Majorstuen - Jorun Jogga
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Jorun Jogga

The second CD by the Norwegian fiddle group Majorstuen explodes with hip young energy from the first beat of track one. The title tune "Jorun Jogga" (run, Jorun, run) was inspired by one of the group's fiddlers new jogging shoes.

For the rest of the thirteen tracks on this CD, Majorstuen will keep you in perpetual motion. You might expect them to be a rock, pop, or world beat/fusion band. Instead, they are six traditional folk fiddlers, playing traditional-style fiddle dance tunes in a way that only 20-somethings could have the energy for. No electronic instruments, no reverb in the production. Just plain fiddles, with the occasional cello or viola for color. But they sure do take liberty with the Scandinavian tradition of "Blue notes" (off pitch on purpose) with some wild licks that don't fit any keys or rules.

Ever since Norway hosted the Winter Olympics in 1994, world-wide awareness of Norwegian folk musicians has expanded. Annbjørn Lien and her group Bukkene Bruse were "official folk musicians" at the Lillehammer Olympics, touring the world many times in the 10 years since. But Majorstuen may be the breakthrough group that really pushes Norwegian fiddles into the 21st century. In the summer of 2005 they won the Into-Folk award in Norway for being the best "Young Folk Musicians of the Year" and they have the support of The Arts Council Norway.

Each member of the band is a fiddler born into a strong regional tradition. Most have grown up in areas that use the regular fiddle for folk music, although Synnøve S. Bjørset is a master hardanger fiddler from Norway's west coast. Another member, Gjermund Larsen grew up in a family of famous fiddlers. He and his brother Einar-Olav also play with the Finnish-Norwegian band Frigg, that has its own high-enery fusion.

So, how did six solo players from three or four different musical traditions become one solid, powerful, supercharged fiddle band? Blame it on the Norwegian State Academy of Music in Oslo, where they met as students. These six started to jam with overflowing ideas about arrangements, original tunes, and how to make fiddle music fun. Majorstuen's first self-produced CD, in 2003, broke all the folk-police rules, won the Norwegian grammy (Spellmansprisen) in 2003, and launched the group into the festival circuit, where they have been applauded in Denmark, France, and Canada as a great live act.

Majorstuen has learned a few things from their Scandinavian neighbors, to be sure. Fans of new Nordic bands like Väsen, Höven Droven, and Hedningarna from Sweden, and JPP from Finland, will recognize a few licks in Majorstuen's arrangements. But anyone familiar with traditional Norwegian dance music, gangars (walking dances), springar (running dances) and Pols (3-beat turning dances) will instantly catch on to the engine that drives Majorstuen's arrangements full steam ahead.

Jorun Jogga deserves a big audience: joggers, dancers, fiddlers, classical crossovers looking for more fun with super technique. Since most of the members were born around 1980 there should be a lot more news coming from Majorstuen's site. Don't wait to catch up, 'jogga' to find them on CD asap. - Patrice George

CD available from the band:

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