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"The absurdly broad term 'world music is rendered useless in the face of these four musicians who play with such genuine passion and glee that everything on the globe seems to disappear except their hometown fires. This is 'local music' in the best sense of the word--believable, human-scaled and fluent in the international language of musical interplay." - National Public Radio's "All Things Considered"

"Väsen treads an enchanted territory between classical, folk, and pop." - Utne Reader
"The sound may be traditional, but the attitude is completely modern, mixing up the ideas of folk, the virtuosity of prog, and the humor of the insane asylum into a cuisinart of acoustic bliss. Visualize whirled music." - Wired
"...the band's anciently original compositions can be immensely brooding, stately, fitfully spry or dramatically expansive." - Richard Harrington, The Washington Post
"...Invoking both serene panoramic vistas and sharp blazing melodies, the music has found fans far beyond the borders of the band's native Sweden, and for good reason." - CMJ
"...a hypnotic pastiche that is bathed in the traditions of Väsen's homeland and awe-inspiringly ancient and creative at the same time." - Sing Out!
"Alternately angular and gritty, plaintive and baroque, Spirit is chock-full of inspiring melodies and fine musicianship." - Acoustic Guitar
"Anchored by insistent drones and distinguished by angular fiddle melodies, this music could be the most significant Swedish export since the Vikings." -Rhythm
"The music is, at turns, entrancing, enchanting, uplifting, lilting, lovely, and just plain fun." - Minneapolis Star Tribune
"The sounds that result are dervish-like, laden with instantaneous vitality and age-old importance. Truly, there's nothing quite like it." - Albuquerque Weekly Alibi
"...a very effective contemporary sounding acoustic tour de force." - Dirty Linen
"Whirled is dervish music from the frigid zone." - The Beat
"Hallmarked by instrumental mastery, daring arrangements, and tasteful experiments, Gront is a rich, brooding hour of cold comfort, indeed." -barnesandnoble.com
- Various

"Väsen: it don't mean a thang if it ain't got that swang"

