøndbo Plassen is a 26 years old singer and folk musician from Folldal in Innlandet. Synnøve has quickly become one of the most wanted young folk musicians in Norway. She has a masters degree from the Norwegian academy of music in the traditional folk music section.

Her childhood is strongly affected by growing up in a folk music family. The folk music from Folldal, Østerdalen and Trøndelag is the traditions she has worked with the most. Her repertoar ranges from children songs and psalms to ballads and instrumental music performed vocally.

In the autumn of 2021 she released her debut album "Hjemve". She got a Norwegian grammy-nomination for the album in addition to many good reviews from both Norwegian and international press. In november 2022 she won the Folkelarmprize for the solo-album of the year.

Synnøve Brøndbo Plassen

Artist Audio Synnøve Brøndbo Plassen "Den Lyse Dag", Grappa / Heilo, 2023

She has won the elite-class at Landskappleiken, and the last years she also has accepted numerous talent-scholarships. In 2019 she was chosen as the Hilmar-talent, which is an national talent award for folk music and folk dance. She also has recieved talent-scolarships from Sparebank1, Folldal municipality and Terje Vasskogs memorial fund. The last years she has many good results from competitions in Norwegian folk music and she has been named the best dance musician of the year multiple times.

Synnøve Brøndbo Plassen, with her exceptional vocal prowess, has quickly become one of the most sought-after young folk musicians in Norway. Her second album, "Den Lyse Dag" (The Bright Day), is released on the Heilo label. The album features a collection of calls, tunes, and lullabies that have been used on the mountain farm (setra) for centuries.

The "budeie," or farming lady, held dominion over the summer farm in Østerdalen, Norway. Her ceaseless toil extended throughout the day, ensuring the well-being of both animals and people as they synchronized their tasks with the sun's celestial journey. These summer farms often find their perch high in the mountains, nestled within idyllic yet weather-beaten terrain.

“The bright day” captures a day in the life of the Østerdalen summer farm. It weaves together traditional vocal music that is intimately tied to this pastoral setting. This melodic tapestry encompasses kettle calls, dance tunes, lullabies, children's ditties, and psalms. Every “budeie” had her own songs and calls that belonged to her own animals. Evenings might invite outdoor dances, while morning psalms harmonize with the chorus of birds heralding the new day. Within this realm, mythical guardians keep watch over the creatures during the night's slumber, their narratives reverberating through the threads of traditional music.

"Today, I carry these melodies within me as a young folk singer, aiming to sustain their vibrancy within contemporary society. The album is structured to mirror the progression of a day on the summer farm, from the first light of dawn to the depths of night." says Synnøve Brøndbo Plassen

The second single from Gangar's long-awaited debut album is out today! "Synnjavinden" is the result of bassist Jonas Thrana Jensen´s musical background rooted in rock, wanting to write a rock-hard metal song. Perhaps the band's heaviest song to date, with guitar and bass in drop D and baritone sax throughout. One of the newer songs Gangar has arranged, which they first played live last autumn. The arrangement was based on a "djent" riff that bassist Jonas wrote, because he thought the beat covered a darker side of Gangar.

Bassist Jonas Thrana Jensen says:
- I think it was fun to explore a kind and almost humming melody with a hard, metal-inspired comp underneath.

The song playfully moves between contrasting "joyful" moods over a full band that come with this bouncy djent riff, to heavy half-hours with washes of crash cymbals in true heavy-metal spirit. A fun challenge in the writing process of the song was to manage to keep the somewhat "cliché" metal sound, but to adapt somewhat odd time signatures (at least from a conventional-rock-and-metal starting point).

- I listened to several hours of tape with recordings of fiddler Sivert Åsebø, and when I had finished there were two traditional that I wantet to put five exclamation points behind. When I listened to them again, I found out that both were recordings of the same band, namely Synnjavinden. This is the only time I have actually chosen to go in and change the melody, or more specifically, the timing. It's something I'd rather avoid doing, but in this case the melody was so out of tune that I had to remove some beats and notes so that it would be possible to play the melody with the band.

Gangar has used the archived recording of Sivert Åsebø from Folkestad in Norway, and the introduction Åsebø gives of the traditional melody on the recording has been included in the middle part of the song. Gangar would like to thank Anna Gjendem and the archive in Møre og Romsdal, who gave them access to these wonderful recordings.

About us

Grappa Musikkforlag was established in 1983, and is the oldest and biggest independent record company in Norway. Home of many prestigious labels including Hubro, Simax Classics, Odin, Blue Mood, Heilo, Barneselskapet and Grappa label. Close collaborations with other strong indies, including Rune Grammofon and Drabant. A wide variety of genres includes jazz, folk, classical, contemporary, pop, rock, blues, singer/songwriter – all from Norwegian artists of the highest quality.

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Gangar, (3)-(4) Synnøve Brøndbo Plassen (unknown/website).

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