FolkWorld Issue 40 11/2009; Article by Morten Alfred HÝirup (Translation by Rod Sinclair)
Singing Star in the North Atlantic Sky
The Faroe Isles are a group of 18 beautiful, wind-blown islands in the northern Atlantic Ocean between Scotland, Iceland and Norway. The high, grass-topped cliffs enjoy mild winters and cool summers, making them an ideal home for a rich fauna including huge numbers of sea birds, seals and whales, not to mention the human populace and their many sheep. Descendants of Norwegian Vikings who settled the islands 1000 years ago, almost 50,000 people, 17,000 of them in the capital, Thorshavn, live in the Faroes. One of the most beautiful and culturally vibrant societies in the north Atlantic region, the Faroes provide many reasons for closer study, one of them being the prize-winning Faroese singer EivÝr PŠlsdottir.
EivÝr PŠlsdottir is known in folk music circles in many parts of the world for her enormous talent, her fine songs, her fantastic voice and, not least, for her intense, captivating concerts.
/ @ www.eivor.com
From early childhood, EivÝr was drawn to music, art and story-telling, and at 15 she left school to devote herself to music, both as a composer, song writer and singer. Today, 10 years on, EivÝr is a fully-developed artist mastering much more than the Faroese song tradition that is her immediate heritage.
She has sung rock with local Faroese bands, she has studied classical music and jazz in Iceland. EivÝr has also worked with the Faroese composer and pianist, Kristian Blak, with whom she has released several albums and toured with the band Yggdrasil, and she sang solo in his opera Firra in 2004. The following year she appeared with Radio Denmarkís Big Band, issuing TrÝllabundin, an album of EivÝrís compositions, followed up by several tours with EivÝr as soloist.
EivÝr and the Tradition
ďI grew up in a little village called GÝta. 500 people live there. My mother, father and my great-grandfather taught me many of the old dance ballads and songs when I was a little girl. There has always been singing in my family, and I have sung as long as I can remember. When I was 13, I wanted to learn more about the Faroese song tradition, so I visited old people with my little tape recorder and recorded songs that younger folk no longer know. The old people's way of singing inspired me and touched me deeply because it was unique, and it came straight from the heart. That is where music comes from and that is where it belongs. Back then I already felt close ties to my Faroese roots. No instruments were used in the traditional Faroese music, just the voice and the stamp of the feet, so the melodies often grew excitingly crooked and the rhythms were sometimes strange. I used some of the recordings, mixing the old and the new, on my first cd which I made when I was 16.Ē
How important is the tradition to you? ďMy Faroese roots mean everything to me! I have them with me in everything I do, since they are part of me. For me personally, it is essential to know where I come from, so that I can dig deeper in my work without losing myself. The tradition can give you a feeling of being at home, not necessarily literally, but inside yourself. That's what roots are for. In the Faroe Isles, folk have always sung, down through the ages. They sing at weddings, at funerals, at home, out in the countryside. Singing does something to our hearts, it joins people.Ē
EivÝr and the creative process
EivÝr PŠlsdottir is not only a composer, poet and recording artist, she also paints and currently has an exhibition of her pictures in the Nordic Centre (Nordens Hus) in Thorshavn. Bruno Eysturstein, describing the exhibition in the Faroese youth magazine mess.fo, writes, "Almost like magic the paintings took me on a journey into unknown parts of the mind (...) An exciting and psychedelic exhibition; a portal into oneself."
When I asked EivÝr where she finds inspiration and how she works with her songs and her painting, she replied, ďMany things inspire me. The natural world, people I meet, day and night, all life's colours. I write songs when I feel inspired, and that can be anywhere, at any time. But it takes time and space. When I write, I need peace, calm and room for the thoughts to fly free. I am away a lot on tour, playing concerts various places, there is a lot going on around me and then it is good to find a quiet place inside myself where I can always retreat. I have been painting since I was little. I have always had to express, in one way or another, what was burning in me. Often, what inspires a song can also appear as a painting, as though the song supports the painting and vice versa. But there are times when I just paint, others when I just write. Sometimes I take paints with me on tour and work in hotel rooms...., though I must admit it's not practical! Ö I am just the kind of person that cannot stop singing or expressing myself in one way or another. I often get the feeling that there is so much I have to do that I am on the point of exploding with creative energy.Ē
In 2006, EivÝr moved to Denmark and played all over the country. That was also the year she won two Danish Music Awards (the Danish ĒGrammyĒ). Now EivÝr is back in GÝta in the Faroes, but tours all over the world. She has released five very different albums which demonstrate her musical scope, from jazz, through singer/song-writer to Celtic and pop. The question must be how EivÝr will decide to administer her massive talent; in short, Where is EivÝr PŠlsdottir headed?
Morten Alfred HÝirup (*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.
ďI think of music as a vast ocean of song, sounds and words that I swim in. I never know where the current will carry me, but I feel honoured to be allowed to be part of that ocean. Right now I am working on a new cd which I hope will come out later this year (2009). I will be in the studio in the late summer, and I am very excited to see what the results will be like. This time, I have chosen to work with my band and a good friend that I have known for years. I can't say too much about the album yet, because I'm in the middle of working with it and you never know what can happen in the studio," laughs EivÝr and goes onÖ"That's exactly what I love about music - it can take you anywhere if your heart is open.Ē
(1)-(2) EivÝr (from website);
(3) Morten Alfred HÝirup (by The Mollis).
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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 11/2009
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