September 28th, 2006, was a snapshot of every thing that is perfect about Väsen. That's not to say it was a defining moment in the band's career or a better gig than the one before it. For me, the concert was quintessentially Väsen by being unlike any of the dozen previous encounters I'd had with the Swedish band's performances.
The evening had all the trappings of repetition. They were playing the Nordic Roots Festival at The Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis--a venue they've played five times over the festival's eight-year existence (more than any other artist). As for the venue: "It feels good to be back here at The Cedar. I don't know how many times we've been here. I can't count that long," guitarist Roger Tallroth told the audience. A little later, he referred to the venue as "home."
The band's 18-year history has been tied together less by a consistency of sound, than by an ongoing evolution, grounded in tradition but changing through experimentation, shifts in instrumentation, and countless collaborations.
"I think [Väsen] has its roots in the joy of playing music quite freely," Tallroth says of the band's continual innovation. "The reason I'm still doing it is the immediate joy of playing what you want in real time."
You could say that Väsen is an ongoing experiment tracking back to 1989 and a house in Roros, Norway, where a group of musicians gathered. There, Tallroth met nyckelharpa player Olov Johansson. who suggested they jam and see how their instruments would sound together. As the band likes to tell the story, Tallroth declined, opting to take a shower instead. Fortunately, the shower was occupied, and they ended up jamming for a couple of hours. Shortly alter that meeting, Johansson set to work on a solo album, bringing Tallroth and fiddler/viola player Mikael Marin, a childhood friend, along to record with him. The album, released in 1990, was titled Väsen, a word whose meanings include spirit, essence and noise. It could have ended there, with an Olov Johansson solo album, but when requests to book the band Väsen came in, they decided to give it a go.
Though that first recording was comprised completely of traditional tunes, the musicians were already turning heads and annoying some folk "purists" with their arrangements. All three were rooted in the fiddle tradition of Sweden's Uppland province (Tallroth plays fiddle outside of the band), they were finding their collective voice in the arrangements. Indeed, their instrumentation alone was a departure from folk tradition, regardless of the repertoire. "We are not traditional," Johansson explains matter-of-factly. "There were no traditional bands with 12-string guitar and viola."
Tallroth takes responsibility for his share of the rancor. "My guitar playing has too many strange chords and rhythms," he acknowledges. "I have always made the guitar playing as I've heard it in my head."
In 1992, they pushed farther into uncharted territory with Vilda Väsen (Wild Vasen), their first proper album as a band and the trio's first foray into the original compositions that have marked its repertoire since. Where some great bands feature the interplay of distinct musical voices, Vasen is three musicians who speak as one every chord fits, without excess playing or extra space. "You blend together and form another shape," Tallroth says. "The three voices form into one."
If you haven't heard them, it may help to imagine a mammoth six-armed player plucking, strumming and bowing a few dozen strings. Responding to the six-armed monster theory, Johansson laughs, "We always try to sound like an orchestra, and we do have a lot of strings."
Väsen was and is the trio of Tallroth, Johansson and Marin, but the trio of 2007 is not the trio of 1989; several evolutionary steps separate them. In 1994, the Väsen joined Nordman, Swedish rock musician Mats Wester's folk-pop project. The sound, with its Eurovision vibe, was huge, especially in comparison to the trio's acoustic work. So were the concert audiences, some as large as 25,000 people. In all, Väsen's participation in the project spanned two CDs, two tours and roughly two years.
Väsen went on to adopt Nordman bassist Johan Granstrom and percussionist Andre Ferrari, and played as Vasen V for a couple of years, working out arrangements, making demos, and even preparing to record an album. But as rehearsals for the album began, Granstrom departed, leaving the quartet to record their 1997 release, titled Whirled in the U.S. and Varldens Väsen in Sweden. (Three Väsen demos were released on the U.S. compilation Spirit.)
Opting for an assortment of percussion instruments over a standard kit, Ferrari brought a range of timbres and textures to the music. The incorporation of percussion also forced the band to tighten its playing, making them a tighter outfit.
"There's a certain range or 'hit area' that the music must be within in order for the groove and vibe to feel right," Johansson explains. "We had a muc - SingOut 22/32007 Author Bill Snyder

"Väsen at Celtic Connections"

SWEDEN. Famous for its Vikings and limited amount of sunlight during the shivering winter months, our Scandinavian cousins have given us a lot more than just Abba, blond hair and Henrik Larsson. Like trad music innovators, Vasen, for instance. The Swedish trio might bestow a name that sounds like something bought from IKEA you put flowers in, but they also sound like one of the best folk acts in the world today.

Vasen, on the other hand, are an altogether different proposition. Telepathic to the point where they could probably predict what’s behind Zener cards, the Nordic trio’s skill in simultaneously stopping and starting at the same time left some scratching their heads as well as their chins.

The band’s fixation with polkas and the 3/4-time signature dominated their set, Roger Tallroth’s heavily syncopated guitar notes a funky contrast to Marin’s classical style viola, and Johansson’s utterly compelling nyckelharpa playing. Granted, the majority of the tunes may have come from the 1700s, but in Vasen's capable hands, they sounded as if they had been penned at 17.00 hours the previous day.

An indirectly humorous bunch, too, the trio punctuated the evening's more so-called serious music with elements from movie theme tunes; a bizarre story about some Vasen fans from Bloomington, Indiana, who are trying to have a street named after the band; plus some slapstick comedy directed at various band members’ bodily functions (scratching the viola in the wrong place can serve up all kinds of embarrassment).

A rare ability to fade out a song as if on an LP was executed to pin-dropping effect. However, what dazzled the most was the band’s skill in shifting dynamics - often, and quickly - whenever the mood took them.

