When I fly back from other parts of the world to Europe, you are blinded by the colour of the land – green! The stories of our land and culture are held within folk music which has played such a big part in our history, from the celtic world of Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, Brittany, Galicia and Asturas in Spain to the gypsy jazz and polyphonic choirs of the Balkans. In fact, over a century ago, musicians noticed that European folk music seemed to exhibit a certain personality. Today, much of this orally transmitted music has been re-imagined and fusions birthed such as folk rock, folk metal and electric folk.
This year will be quite a year for the Czech people – 100 years as an independent nation, 50 years since the Prague Spring and 25 years since the Czech Republic was founded. Music played a part in this story with Marta Kunišová’s song ‘A Prayer for Marta’ becoming an anthem of the resistance in 1968. Will be thinking of our friends as they remember these significant times during this year of 2018.
Romana Kročilová grew up wanting to sing, dance and act but as a young girl she was told she wasn’t slim enough to dance and not able to pitch high notes. She decided to go to the doctor for help and he told her that she had a vocal chord disease and shouldn’t shout, whisper or sing! Her faith and her perseverance kept her childhood dreams alive and she eventually got a place in a music conservatory and she now sings in many bands and has sung in the Opera Carmen. Listen to her performing 2 Czech folk songs. Read More
You won’t find it on a map and its not recognised by the UN! Yet this slither of land between the Dniester river and the Ukraine is home to 500,000, has a government, army and passport (that is not recognised outside of the territory). Transnistria proclaimed independence from Moldova in 1990 to remain part of the Soviet Union (who also don’t recognise the country). Sadly this has given rise to it being “a major haven for smuggling weapons and women” (Wall Street Journal). The good news – the only place I have come across that doesn’t have a McDonalds!
Sometimes an unexpected moment happens that says much about a people. Whilst in Moldova last year we took a boat trip up the river – a fun time where pop music blared out from the Captains playlist. Now and again youngsters would dance to the DJ type music but as soon as this piece of music was played; dance exploded amongst the old and young – it seemed to be deep within their souls. Always interesting when a ‘sound from the land’ moves people to express themselves. I have heard that Moldovan weddings are a spectacle of dance and people singing very loudly.
I am back after a Swedish tour with musician friend Mark Riley from Hawai’i. During a couple of days off, I got to capture some video of this beautiful country. I also met up with Annelie Westerlund from Alingsås, who talked about the resurgence of folk music. She also told me some great stories of how music had impacted her life and how she was able to use music to encourage others.
After many trips to Sweden I finally got a chance to sit with a Nyckleharpa player. I had heard the stories and seen videos but this was the first time to see the instrument up close – and what a work of art. The making of instruments always fascinates me and I could see the influences of the hurry-gurdy that must have inspired the inventors way back in the mists of time. This particular instrument was made by Annelie Westerlund’s father.
This remote island community of around 2000, explodes during the summer vacation to over 20,000! Arriving after the storm is like walking into a very beautiful ghost town, almost all the shops are closed and only a few tourist stragglers are to be found enjoying the peace and quiet. Read More