FolkWorld Issue 40 11/2009; Article by Morten Alfred Høirup (Translation by Rod Sinclair)
Aim: Supreme World Domination
Afenginn – Different, Intoxicating Music
The prize-winning Danish band Afenginn (Old Norse for ”intoxicating” or ”to strengthen oneself”) are known for their intense and gripping concerts with the individual musicians giving their all on violin, mandolin, clarinet, electric bass and drums, which gives the effect of an explosion on stage. Afenginn play a mix of Scandinavian folk, world music and punk, and cover a dynamic range from quiet, lyrical passages to what we can only describe as going virtually berserk. But behind their wild stage show lie many, many hours of disciplined preparation, composing, arranging and practising new material.
Afenginn’s music has been called ”Bastard-etno with a melancholic Nordic sigh and a dash of ecstatic madness”, and the band recently released their third album, Reptilica Polaris.
On Reptilica Polaris, the band’s Finnish-born mandolin player and composer, Kim Nyberg, in co-operation with the rest of the band, has arranged music for male voice choir and a 12-piece brass section.
Afenginn are: Kim Nyberg (mandolin), Rasmus Krøyer (clarinet), Niels Skovmand (violin), Aske Jakoby (bass, guitar), Rune Kofoed (drums)
Afenginn @ FolkWorld: FW #38
& @ www.afenginn.dk
Indeed, the musicians started playing together even before they had a concept ready: ”We began fumbling in the dark, without a gold-plated master plan. That came later. The original idea was to play music that contained chamber music and artistic aspects, but which rocked and could be danced to. Somewhere between Swedish Hedningarna and Argentinian Astor Piazzolla, so to speak. Since then we have evolved in various directions, and that is the fun with Afenginn – that there are not really any limitations. Both rhythm and tone are perhaps more off the wall now that we are turning our gaze more towards the east than the north.”
Division of labour, prize and professional recognition
For years, the Danish folk music scene found its inspiration in music from Ireland, Scotland and USA in the West, and from Sweden, Norway and Finland in the North. More recently, younger Danish musicians in particular have begun to look South and East, and they have discovered Jewish klezmer music, East European and Balkan music and Central European medieval-inspired folk music. The five musicians in Afenginn are all veterans of the Danish music scene, and play all manner of music from Danish rock and pop to Astor Piazolla’s tango compositions and to Faroese singer/song-writer material in bands that are organised in various ways. In Afenginn the procedure is fixed.
Kim Nyberg: ”If you look at how we organise our work, we are largely a do-it-yourself band with a ministerial portfolio each. As the work expanded, however, we had to call in assistance from outside. Musically, it works like this: I turn up with a stack of sheet music I have written, and we all develop the dynamics, the tempo, and the expression. This has proved the most productive and efficient way for us to work.”
And where does your music come from? ”It comes from a special corner of the dark side of the mind...” …replies Kim Nyberg with a twinkle in his eye, but there can be no doubt that his compositions and Afenginn’s serious, engaged and deeply original work gives artistic results, like the critical praise for Reptilica Polaris.
Afenginn have won several Danish Music Awards (Danish ”Grammies”), and recently the band were invited to participate in the Ministry of Culture’s project ”The Young Elite”, which has meant important funding for the advancement of the band’s international career. In 2009 and 2010, Afenginn will record two international albums, and they are currently planning tours in Denmark and the rest of Europe.
Out into the World with the Music
Afenginn have already toured abroad a good deal, in Germany, Malaysia, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Estonia, Sweden, Norway, Finland and USA and elsewhere. This band have an enthralling, original attitude to an audience, they are all outstanding instrumentalists and the idea of singing in a language that sounds like a mixture of twaddle, Latin and Esperanto, means that everybody has an equal chance of understanding the songs - or not – and so can enjoy the song for what it is.
According to the international roots- and world music magazine, fROOTS, much more international activity awaits Afenginn:
”They're shockingly good, with imaginations and technique that won't quit. If there's justice, they'll be huge.” - fRoots (UK)
Morten Alfred Høirup (*1961) is a Danish musician, composer and music journalist. He has been playing the guitar and singing in the Danish duo Haugaard & Høirup, and is currently working freelance for Danish Roots.
(1)-(2) Afenginn (from website);
(3) Morten Alfred Høirup (by The Mollis).
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