In Swedish, Fika (pron. “fee-ka”) refers to a moment when we slow down and enjoy the good things of life. For viola da gambist, Jenny Eriksson, and her unique electric viola da gamba ensemble, Elysian Fields, it is also the title given to their new Scandinavia-inspired recording project. Jenny explains.
My grandfather, Knut Axel Eriksson, was a Swedish sailor. He arrived in Australia in the 1920s, met my grandmother and never went home. I still have relatives in Sweden and visit every 2-3 years. Everyone knows about Italian, English, Irish, Scottish and Greek immigration to Australia, and more recently, immigration from countries like Lebanon, Vietnam and China, but Swedes came here too! Life was hard in Sweden until fairly recently, particularly for the poor. And my family was poor. In the late 19th century large number of Swedes went to the US, for example. Those with exceptional taste came to Australia! I have been exploring Swedish music for almost a decade now, firstly with my acoustic group, The Marais Project in partnership with my dear friend, Swedish lutenist Tommie Andersson – who would be familiar to many Australian music lovers – and now with my electric viola da gamba ensemble, Elysian Fields.
I am a classically trained cellist who 35 years ago changed over to viola da gamba. I may be a newcomer to jazz and improvised music, but I love the deep, stark aural space and modal beauty of Scandinavian jazz. Elysian Fields’ truly unique instrumentation – voice/violin, saxophones, electric viola da gamba, piano, bass guitar and drums – allows us to explore similar sonic landscapes and in the process blur the boundaries between chamber music, jazz and world music. In 2019 the Sydney Morning Herald wrote of us: “this time-bending, mind-bending project makes music that sounds modern and hundreds of years old simultaneously.”
In January 2020 Elysian Fields heads into the studio for the second occasion, this time to record our Scandinavian Project which consists of music from, and inspired by, Scandinavia. Along with original Swedish-inspired tracks by band members Matt Keegan and Siebe Pogson, there are stunning folk song arrangements by Matt McMahon and our singer/violinist, Susie Bishop. Susie actually speaks Swedish and Matt Keegan studied music for a year in southern Sweden. Matt Keegan will produce the CD which I am massively excited about. He is such an amazing musician!
We are also putting down two tracks by the legendary Norwegian pianist/composer, Jan Gunnar Hoff, the first time an Australian group has recorded his material. Jan and I have been corresponding by email for a couple of years now and he is very excited. He wrote recently, “thank you so much for showing interest in my music and not at least: performing it in your context!” It’s such a contrast isn’t it; Jan was born and lives in cold, Northern Norway while we will be recording his music in warm, summery Sydney!
It would be very grateful to any music-lovers who can support me and these wonderful musicians in this project. To this end, I have started a tax-deductable donation site through the Australian Cultural Fund. Donations will be used to fund studio hire and recording costs. The link is here: https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/fika/
Donation site via Australian Cultural Fund – https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/fika/
Elysian Fields website:- https://www.maraisproject.com.au/elysian-fields/#.XfL59vxxW60
Social media https://www.facebook.com/ElysianFieldsJazz/
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