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Scandinavian folk and Carnatic music come together at Nordic Raga’s Bengaluru gig

Two musicians from Sweden, Par Moberg and Dan Svensson wanted to experiment with the traditional folk music from Scandinavia. Reaching far, they invited Indian Carnatic violinist, Jyotsna Srikanth. The trio, who sometimes play with the Swedish fiddle player, Mats Eden, are Nordic Raga. Nordic Raga, as the name suggests is the coming together of two very different musical genres from across the globe, Nordic folk and Carnatic. For the first time, the band is playing in front of an Indian audience at Windmills Craftworks in Bengaluru. We caught up with Moberg (flute and saxophone), who told us about his music, and the diversity of the genres.

How did the two genres come together?
When Dan Svensson (percussion and vocals) and I decided that we wanted to work with a project where we used Nordic scales and rhythms as the basis for improvised music, we realised that it would be a good plan to team up with an Indian musician, since we knew that improvisation is a vital part of your tradition.

What are the challenges in bringing them together?
I would say that the main challenge has been the differences in approach. Indian classical music is very systemised and has a rigid music theory, whereas Nordic folk is mainly dance music, and was not taught based on a music theory or notation.

Tell us a bit more about Nordic Folk music.
Nordic is a common denominator for Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Icelandic. Though all of these countries have their distinct styles and varieties, they have a lot in common. One is that it’s traditionally mainly solo music, performed by one player, and very rarely with percussion. The violin is a very dominating instrument. Songs in beats of three are very common and popular. Called Polska or Pols, this dance and melody type genre was originally imported to the Swedish court from Poland in the 16th century.
As a popular music form, it was ‘killed’ more or less by Western pop music during the 20th century, but as a specialist ‘nerd’ music tradition, it has lived on all the time, and has a small but very devoted clan of followers both in Sweden and abroad, stretching from Seattle to Tokyo.

What are your influences?
I don’t really know of any other band that is doing what we do with Nordic folk music, so it’s hard to say. But you could say that we are influenced by all bands that try to create a true (and not only superficial) meeting and understanding between different musical traditions and musicians.

This is your first gig in Bengaluru. What are you expecting?
So far we’ve only performed to Western audiences, often with a lot of knowledge about Nordic folk, but with little or no knowledge of Indian music. It will be very fascinating to see how the crowd reacts when it is the other way around.

Rs 500. Today and tomorrow, 9.30 pm. At Whitefield. Details: 8880233322

— Anagha M

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