Entertainment, Scene and Heard

Fru Skagerrak

Most of us rarely take the time to sample the tasty cornucopia of sounds and rhythms from around the world. We’re really missing out, too.
Haven’t you stumbled upon some kind of international music — maybe a Celtic festival or an African music concert — where it really opens your eyes and makes you walk away feeling like you’ve been living under a rock all these years.
That feeling struck me a couple times — and seemed to be the prevailing sensation around the room — as Scandinavian trio Fru Skagerrak performed at the Axe & Fiddle on Wednesday night, Oct. 16. These three fiddle-playing ladies — one each from Sweden, Norway and Denmark — reminded me with their soulful folk arrangements that I need to spice up my Americana-flavored musical diet.
Sweden’s Anna Lindblad, Norway’s Elise Wessel Hildrum and Denmark’s Maja Kjaer Jacobsen first met in 2011 at the annual Tonder Festival in Denmark. They jammed together there for three straight years, finally deciding in 2014 that they had something special.
“We kept coming back every year, then a friend told us we should get together,” Hildrum said. “So we thought, hey, why not, let’s give it a try. And we’ve been together ever since.”
Amazingly to anyone who watches her, the fiddle is Hildrum’s second instrument. She was raised as a classical flute player before becoming enamored with the folk genre at age 20. After getting her degree in folk music, Hildrum has worked continuously as a flute and fiddle teacher.
Her bandmates teach as well. Jacobsen, the lead singer of the group on most occasions, teaches fiddle, singing and dancing, and also is working on publishing a music book. Lindblad, meanwhile, teaches fiddle while being a member of three bands.
As they promoted their new album, “Ankerdram,” the Fru Skagerrak band members always kept the crowd entertained in-between songs.
“This is the coolest-named venue on our tour,” Hildrum said during one break. “We don’t have any axes, but that’s not our fault, that’s a security problem.”
“We are Vikings,” Lindblad chimed in, “so we do have axes.”
One of the evening’s highlights was a song called “Lullabye For Grownups,” in which all three women narrated special verses in their homeland languages. The band thoroughly explained what they would be singing about, so the audience wouldn’t be left in the dark.
“We try to make sure we let people know what we’re doing before every song we sing in a Scandinavian language,” Hildrum said. “I don’t think it would be as fun for them if they found out later.”
Fru Skagerrak will be back on the West Coast soon. They’re scheduled to play the Bellingham (Wash.) Folk Festival on Jan. 24-26 and also play shows in Seattle and the Bay Area during that time frame as well.
Who knows, it may be a while before we get to catch a Scandinavian act with a sound so exotic yet so elegant. It might be worth that trip to Bellingham.
Or we might be missing out.