Väsen tours the U.S.

... continuing its unparalleled musical expressions of Swedish folk and traditional music with a new tour in the U.S. 

  • The Väsen-Duo, Mikael Marin and Olov Johansson
  • Väsen tours the U.S. They have played together since 1983 when they met at Oktoberstämman in Uppsala, Sweden and since then have traveled the world in different iterations, a trio, a quartet, and now a duo, Mikael "Micke" Marin and Olov Johansson, portraying and performing most traditional Swedish folk melodies, dances, and interpretations with wit and mesmerizing accuracy. How could it be otherwise after so much time together?
    Väsen in Swedish means “spirit, noise, a living being, an essence,” and is perhaps highlighted by their 1999 recording Gront, their eighth of 20 recordings. It is earthy and bold with some foot-stomping Svenska polskas, moody and sublime with original foreboding tracks, and some that are simply mystical.
    They are 14th century Uppsala songbooks that celebrate the seasons, Josephine and the Näcken, Gront, lost in the dark woods, snow up to your waist, a bride's march, Midsommer and then a halo of fresh wildflowers.
    Olov teaches regularly at the Eric Sahlström Institutet in Tobo, Sweden and at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. In 2013 he was awarded the Anders Zorn medal in gold, the finest award within Swedish traditional music. Micke was chosen to play in a world orchestra under the direction of Leonard Bernstein in 1989 and then composed (together with Mats Wester) the opening music to the World Police and Fire Games in Stockholm, 1999.
    On their most recent recording, Vasen:Duo, 2021, without the jazzy chording and runs of former member and guitarist Roger Tallroth, they perform on a variety of stringed instruments, including a silverbasharpa, oktavharpa, three-rowed nyckelharpa, violoncello da spalla and a blue electric viola. This instrumental music continues to be a unique counterpoint between Svenska tradition and contemporary innovation.

  • Väsen is continuing its unparalleled musical expressions of Swedish folk and traditional music with a new tour in the U.S.
  • Olov and Micke recently discussed Väsen’s future with Nordstjernan:

  • - What are the inspirations for your music?
    We are very inspired by the old fiddlers and nyckelharpists we met and learned from when we were young, but we are also inspired by all the music we hear that touches us in some way regardless of genre. Sometimes there are also tunes coming into our heads and we don’t have any idea where they came from. Maybe some inner source that boils down everything we experience in life and transform into notes, melodies and rhythms.

    - Why do you continue to perform?
    For us it’s part of being a musician, performer and artist to meet the audience and share our ideas and music with people in real time. What is happening in a live situation is very special and depends on us, the room, the audience that came that night, etc. When we have worked on new music and put new ideas into new melodies and arrangements it’s not until we have shared it with a live audience that it feels complete. We still really enjoy the process of making new music and to be able to share it with people ... even though the traveling can be rough sometimes. It’s four years since we came to play in the U.S. last time and we are really looking forward to meeting the spontaneous U.S. audience again.

    - What are other new musical projects?
    We will have a new album called Melliken with us for the U.S. tour and the release is just before the tour starts. It is an album with traditional music from the area along the lower part of the river Daläven, near Uppsala. There are lots of exciting tunes, fiddlers and stories from that area. There are also new composed tunes on the album where we are pushing the limits for our new sound and instruments. Micke is playing a blue bass-viola and a Violoncello Da Spalla. I will bring two different nyckelharpas with me on this tour. We have also been doing a concert series at the Reginateatern in Uppsala where we have had different guests with us, and some of those guests will continue to tour together with us. We are going to tour in Sweden and Denmark together with Ale Möller this fall.

    - How does your music fit into the lexicon of Swedish/Scandinavian traditions, folk music, dance, living tradition?
    We play traditional Swedish music, but it's arranged in a contemporary way with the possibilities we have on our instruments. Some of the stuff we play is very local from the province of Uppland where we come from. It’s a living tradition that evolves all the time and Väsen has played an important role in that since we started.

    - What might be coming for summer ’23 performances?
    Right now it looks like we are going to play some small festivals in the Uppland area in the beginning of the summer and we are also planning a bicycle tour in late July. We did a bicycle tour last summer and it was an amazing experience. We cycled about 500 km through the summer in Uppland and played eight concerts. We had all the stuff we needed on our bikes - instruments, etc. It was such a fun and amazing experience that we’ll do it again this summer.

  • Väsen is scheduled for 13 performances starting March 16 in Seattle, WA and ending April 1 in Minneapolis, MN with several performances in New England. For more info, see www.vasen.se

  • Nils R. Caspersson