Pure voice: Åkervinda sings for Brooklyn

Photo: Emma Engström / Svengström Musik & Illustration Åkervinda is reinventing the Nordic folk tune.

Photo: Emma Engström / Svengström Musik & Illustration
Åkervinda is reinventing the Nordic folk tune.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

On Monday, August 10, the Scandinavian East Coast Museum hosted a concert by Åkervinda, a female quartet, who filled the space with their wonderful renditions of progressive Scandinavian folk music. The more than ample acoustics were provided gratis, courtesy of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The four lovely women, Agnes Åhlund, Iris Bergcrantz, Lise Kroner, and Hanna Grahm, gave a nod to folk music in their attire—heads wreathed in flowers, ethereal skirts, and unshod feet.

It is wonderful to hear pure voice—so ancient, so eternal, so moving. Their voices and songs resonated with everyone. The group explained the meaning of each song, usually after the last note had faded. Each was based on big themes: death, love, and loss.

After the performance they were asked what makes their music “progressive” folk. The members explained that they have added more feelings to the compositions, based on the same methods found in jazz improvisations, in which they have all been aptly trained. In this they were very successful.

My feet were in motion before I knew I was hearing a Swedish song about dancing in the summer time. Perhaps one of the most effective pieces was a heartbreaking love story between a man and a woman, which one of the pair denies, leading to chilling consequences. The woman reminds her former lover of their affair and he keeps denying it. Finally, in desperation she tells him to “come and kiss your nose and cheek.” In actuality she is speaking about the nose and cheek of his child, a result of their tryst. He still denies their relationship and thus the paternity of his child. The woman ends by saying, “if the mountains and valleys could speak we would know the truth.” The vocal tension Åkervinda achieves in this song is stupendous.

They did do an encore, in Danish, to please the Danes in the audience. In this one they further used their jazz training by improvising. According to one audience member, Shannon Wade, “That was a beautifully haunting concert.”

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 28, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.