A summer Thursday in July in Unna, Germany - a stage at a small place in a small park hidden behind the Sparkasse bank, really not easy to find for those (like us) who are not locals. The successful searching was honoured by a live gig of Hoven Droven, the trendy Swedish folk band.
The band was invited by ScandinaVia, a series of events of Scandinavian culture financed by the cultural ministry of the Land Northrhine-Westfalia to make Scandinavian culture better known in the Land.
Hoven Droven were flown in from Sweden just for this small open air concert. But it's been well worth for both the audience, who obviously enjoyed the music of a band most people in the audience never before had heard of, and the band. Says a content Kjell-Eric Eriksson after the concert: "It was a very good audience here. We did have a problem in Germany before it's been difficult to play. Maybe we played to the wrong audiences; often the audiences have been too high'. This audience was perfect. It's very important for us how the audience is reacting to the music if they are reacting positively, we play better."
They played very good indeed, with a superb live performance where it was obvious that the Swedish boys had fun playing. Hoven Droven is a band that plays traditional music in a new modern and dancy way; their music bringing any audience into a trance, but still keeping the typical Swedish element in the tunes. If you need to have a comparison, you might call them the Swedish version of the likes of Shooglenifty and Peatbog Fairies - though their music has a different background, and the influences are of course also very different. But the music has the same trancy-dancy feeling in it. The special thing about Hoven Droven are their two lead instruments - the Swedish fiddle on the one hand, a saxophone or clarinet on the other.
"I think it's a lot of energy we are doing", describes Kjell-Eric their music. "First of all it is folk music from Sweden, fiddle tunes - that's also the way we started 8 or 9 years ago, we started with acoustic instruments playing traditional music. And after a while we started plug in the guitar, and Björn the drummer started playing the drums instead of bongos, and so our music went more and more into Rock."
"All of us have grown up with rock music; though I have played folk music all my life, I always had rock music around me. So for me it was (and is) my way to play rock; I would play the same tunes, but I would play rock. Today, the whole thing in the music is rock, but it is also folk music."
So it's rock music? To me it still sounds like very Swedish music, very much at the core of the tradition, though the instruments and the arrangements are quite modern. Kjell-Eric: "We have not changed the original music, we haven't changed the tunes. In most Swedish folk tunes there is a lot of energy, so it was not a problem to put in rock drums and rock guitar. This does not work with all of the tunes but with some of them it's perfect."
Then Kjell-Eric is the only one in the band having a traditional background? "Yes. But meanwhile, everyone has. They learned the old music, and they made new music with the old traditional tunes. Our guitarist has written a lot of the tunes, and they have the same tradition as the old tunes. So now they are keepers of the tradition."
Kjell-Eric himself has played the violin since he was a little boy; his father played the violin, and he learnt from him and from all the fiddlers around at home.
As a band having gone from traditional to roots rock music, is this development accepted in the traditional music circles of Sweden? "We are accepted. In the beginning we were having a rough time because back in the seventies there were a lot of people saying: No you can't do that with the music. But now the people are I think more open." Also, when Hoven Droven started to play and more and more people got to know the band, a lot of young people started to play the violin. "Just because they liked our rock'n'roll then. And they start to listen to folk tunes; and after a while they start to listen to the older, the very traditional fiddlers. So they are coming back to the tradition, and that's nice."
Hoven Droven have found with their own new music style a lucky possibility to play to all kind of audiences: "We play for kids, we play for young punkers and rockers, we play for folk music lovers, we play for middle aged and we play for old people. So we have a broad spectrum I like that; I think it must be boring to play for just teenagers the big bands touring the world they play for 14 years old all the time..." At the same time, they also play in all sorts of venues and festivals: "We play at Rock festivals and Jazz Festivals, we play Folk festivals, and we play in clubs - I think we play everywhere. That also is a great thing. We are happy to play to such a mixed audience."
It seems that with bands like Hoven Droven it must be easy to make folk music popular on broad level - so I ask Kjell-Eric how big folk music is in Sweden right now? "It's strange because folk has always been very strong in Sweden. Many people are playing folk music, are dancing to folk music. And sometimes the media says 'wow folk music is in now' so they start to play folk music in the radio, and on rock festivals, and the folk music gets the 'hip factor'. I think this factor is more down at the moment. But I think folk music will always be as popular as it is."
There are three folk bands in Sweden touring very often and being quite big; all three doing their way of modern folk rock music, and all three well worth to experience - they are Garmana, Hedningarna and Hoven Droven.
Is Hoven Droven, as one of the popular bands, full time band now? "Yes, almost. It's a bit a problem to get enough money, so it's also much for fun." And that is good as you can experience their fun of playing in every concert they are doing. It's great stuff actually.
Photos: Hoven Droven's Kjell-Eric and Jens; Credit: The Mollis
Hoven Droven CDs are available from Xource Records
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© The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld; Published 10/98
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