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A renewed interest in the Great Frozen North

Annbjorg Lien
Annbjorg Lien's melodies bridge the past and present  

(CNN) -- Music from the Great Frozen North, the tunes of Finland, Norway and Sweden, is undergoing a period of revitalization.

Traditional Nordic melodies are finding their way back on stage, brought there by such artists as Annbjorg Lien, JPP and Vasen. This time, though, the original folk music has been electrified with jazz, classical and even rock 'n' roll flourishes.

But is that such a new thing?

Olov Johanssen, of the popular quartet Vassen, doesn't think so. "The roots are the traditional dances," he said. "People met to have a party and to dance. Boys would like to meet girls, and so on."

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The music is part of a story-telling tradition, he said. "You try to tell a story with the melody. It's different stories with each melody, and it's a different story every time you play it."

The stories Johanssen tells are as old as the instrument he plays. What looks like a combination violin/piano is actually the nyckelharpa, a 700-year old instrument that means "keyed harp" in English.

Fellow musician Annbjorg Lien agrees that the traditional instruments, including another of her specialties, the hardanger fiddle, bridge the gap between the present and times long gone.

"It feels really old, and it sounds really old," she told WorldBeat. "You have this ancient wind going through it.

It's a wind that blows good tidings, Lien said. She thinks the tunes taking shape could lead to a musical "explosion from the Arctic Circle."

"People have said that folk music in Norway has been Norway's best kept secret," Lien said. "They ask, 'Where has all this music been all these years?' "



RELATED STORIES:
World Music Institute: Cross-cultural harmonizing
February 11, 2000
Musicians broaden definition of 'Celtic'
January 13, 1999
Beyond the drum: The rich heritage of Native-American music
July 2, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Northside Records: Extraordinary Music from Scandinavia
Nordic Links at Roots World Music
Nordic Downloadable Music Site

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