The theme of the 26th Førde traditional and world music festival is "World ConneXions". "Through a number of projects, this year's festival will focus on the similarities and relationships between music, song and dance traditions in different cultures," explains artistic director Hilde Bjørkum.
"It is incredibly exciting to explore different music traditions across geographical and cultural boundaries," Bjørkum says. "What are the common characteristics of oral traditions in Europe? The magical sympathetic strings of the Hardanger fiddle, do they sound similar to those of the sarangi from India, the nyckelharpa from Sweden or the gadulka from Bulgaria? What happens when the polyphonic song traditions and the jews harp from the Sardinian mountains meet the inciting overtone songs and the khomus from the Mongolian highlands? And how does the the West African harp Kora communicate with it’s relative from Wales, and with the classical concert harp? Bjørkum believes that everyone has a desire to explore, and looks forward to inviting the audience along on new musical adventures during this year's festival.
New productions – from resonance strings to vocal variations"
Through new concert productions we want to invite the audience to partake in new musical experiences and communicate new knowledge," explains Bjørkum. "It is important to us to not only go for the 'famous artists'. We also want to create new productions and facilitate development, new experiences and new knowledge for both musicians and the audience, naturally using musicians of the highest calibre. Exactly this is an important part of our job as a hub festival: to not have what everyone else has but to set our own course and offer people something that they might not have known that they wanted," says Bjørkum.
Violin champions in "String ConneXions
One of the productions is the "String ConneXions" project, in which elite string instrument performers from four different countries will meet for the first time – at Førde. Common to all the instruments is that they have resonance strings that sound with every stroke of the bow. "With four elite performers and more than 80 strings vibrating, this will be a formidable meeting of champions promising incredible sound experiences to behold," Bjørkum believes. Project participants include Norway’s very own Hardanger fiddle champion Gro Marie Svidal from Jølster, winner of the national competition in Norwegian folk music and dance, Landskappleiken 2014,the Swedish nyckelharpa champion Emilia Amper, Murad ali Khan from India on the sarangi and Peyo Peev from Bulgaria on the gadulka.
European voices in "Vocal ConneXions"
In another new production the renowned Norwegian folk singer Unni Løvlid brings together a selection of prominent European vocalists to explore the use of voice, ornamentation, melody structures and other themes relating to European folk song. In addition to Unni, the vocalists in this project are Julie Fowlis from Scotland, Annie Ebrel from France and Gergana Dimitrova (Eva Quartet) from Bulgaria. "This is a buoyant project in which we will present something completely new but based on old traditions," says Director Hilde Bjørkum, who is very excited that the project will be headed up by Grete Pedersen who is the Artistic Manager of the Norwegian Soloists´ Choir.
Mongolia meets Sardinia
Under the headline Nomadic Voices, Førde traditional and world music festival is able to offer a unique meeting between throat singing from the Mongolian highlands and polyphonic song from the Sardinian mountain landscape. The two mountain areas also have an instrument in common, the jew’s harp, for which there are solid traditions. "The song, voices and harmonies. The way in which these two traditions complement each other is magical," says the Festival Director.
Wales and West Africa in a virtuoso meeting of harps
In the shape of the duo Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita the festival has secured two of the hottest names in the world music scene. Keita is a griot with roots in large musical families in both Mali and Senegal and is one of the leading performers on the West African harp, the kora. Finch is the queen of the harp in Wales, where the harp is the most Welsh instrument there is. She plays classical concert harp with the best orchestras in the world and soloists such as Bryn Terfel. Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita both have a long, shared tradition from their respective countries of telling stories through music and song that has been passed on from generation to generation.
Their release Clychau Dibon (2013) has been voted best album in the magazines Songlines and MOJO Magazine, was the winner of best cross-cultural collaboration 2014 in Songlines and has been included in Best of-lists from both The Guardian and the BBC. The duo recently played at the large Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow and this summer they will be ready for Førde! "This is a unique meeting between two world-class virtuosos," explains Director Hilde Bjørkum. "An absolute must in this year's festival programme!