Overall then, a great night's entertainment from two sharp-contrasting outfits. While Jenna Reid upheld the traditional Scottish music flag with meticulous dexterity, it was with welcome arms that we greeted yet another fabulous Swedish import. To see both on the same stage again would be a rare treat indeed.
- Barry Gordon 28/-2008


1990 Olov Johansson: Väsen Drone (Sweden) DROCD001
1992 Vilda Väsen Drone (Sweden) DROCD004
1994 Essence Auvidis Ethnic (France) B6787
1995 Levande Väsen Drone (Sweden) DROCD009
1997 Spirit compilation, NorthSide NSD 6004
1997 Världens Väsen / Whirled Xource/MNW (Sweden) XOUCD118, NorthSide (US) NSD 6006
1999 Gront Xource/MNW (Sweden) XOUCD126, NorthSide (US) NSD 6041
2001 Live at the Nordic Roots Festival NorthSide NSD 6065
2003 Trio NorthSide NSD 6077
2004 Keyed Up Northside NS6080
2005 Väsen live in Japan Northside NSD6087
2007 Linnaeus Väsen Northside NSD 6093



Never before has Swedish folk music swung with such intensity. Traditional music with a modern attitude. Tremendous individual musicians taking ensemble playing to new heights. Acoustic instruments with power and emotion. Nyckelharpa, viola and guitar. Dense, complex arrangements with one foot firmly planted in the Swedish fiddle tradition, and the other in new acoustic music. Three heads from one body. This is Väsen

Väsen was started in 1989 by three extraordinary Swedish musicians who shared a love for the traditional music of their home district of Uppland. Their combination of instruments and approach to arranging were unique, and the trio quickly developed a loyal following. Before long they were performing throughout Scandinavia, then on to the rest of Europe. By 1996 they had added a percussionist and were mostly performing original compositions, touring throughout the world. Since 2001 the band has returned to the trio format, released two new studio recordings and a live album ( largely featuring new, original compositions) and toured extensively in the U.S. and Japan. 2007 André Ferrari was back with the band for their latest CD Linnaeus Väsen and since then regularly play gigs with Väsen again

A number of things set Väsen apart from other acoustic bands. Their musical interplay is phenomenal; a combination of structure and improvisation that makes every performance unique. Their sense of humour also draws the audience in to the live experience. This combination of virtuosic talent and pure joy endears them to audiences everywhere.

Olov Johansson - nyckelharpa
In 1990, Olov became the first world champion of the nyckelharpa. He began to play the nyckelharpa in 1980 as a fourteen-year old, and was named a 'riksspelman' (master musician) in 1984. Olov has studied with the legendary Curt Tallroth and Erik Sahlström, and is presently a teacher at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. He is regarded as one of Sweden's most prominent nyckelharpa players, and is an inspiration for numerous young performers on the instrument.

Apart from his association with Väsen, Olov has also played with groups such as Kronos Quartet, Nordman, Trio Con X, as well as solo performances. He has recorded with the chart-topping Swedish rock group Nordman, and has played on the albums Early Music (with Kronos Quartet), Till Eric (with the Nyckelharpa Orchestra), and his solo project, Storsvarten (released on NorthSide).

Mikael Marin – viola
Beyond his work with Väsen, Mikael Marin has worked consistently as a freelance musician since 1988. He has worked with other Swedish folk ensembles, such as Rotvälta, the Höök Ensemble, Rosenberg 7, Breda Bardo, and a new string orchestra called Bowing 9, as well as collaborations with such musicians as Annbjörg Lien, Lena Willemark and Palle Danielsson.
Mikael also works extensively in the classical realm, and is currently an active member of the Stockholm Baroque Ensemble. He teaches at Sweden’s leading folk music university, the Kungliga Musikhögskolan in Stockholm. And over the years he has frequently been called upon for string arrangements for what he calls “more or less interesting” pop music.

Roger Tallroth – guitar
Roger Tallroth was one of the first folk-guitar players in Nordic tradition, and he remains one of the most unique. He studied at the music university, Örebro Musikhögskola, from 1984 to 1988, and afterwards developed his own style of guitar playing and tuning, mainly in Väsen. With his powerful and rhythmic playing, Roger has been an inspiration for many upcoming young guitar-players throughout Scandinavia. His teaching at various music universities in Sweden has also had a great impact, particularly on the arrangement techniques used in traditional music for many of the bands that have followed. Roger’s sound is characterized by his own way of tuning and voicing his 12-stringed guitar.