THEY love Swedish trio Väsen so much in Bloomington, Indiana, that they’ve named a street after them.
The band, who will make their Borders debut next Wednesday, inspire such devotion through their updating of their native traditional music.
They produce a sound that’s a force of nature, at once delicate and intensely energetic, and the perfect marriage of three instrumental “voices” – the nyckelharpa, the viola and an alternatively-tuned 12-string guitar.
Olov Johansson’s nyckelharpa is central to the group. Dating back to at least the 14th century and unique to Sweden, its combination of fiddle-style bowing, keys that press against the strings and an underlying set of sympathetic strings, makes a singing sound like no other instrument.
Johansson and violist Mikael Marin met as teenagers in 1980 and quickly began to develop an understanding, fortified by studying and playing with elders of the Swedish tradition in Uppland – a province north of Stockholm.
When they met guitarist Roger Tallroth in 1989, they found their ideal rhythmical partner, who also adds to the impression that Väsen are playing three separate melodies simultaneously.
The rest is history – and geography – as the trio have travelled the world, finding devotees as far afield as Japan and maintaining connections that have seen Väsen establish the nyckelharpa in the Swedish pop charts, collaborate with the Kronos Quartet, appear on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, and record with American fiddle and mandolin masters Darol Anger and Mike Marshall.
The band was one of the outstanding highlights at the Shetland Folk festival and had a triumphant visit to Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.
While in Scotland, they will record a ‘live’ session for Mary Ann Kennedy’s Global Gathering show on BBC Radio Scotland. The world music presenter is a big fan and says: “This is a phenomenal talent – truly gifted”.
Väsen play the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles, Wednesday, September 21, at 7.30pm.
To book, call the box office on 01721 725777.