FolkWorld Live Review 7/2001:

Kimmo Pohjonen, Mats Edén

Scandinavian Accordeons with a huge difference

By Michael Moll

The accordeon was for a long time rather absent in the Folk Music scene of Scandinavia. It was hated by a lot of folk musicians and by folk audiences. This has changed during the last 20 years. Although at least in Sweden there is still not a huge number of accordeon players, the instrument is at least accepted. In May I visited two concerts in Stockholm with just one accordeon player on stage; yet the difference could not be bigger: I saw the Finnish crazy accordeon star Kimmo Pohjonen and the Swedish accordeonist and fiddle player Mats Edén.

Kimmo Pohjonen, Photo by The MollisKimmo Pohjonen played in the attractive venue "Nalen" in Stockholm, a ballroom from well 100 years ago that is freshly renovated and offers now a programme with both concerts and dances (and also dance evenings for youths actually). Kimmo is obviously not too known in Sweden yet, but the Finns love him: It seemed that about half of the audience was actually Finnish! So it was kind of a home play for Kimmo.

I wrote in the introdcution that both concerts featured solo accordeon - well in the case of Kimmo this is not really true, because sometimes there is just one Kimmo Pohjonen on stage, while a minute later there are ten Kimmo Pohjonens around. The special thing about Kimmo is that he records during the concert parts of his tunes to replay them along to his actual playing. Out of that comes a masterpiece of several Kimmos. The music is experimental - Kimmo uses the accordeon not only as an accordeon, but also as a percussion instrument or wind machine. Another instrument Kimmo plays is his voice, used for creating strange percussion noises as well as hymn singing. The performance itself is very special: there is a lot of mimic in Kimmos face; and at times he runs with his accordeon over the stage, or in the end he hides behind the accordeon. He plays with a lot of emotion, and the result is highly entertaining, but also exciting and complex.

Kimmo Pohjonen, Photo by The MollisThe music is not really folk music, but features mainly Kimmo's own compostions. That is also why he has played already (successfully!) on folk festivals, pop and rock festivals, jazz festivals and classical music festivals. I nearly would have missed actually that very concert, as it was listed in the newspaper under classical concerts... Kimmo is by the way preparing currently another project, where he plays together with a chamber orchestra and a few percussionists, then also re-playing the same music. Sounds exciting.

Most of the people in the audience enjoyed the concert, although after the last tune, a few people ran out of the hall - maybe for some this is simply too crazy... Probably those people would have preferred the CD release event of Mats Edén. Known as member of the Folkjazz band Groupa, Mats is not only a gifted fiddle player, but also a very good accordeonist. His new CD is a pure solo CD, featuring solo accordeon plus a few solo fiddle tunes.

Mats Eden with the old haircut and fiddle, photo by The MollisThe venue of the CD release concert was very different to Kimmo's venue as well: It was Izzy Young's Folklore Centre, a little office used as folklore library and sometimes for small events. For the CD release, the record company offered free wine; and most of the people turning up were either press people or friends of Mats or friends of Izzy Young. After a while, Mats sat down to start to play the accordeon, all the audience sitting in a circle around him. A very familiar atmosphere.

Mats Eden with Groupa, the old haircut and fiddle, photo by The MollisMats Edén is one of the first Swedes who has taken up the accordeon again to play folk music. He was the first Spelman who got the Zorn silver medal for the accordeon in 1979, meaning that he was allowed to call himself riksspelman afterwards. Both on his solo CD and in his concert, he plays pure traditional music on accordeon and fiddle. The accordeon tunes are mainly not the typical Swedish polska, but a variated mix of Swedish mazurkas, waltzes, rijnländer etc. This is pure folk music, without any special effects, just speaking for itself.

Just in time before the concert, Mats Edén changed his look completely by cutting his hair. I think if I would not have known that Mats was around, I would not have recognized him, with very short hair. On the CD (as well as on the photos on this page) he is still with the hair style we are used to from his Groupa concerts. Probably Mats was worried that he became that famous by his new CD that everybody would speak to him on the street?!

Anyway, these were two great concerts of two great accordeon players, as different as they were. Accordeons today are a definite part of Scandinavian folk music again, and that is a very positive addition.

Mats Edéns new CD is review in the CD review section.

Photo Credit: (1) & (2) Kimmo Pohjonen in Tilburg; (3) Mats Edén with the old haircut and fiddle; (4) Mats Eden with Groupa, the old haircut and fiddle. All photos by The Mollis.

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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 8/2001

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