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by World Music Network February 19, 2018


Jyotsna Srikanth, Mats Edén, Dan Svensson and Pär Moberg: Nordic Raga

Nordic Raga transverses two rich musical traditions with great sensitivity and musical virtuosity, seamlessly combining the improvisational qualities of South Indian music in the hands of violin maestro Jyotsna Srikanth with the traditions and soundscapes of Nordic folk. 

‘This is something new and refreshing’ Evening Standard

'It’s powerful, subtle, glorious and, indeed, culturally significant' fROOTS

'Nordic Ragapresents a seamless combination of Indian and Swedish sounds' PopMatters

'A fascinating fusion' Songlines

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When Dan Svensson and Pär Moberg put together this project, they didn’t quibble with the name. Happily, Nordic Raga does exactly what it says on the tin: mixes the scales and rhythms of Nordic folk with the improvisatory tradition of South Indian Classical or Carnatic music. But their chosen nom de plume is where such spruce simplicity ends. This album transverses two rich musical traditions with great depth, sensitively stitching together histories and sounds to a cohesive artistic wholeness.

The quartet comprises aforementioned founding Swedish members Dan on percussion and vocals and Pär on saxophones, flute and even digeridoo. They are joined by Bangalore-born Jyotsna Srikanth, a veritable master of Indian Carnatic violin. Her playing career has taken her all over the world and established her as a visionary in her field. Mats Edén is a fiddler with roots in the Värmland tradition of Midwest Sweden and has been a seminal influence in the revival of Swedish folk music since the 1970s.

While the theory fascinates, this album sings with joy. Robust round-toned violins tunnel upwards accompanied by jangling tambourine and commanding drum on opening jig ‘Vildhonung’. This track is an arrangement of a folk dance from the borderlands of Sweden and Norway. The closing track ‘Vals efter Ola Lans’ shares a same zesty spirit, riffing on a tune from Skåne in Southern Sweden and dedicated to the master fiddler Ola Lans who hails from that region.

The quartet’s main task was to marry the improvisation of Carnatic music to folk traditions of Scandinavia. Their approach is strikingly expounded on the track ‘Folk Dreams’ which opens with a recitation of an Indian percussive language called Konnakol. This is the art of speaking rhythmic mnemonics called solkattu in sequence to organise temporal musical gestures and structures: a tool by which to improvise.

European dances also bear audible influence on the group’s sound. ‘Polska från Eda’ is a traditional polska popular in the western region of Sweden. ‘Balkan Waltz’ takes a rather different approach revelling in complex rhythmic jolts and time shifts. For the melody composer Dan Svensson uses the traditional Middle Eastern scale of hijaz to interesting effect.

Nordic Raga was recorded at The Academy of Music in Malmö, Sweden – a location that feels apt in its gravitas. This unique work is a truly holistic and well-thought treatment of both Scandinavian and Carnatic music to a simply exquisite end. Never before heard.