Fronting the Never On A Sunday ensemble; charismatic fiddler Ragnhild Furebotten brings a healthy dose of Northern Norwegian vitality and an unconventional attitude to contemporary folk music to her much anticipated Womex showcase slot this week.
Folk/world-music expo Womex 2011 is fast approaching and fiddler Ragnhild Furebotten is busy preparing for her high-profile Nordic Club showcase this Friday.
For number of years, Ragnhild Furebotten has been a driving force in the sphere of Norwegian traditional music. As a former member of the acclaimed fiddle ensemble Majorstuen she has won a Norwegian Grammy award, popular acclaim and international experience. But in later years she has primarily made a mark individually for herself; as composer and an innovative interpreter of traditional music. Based in Northern Norway, Furebotten has become associated with folk music at its most vibrant: emotionally arresting, dynamic, energetic and always a special experience live.
Her main focus these days is Womex showcase ensemble Never On A Sunday, a name derived from an iconic Modesty Blaise episode – one of Furebotten’s all-time heroes and still a literary mainstay on her frequent tours at home and abroad.
Sharing many traits with the hard-hitting, confident and tough cartoon hero – Ragnhild Furebotten took a rather unconventional approach to instrumentation with the Never On A Sunday ensemble: Furebotten and her trusty fiddles are backed by an all-horn septet with saxes, trombones, trumpets and tubas played by some of Norwegian jazz’ top names. With compositions that include original compositions by Furebotten alongside North-Norwegian traditionals and arrangements by modern jazz big-band masters Geir Lysne and Helge Sunde, Never On A Sunday represents a refreshing approach to the renewal of the folk music tradition; true feelgood music!
We had a talk with a busy Ragnhild Furebotten in mid October, reaching the artists in between gigs in Stockholm and Northern Norway:
-Yeah, it’s been really busy lately. I just returned from Sweden where we played a fantastic gig with Never On A Sunday in Stockholm and now we’re prepping for a concert in Bodø. After finishing off these gigs we’re gearing up for the release of our new album, which coincides with Womex and our showcase there – pretty hectic but we like it that way.
Furebotten’s partnership with arrangers Lysne and Sunde plus the all-horn ensemble kick-started back in 2008 when all parties joined forces to create a work commissioned for the Arts Festival of North Norway. Says Furebotten on the unique musical rapport that established itself immediately: -When you meet someone that are just so great to work with, when you hit off that fast, you really have no choice; you have to work together. For me, Geir and Helge represented a whole new listening world; they taught me so much and I feel that I’ve taken giant steps as a composer and performer through this project.
-Helge and Geir will never write simple and easy-to-play arrangements, says Furebotten. -Their stuff is challenging but also really exciting to delve into – you have to be on your toes and have your timing and phrasing together. I can only speak for myself, but what this project has taught me has been to listen deeply, concentrate 100% on intonation and all those small jazz-influenced rhythmic nuances that can be hard to get a grip on.
Having worked on the jazz/folk-combo intensely for more than a year has paid dividends though: -Me and the guys talked this over last weekend. In the beginning the arrangements were really difficult to play but last week we suddenly exchanged glances and just burst out; Shit! This is easy!
Since leaving Oslo some years ago, Furebotten has called the small town of Målselv, Northern Norway, home. Throughout her work it appears as if she has been very conscious about linking her identity as a musician and artist to Northern Norway.
-Yes, moving back up north after years in Oslo was a decision to embrace and live fully the specific culture that was mine form the start. I wanted to find my place and to play a role in the cultural life of the north. As a musician, I think that ties to tradition and proper knowledge of cultural history are things that make a more genuine personal expression possible. For me at least, the notion of being a representative of a tradition makes my quest for a personal expression more focused and fruitful.
Recorded in the bastion of Norwegian jazz, Oslo’s Rainbow Studios, Raghild Furebotten & Never On A Sunday’s debut album sees its release on Tue 25th of October. –The album is a healthy 50/50 mix of traditionals vs new compositions, says Furebotten. For me, it represents freedom – a vast open space I can explore with the others. In many ways it can be seen as a homage to my Northern Norway roots that have helped me define my personal playing style. It’s been a real challenge to recreate the spontaneity and energy of the live shows on the album but I feel that we’ve succeeded pretty well. The arrangements that Helge and Geir wrote for the album are just breathtaking and the playing that the guys are putting down is just world-class.
Furebotten’s Womex ambitions are clear: -I’m really hoping that we can bring Never On A Sunday out on the European roads and do some serious touring. One of our main aims is to spark interest with promoters and live agents – I’m super eager to bring this project to a greater audience abroad. Securing a licensing deal wouldn’t hurt either.
-I think the Womex audience is in for a real surprise here – we represent something different from what’s usually featured at the fair. I can’t wait to get to Copenhagen and stir things up down there!
Showcase at the Nordic Club (Studio 4) Friday 28th of October 00:30hrs
“There are many ensembles in which great players collaborate but sometimes the heart is missing. This is certainly not the case here. Each individual player contributes as an outstanding individual yet bathed in Ragnhild's own character, and the strong teamwork and communication is easy to hear.... One of the finest ensembles to emerge out of Norwegian tradition for a long time amidst an already impressive roster of artists."
Fiona Talkington / BBC Radio 3 - Late Junction
Never On A Sunday Womex line-up:
Ragnhild Furebotten | fiddle
Helge Sunde | trombone
Anders Eriksson | trumpet
Marius Haltli | trumpet
Frode Nymo | saxophones
Torben Snekkestad | saxophones
Lars Andreas Haug | tuba
Ragnhild Furebotten on Spotify