Photos by Førdefestivalen 2014/Knut Utler
A Summer Night in Jølster
There’s much to be said for hearing live music in beautiful surroundings and the late-night setting for this year’s opening evening – the festival’s 25th anniversary – was particularly appealing. The annual Summer Night in Jølster concerts are held in what’s called a museum, but it’s more like a small hamlet, 20 minutes drive from Førde. Comprising of half a dozen traditional buildings, some with customary grass roofs, they’re set back off the road, nestled in the trees. The music didn’t start until gone 11pm but being mid-summer in Norway, it doesn’t really get properly dark. However there were small fires and burning tree stumps dotted around the site to light up the pathways and to take the edge off the chilly and slightly damp night air.
The concerts are billed as ‘intimate’ and they certainly are – I could have practically strummed Bassekou Kouyaté’s ngoni myself, I was sat so close to him, even hearing the gentle squeak of his wah-wah pedal. The Malian musician gave a tremendous semi-acoustic set, accompanied just by his wife Ami, sons Moctar on calabash and Mamadou on bass ngoni. Bassekou with his full Ngoni ba group give a slick, impressive show, but seeing the quartet perform in such a small space, surrounded by pictures from local artists was very special indeed.
Each of the half a dozen acts performed short 30-minute sets, then rotated around the three different rooms. Between sets there was time to mingle in the open-air, makeshift bar, chat and enjoy some traditional music from Indre Sunnfjord Spelemannslag – one of the area’s leading Hardanger fiddle groups.
The final performance of the night was an impressive and intense one by Erlend Apneseth, a local, rising young star of the Hardanger fiddle. A highly focused and earnest player, Apneseth has already won much acclaim for his debut album (Blikkspor on Grappa – to be reviewed in #104). It’s joked that even Norwegians have a love-hate relationship with their national instrument; its sound can be slightly jarring and at times dissonant but being sat in close proximity to Apneseth’s collection of fiddles brought a new resonance and closer appreciation of this enigmatic and beautifully embellished instrument with its sympathetic strings.
A wonderfully atmospheric evening and one that perfectly illustrated to a newcomer like myself, why Førde is so highly regarded by locals, visitors and musicians alike.
Read more about this year’s Førde Festival in the next issue, on sale August 29.
A compilation CD of music from many of this year’s performing artists is available with the April/May (#99) edition. Buy the issue.