A bio of Spælimenninir
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The Faroe islands, population only 47,000, have not only folk traditions full of bridges to the old layer of north European musics - the continuing circle-dancing of ballads is one of the better-known aspects - but also a considerable range of contemporary musics linked to varying extents to those traditions. The key figure in stimulating and propagating Faroese music at home and abroad is piano player Kristian Blak. He owns Tutl records, by far the islands' major label, which is home not only to a string of Blak's own projects drawing on folk music (he's the piano-driver in Spælimenninir), jazz and classical traditions and international collaborations but also to the work of other Faroese musicians, and to archive recordings of the old musics.
Flúgvandi Biðil is a revelation, melodically and lyrically. It contains 20 Faroese folksongs and ballads, some in several variants, recorded between 1902 and 1997, mostly from tapes in the library of the Faroese University. It's a treasure-trove of rich and sometimes bloody stories from the Norse and European ballad tradition (one tells of Roland, Charlemagne and Angelund at Roncevaux) sung solo and ensemble to remarkable, winding tunes.
The band Enekk draws on Faroese tradition too, in arrangements of folk songs and new material, but in a way somewhat closer to folk-rock than jazz. For the album, Fýra Nætur Fyri Jól, they're joined by two Bulgarian musicians, Valeri Dimchev and Dragomir Dimov, on tambora, percussion and vocals, and the result has an understated Faroese jazzy swing coupled with something of a Balkan pulse. - Andrew Cronshaw