In my mouth the words are melting, from my lips the tones are gliding, from my tongue they wish to hasten; When my willing teeth are parted, when my ready mouth is opened, songs of ancient wit and wisdom, hasten from me not unwilling.

About Nordic Woman

Nordic folk music has a rich and varied heritage of instrumental and vocal traditions which have persevered and evolved over centuries, accompanying dance, leisure and the ceremonial activities of rural life.

Along with distinctive vocal styles, Nordic music has its own representative instruments including the fiddle, keyed fiddle, various flutes, the Jew’s harp, the bagpipe, the kantele, the lyre, and animal horns and accordions. Vocal traditions in the Nordic countries include a variety of song types, such as ballads, lullabies, shepherd’s calls, wedding songs, work-songs and hymns, and the local poetic forms of stev and skillingsviser.

Of particular prominence is the melismatic treatment of syllables and a vocal style without vibrato, which helps provide clarity in enunciating lyrics and the rhythms of language. Nordic music is often ornamented with micro-tonal intervals, creating the rich ambiguities that characterize many traditional folk songs. The Sámi (an indigenous people of northern Scandinavia) have a distinct tradition of joik, a form of chanting evoking the essence of a place, person or even an animal. Among the instrumental styles of Nordic folk music, fiddle-based dance music has drawn the most attention from contemporary musicians. This repertoire can be divided roughly into two categories.

The ‘Old’ style includes countryside dances and performance pieces in a free-rhythmic style, ceremonial tunes used at weddings, and a variety of adaptations of vocal music. Recurring features are the formulaic and modally ambiguous melodic structure, an extensive use of drones and rhythmic and tonal variations which are highlighted in performance. The newer type of instrumental music, established in the Nordic countries in the late nineteenth century, consists of music influenced by Central European dances (known as gammaldans), such as waltzes, reinlenders and polkas. While the older repertoire has traditionally been performed mainly by solo fiddlers, gammaldans have fostered an ensemble tradition in which the instrumentation and arrangements constitute a group performance-style, with well-defined interactions between the melody and the backing section.

Women are highly underrepresented in the written history of the genre, presented as invisible or ‘exotic’ and exceptional. Historically, women have always sung, but seldom performed; they have listened, danced and cheered the music of a (male) fiddler; they have played ‘feminine’ instruments such as the flute, in private; but they were not acknowledged as musicians in the fullest sense of the word. Today, these stereotypes are being challenged. Female artists are at the frontline of the contemporary folk music scene, displaying an unparalleled degree of artistic autonomy. The women featured on this album have played a crucial role as musical entrepreneurs, challenging stereotypical nationalist representations and conservative values, leading the way towards a wider and more fertile musical and artistic landscape.