Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ranarim: Maj Vare Välkommen

This last Sunday, I caught a little bit of Fiona Richie’s “Thistle and Shamrock” radio program through National Public Radio. I don’t always get to hear this show, but what I heard this week was a treat as she was featuring “Northern Highlights” – music from the Nordic countries and Finland. I was surprised how much the folk music from Scandinavia was similar to that of the British Isles.

One of the bands that Fiona played was the Swedish folk ensemble Ranarim – which is translated in English is “dewy tapestry.” While I could not find the song from the program, I did find a live recording from a 2008 TV special of “Maj vare välkommen” or “May (as in the month) be Welcome.” I would imagine that living in Sweden during the brutal winters that May would be a welcome experience to those living in a cold climate.

There are a couple of interesting instruments shown in this video. The first is a traditional Swedish keyed fiddle called a “nyckelharpa.” It is much like a cross between a fiddle and a hurdy-gurdy. It is bowed like a fiddle but the notes are stopped when the keys are depressed. Nyckelharpist Niklas Roswall was the 1996 world nyckelharpa champ.

The other interesting instrument is the box that is used by percussionist Christian Svensson. Called a cajon and pronounced as “ka-hone,” this percussive box that can double as a seat produces a wide variety of sounds. In fact, pay attention to the quiet parts of our song and you will swear that there is a bass guitar – no, just a cajon.

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