Melliken was the nickname of the fiddler Per Persson Menlos, who at the age of 13 walked 40 kilometers from his home village of Hedesunda to hear the legendary key harpist Byss-Calle. That Per Persson Menlos also became a legend over the years is the further story.
These historical circumstances are mentioned because the central melody-carrying instrument in Väsen’s music is precisely the key harp, and because the CD’s title is also explained in this way. Since 2020, Väsen has been reduced to a duo. Guitarist Roger Tallroth then left the group in relation to the Corona epidemic’s tour cancellations to devote himself to other musical projects. Väsen’s history goes back almost 40 years, and it can probably be defended now to also call them a legend.
The instrumentation is Olov Johansson’s different-sounding key harp, accompanied by Mikael Marin’s deep tones on bass viola or cello. Of course, the music on “Melliken” is traditional or traditionally based, but it is performed virtuosically with a quite unique, colorful and expressive drive, which gives it an updated and personal soundscape.
The traditional pieces from, among others, Melliken are complemented richly with traditionally based compositions by the two fiddlers. The tradition belongs in the area around the Dalelven, which forms the border between Uppland and Gastrikland, where the border has bound together rather than separated. The natural conditions of the river have made it easy and obvious for the players to travel to meet and learn from each other, the essence of traditional music. Curiosity and constant development are a prerequisite for the vitality and persistence of a tradition.
Precisely curiosity and development are key concepts for Väsen. Creativity unfolds through blood-filled arrangements and experimental rhythms in both the traditional and the newly composed pieces. The bows both stroke and strike the strings, the strings are plucked, and the bodies of the instruments are included as percussion, supplemented by foot stomps.
Väsen has performed with countless musicians from various genres, but with the duo formation, Olov Johansson and Mikael Marin demonstrate with their unique and personal attack on the music that all kinds of additions are unnecessary to create their expressive and markedly rhythmic discharges. Through unconventional and imaginative thinking, much can be achieved with two stringed instruments – and so the picture is completed of the two Väsen players’ particularly strong technical playing skills. To use an expression from the western fringes: It is not at all impossible.
Photos: Mikael Marin