March 23, 2018 | Bob Boilen —
There’s an abundance of jubilation and glee in the strums, trills, double stops and drones from the Swedish instrumental band Väsen. The trio came to the Tiny Desk with just three instruments, but all together it was a 30-string sonic blast of 12-string guitar, viola and nyckelharpa (a fiddle with keys — think 15th century keytar).
Guitarist Roger Tallroth, violist Mikael Marin and nyckelharpist Olov Johansson have been a touring troupe for more than 25 years with 18 albums filled with adventure, amusement and virtuosity. They span the wide emotional range of Swedish folk music, equally haunting and celebratory. There are some similarities to Irish jigs, reels and waltzes that I’m more familiar with, but this music is more ear-bending, with more surprises than I’m used to in traditional string band folk music.
Hopefully these tunes, many from Väsen’s recent album Brewed — songs steeped in the past with its ears on the future — become a gateway for new listeners.
Mikael Marin (5-string viola), Olov Johansson (Nyckelharpa), Roger Tallroth (12-string guitar)
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Dani Lyman; Production Assistant: Joshua Bote; Photo: Jenna Sterner/NPR.