Unni Løvlid: vanguard folk singer.

The young Norwegian folk singer Unni Løvlid is one of the most versatile and exciting new performers to take up position in the largely novel musical terrain between traditional folk music and experimental contemporary music.

Unni Løvlid 2004 forfra, foto: Trygve Schönfelder

This realm has in many ways become a musical cutting edge, for it presupposes players that manifest a rather rare combination of firm, traditional footing, out-of the ordinary general musicality, and, perhaps most of all, true commitment to exploration and an intrepid desire to take their tradition to new places.

Unni Løvlid possesses all these qualities, but the trait that makes her unique is exactly the originality and diversity of her artistic choices; the wilfulness of her career-moves and the intrepidness with which she continues to challenge her musical identity.

For a folk musician one can perhaps say that she is more focused on the individuality of her expression than is the norm.
The rule for traditional musicians has been to find their personal expression on the background of a tradition. This is also true for Løvlid, but at the same time she has always had a keen sense of her individuality; she has from the start had a confidence in herself and the authenticity of her performance that has propelled her into all kinds of projects that challenge the norms and thus generate novel expressions.

As a singer she has embarked on a string of differentiated projects. This includes musical topics she has worked with in the course of her extensive education, ensembles she is part of, her recordings, as well as diverse performances around the world.

Her latest solo album is this year's ‘Vita’. It is a selection of religious folk tunes performed in the unique, encapsulated intimacy of the Emanuel Vigeland mausoleum in Oslo. The album is produced by legendary Norwegian noise artist/scientist Helge Sten, and the combination of such compelling elements as Løvlid’s voice, the locale, the tunes and Sten’s special hand with the deep mysteries of sound, resulted in a record almost uncanny in its intense and enclosed, yet hovering, beauty.

The critics unanimously praised the record for Løvlid’s performance, for the sonic achievements and for advancing traditional music by its contemporary re-exploration of the profundity of the tunes.

Her only prior solo release is her 1999 debut on her own label Løvlyd (Leaf sound): ‘So ro liten tull’, which was also issued as a children’s’ book.
But she has contributed on a number of recordings, and in 2003 she released an album with Rusk; one of two folk music trios she is part of.

At the Ultima festival for contemporary music in 2003 Løvlid fronted an extraordinary and much-discussed piece by composer Maja Rathke entitled “No title performance and sparkling water”

This spring she played the role of Ophelia in an experimental Hamlet performance in Oslo which the Swedish director Harald Vallgårda described as a “kick of party” for the reign of the new king, (the murderer Claudius) to which the audience is invited.

Currently Løvlid is touring China with a project largely her own creation; a fugue of the traditional music of the Chinese Dong culture and the west coast folk music which is Løvlid’s own heritage. She encountered the unique Dong music visiting China in 2004 and instantly fell in love with the distinct expression. This resulted in a group of Dong musicians being invited to the Førde folk music festival the same year. The current event is the Chinese premier of the same composite performance; fusing traditional music from the extreme opposites of Eurasia.

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