View Full Version : Sweden's Vasen Trio

Apr-18-2005, 2:19pm
I saw an UNBELIEBABLY good show this weekend at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage. Swedish roots music group Vasen, a trio that play guitar, 5 string viola and nyckelharpa, which is a bowed, keyed instrument, hurdy gurdy, meets autoharp, meets accordian, meets violin, kinda thing. And Olov Johansson plays it like a master, he is as good on this instrument, as say Jerry Douglas is on dobro, unbelievably good! Vasen plays updated vesions of ancient Swedish melodies, a lot of polskas, waltzes, dance music, but in a New Acoustic mind set. Add Darol Anger & Mike Marshall to the mix and it was cosmic. Mike & Darol have such big ears they can hear and improvise in real time. They added an improvised spontaneous quality to the music that really soared & brought the house down. On a side note the Swedes were all at least 6' 4" tall.....and Mike & Darol.....well maybe 5' 10" ...........so it was perfect for Darol to ham it up, he kept jumping during the set.......pretty funny. On a serious note they are going into the studio today to record together.......I'll be looking forward to that CD! And I'm going to have to find some Vasen CD's to add to my collection. If they come your way, Vasen is an incredibly tight Trio, playing tunes like you haven't heard before, but tunes that seem strangely familiar & it is really toe tappin' stuff. GREAT FUN!!!

Apr-18-2005, 2:59pm
They are a great band. Seen them several times. Saw them in Kaustinen Finland 1996 when they had just added the drummer to the lineup. #At this point, he was only using a strap-on marching tom and goat-hoof ankle rattles. One show they did was phenomenal, even better than the original Gjallarhorn lineup (with the guy who played didge and tabla simultaneously) show a night or two before.

I prefer Väsen's early stuff which is more traditionally oriented (same for Finland's JPP). #Get the compilation on Northside entitled Spirit.


Paul Kotapish
Apr-18-2005, 3:06pm

Väsen is one of my favorite ensembles anywhere, and their concerts are a highlight of any year. I was really disappointed that I had gigs both nights of their Freight engagement. I would have loved to hear what they did with Darol and Mike. I know that Darol and his American Fiddle Ensemble have been covering some Väsen tunes recently.

Olav Johansson is indeed a master of the nyckleharpa, but Roger Talroth on guitar and Mikael Marin on viola are every bit a good on their instruments, and they have one of the tightest, fattest grooves anywhere. And their compositions, while deeply rooted in Swedish traditions, are always interesting and musical.

Johansson is at the forefront of a major revival of the nyckleharpa. It had nearly vanished 30 years ago, and now there are scores of brilliant young players making music on this decidedly unusual instrument. Quite a few players in the U.S., too, including a few in the Bay Area. To learn a bit more about the nyckleharpa, see some photos, hear some clips, etc., check out:


A good selection of Väsen's music is available in this country through Northside in Minneapolis. This is a great label providing very reasonably priced American imprints of great new Scandinavian music. Väsen has had two formats over the years--the original trio and a quartet with a great percussionist. I prefer the trio stuff, and their most recent recording, Keyed Up is a return to that sound. I'd recommend Spirit as the best introduction their many recordings, but you can't go wrong with any of them.


For some of the more hard-to-find discs, try CD Roots:


Happy listening.


Apr-18-2005, 3:23pm
You're right Paul....... Roger & Mikael, are also stellar musicians, I was quite taken with my first nykleharpa experience & didn't mention them in my post......and you're right about the groove,they have serious GROOVE.....so imagine Mike & Darol improvising over the GROOVE.......it was a great show.

And Niles.....their latest CD is supposed to be a return to their more traditional earlier recorded work.

Always nice to get excited about something that wasn't in your musical scope, but sounds new and familiar at the same time. I've been friends with Mike & Darol for a long time, it was fun for me to see them get so excited about a project. Both the Trio & the Duo were inspired, three and two added up to like ten.

Paul Hostetter
May-04-2005, 3:35am
The Sunday night after they played in Berkeley, the trio played Kuumbwa down in my town to a full house, and they were fantastic as ever. A few of us (including the owner of Northside records) went to dinner after the show and one of the folks present asked them how they wrote out their arrangements. A silence ensued, then Roger said, "We don't write anything out."

What? How can you remember how they go?

"Well, we learn the tune and then we make up an arrangement and we just remember it."

You can write, can't you?

Roger: "Sure, but..." Olaf: "Don't you think writing music down is sort of like cheating?"

Sweet people, amazing musicians. Fabulous dry sense of humor.

Feb-08-2006, 1:52pm
Just thought I'd resuscitate this old thread by mentioning that Vasen's newest CD "Live in Japan" contains a bonus DVD with a couple of live recordings of the band with Mike Marshall and Darol Anger. Marshall playes an F-style OM (zouk? mandocello?) on one recording and an old Loar on a really beautiful rendition of "Josefin's Waltz," with the Finnish band Frigg as well.

Great CD, great DVD - don't miss it!

Avi Ziv
Feb-08-2006, 5:28pm
I remember seeing them in concert in NJ around the time that Niles saw them (or within a year). They played with that drummer -long hair, tight leather pants, fuzzy boots - *very* different look from the nice-university-student-look of the others, and he added some serious spice to the mix. At the time, I bought the Whilred CD and really loved that one jig on it "30-ars Jiggen". Infectious tune! I got take a real close look at the Nyckleharpa - absolutely medieval.