Liv Runesdatter is not what you would call a jazz singer. Nevertheless, she will be performing Norwegian folk music under Mai Jazz.
If you asked people from outside Norway to name a Norwegian composer, many would answer Edward Grieg. If you then went on to find out which piece of his they knew the best, then it would probably be the A minor piano concerto. Some may mention “Solveig’s song”; some “Haugtussa”. But Runesdatter will not be performing any of these under Mai Jazz, but her own brand of Norwegian folk music from both Vestfold and Stavanger. Exotic, maybe; novel, definitely.
Not in the traditional sense, anyway. Runesdatter claims that traditional Norwegian music has inspired both many musicians and types of music. Through its evocation of natural sounds, slightly off-beat tuning, and use of an “upgraded” violin called a “hardingfele”, – that can sometimes sound like an electric cat – one can wonder what the connection to jazz is.
“There’s a lot of room for improvisation in the music, just like jazz” she says.
But not in the traditional sense, however.
“Today’s jazz has taken elements from many other musical traditions. The phrasing, sounds, and textures that I use in my arrangements of the music point quite strongly towards both jazz and classical music at times.”
Or is it folk?
The instrumental line-up doesn’t really answer this, apart from the hardingfele. Saxes, an accordion, and a double bass could be used in either a jazz or a folk music context. What of the “odd man out”; the baglama? This stringed instrument is used in music of the eastern Mediterranean, the Near east, and central Asia. Certainly folk-oriented, but not from Norway; the mystery deepens. But will her music, with its exotic instrumentation, give people any reference-points?
“Some of the English public that have attended my concerts have said that Norwegian folk music reminds them of Celtic music. The songs are the Norwegian version of Negro Spirituals; songs that strengthen people’s lives both in good times and bad” says Runesdatter.
Sprechen sie the lingo?
But as the music will be performed in Norwegian, what does she think that an English-speaking audience will gain from it?
“Although the sounds in Norwegian are different to those used in English, much of the music lies in the texts. And as the music speaks for itself, language is no barrier. I shall also be telling them what the songs are about in English”, she says.
“And what are they about?”
“Wandering, longing, and some of the songs are prayer-like in character” says the singer from Vestfold.
But whatever concert-goers decide about what type of music it is, or wherever they come from, Runesdatter believes that they will all derive something from hearing it.
“The music meets people wherever they come from. It reminds them of something they know but not.”
Liv Runesdatter will be performing both in Obrestad and Tungenes lighthouses on Friday 06, and Sunday 08 May respectively.
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