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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Bergå Folk Project From Finland Set To Release Debut Album

Bergå Folk Project, a new line-up of four Finnish top folk music professionals, will release an album of the same name on 13 May 2022. The international repertoire, sung in eight languages and played on thirteen instruments, offers listeners a range of world and folk music breezes, palpable interpretations and jaw- dropping action. The collection is based on the Folk Songs series by Italian composer Luciano Berio (1925-2003), whose songs BFP "returns" to their folky roots with their own unique style.

The original song cycle consists of folk songs largely from the Mediterranean and Caucasus regions and North America – all arranged by Berio in the style and means of contemporary music. In the hands of Bergå Folk Project, the chains of borrowing, adapting and re-composing have reached somewhat megalomaniac proportions, with tunes returning to random continents, sometimes to several.

"At this point in time, making this kind of stuff gives me somewhat mixed feelings; despite the exhilaration of the process, the back of my mind is filled with doubt as to whether our way of working is - and here I quote Mikael Mattila - "nothing more than privileged dilettantes sampling from the sandwich table of world music." Topi Korhonen, the band's guitarist, reflects. "Well, at least this time it will be done with open cards and from all directions", singer Aili Järvelä continues with a twinkle in her eye.

The musicians Esko Grunström, Aili Järvelä, Topi Korhonen and Iida Savolainen, who collaborated as an ensemble for the first time, are amazed at how easy and natural it has been to work together. The specific starting point combined with the geographical boundlessness has allowed them to use skills and passions in the arrangements that would not come to the fore in many other projects.

"This project is a prime example of how music knows no borders. You can hear in every song how different influences can feed off each other and rise together to something completely new. One of my own favourites is Esko's passionate recomposition of La donna ideale, which takes influences from Mexico, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. And probably other places too," Savolainen says.

Recorded and mixed by Joonas Saikkonen, the album also features guest musicians, including Abdissa "Mamba" Assefa on several tracks. "Mamba came straight into the studio and just played the right things in the right places," says Järvelä. The whole can rightly be described as virtuosic and nuanced. "Everything is rounded off by Aili's powerful song interpretations, where folk songs about both unlucky love and the forbidden fruits of lust come to life in a rather uninhibited way," Grundström laughs.

Bergå Folk Project came into being with a peculiar gig offer by Aleksi Malmberg, the intendant of Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, who commissioned a back-to-the-roots rendition of Italian contemporary composer Luciano Berio’s folk song suite. The suite in question is known to many connoisseurs and performers of contemporary music, but was unfamiliar to the group put together to face the challenge. Thus the arrangement process began with great enthusiasm and curiosity, even with a tinge of fear.

The arrangements were premiered by Bergå Folk Project at the Encounters Club of Helsinki

Philharmonic Orchestra in September of 2019. After a successful debut and with an enthusiastic reception by the audience the group decided to continue their journey all the way to the studio and to the stages.

The repertoire of Bergå Folk Project consists of folk songs from Azerbaidžan, Armenia, Italy, the United States and France. In addition to the the languages of the countries mentioned before there are songs in Occitan, Swedish and Finnish. All of the songs except for two are traditional and arranged by the group.

The members of BFP have been active participants of many different productions and groups of different genres. Along with their own solo projects they perform with acts such as: Frigg, ENKEL, Akkajee, Ilkka Arola Sound Tagine, Matti Johannes Koivu & Uskomaton Folktrio, UTU, Vesala-Järvelä-Rahmel, and the improvisation theatre group Stella Polaris.


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