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Switzerland - Appenzell

In a remote corner of Switzerland, there is a County where alpine traditions are distinctive of the folk life. While the majority of cantons introduced women's right to vote after the confederation did in 1971, the two conservative half-cantons: Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Appenzell Innerrhoden refused to do so for a long time (!!!) so women were finally allowed to vote in local elections in 1990 (by decision of the federal court).
The Appenzell people have always been known as being musical.
In the 19th century, the fiddle and dulcimer were normally played for dancing purposes. Accompanying these instruments were the double bass or the «Basett». Practically during the whole of the second half of the 19th century , the so-called «Appenzell Quartett» was known throughout the whole country. In 1892, the «Appenzell String Quintett» was formed. It received its final formation at the turn of the century and remained unchanged until the First World War.
Since then, this composition of instruments is known as the Original String Music and has been all along dance music, i.e. it is known that it was expected from a good violin player that he knew approx. 500 pieces of dance music off by heart.
The basett is a string instrument which in size and sound lies between a double bass and cello.
The hammered dulcimer is a wide zither developed from the Persian santur which is hit by hammers or tongues. In the 11th century, it came from the Middle East to Europe and was increasingly popular among society between the 17th and 19th centuries. In Switzerland, the hammered dulcimer is known since the 16th Century, so in Appenzell, where it occupies an important position in the music.

Appenzeller Various Artists - LP Out-of-print

Italy - The Resia Valley

In the Resia Valley (north-east of the Friuli region) lives one of the most interesting ethnic minorities of Italy. Thanks both to its geographical remoteness and its social cohesion it maintains very particular cultural features in language (a particular dialect of slavish origin), music, dance and customs. Here the music is only performed by two instruments: Citira (fiddle) and Bunkula (three-stringed cello). This repertoire is well alive and also flourishing because, besides the old tunes, the best players compose some new ones which are often named after them. In this way some fiddlers have tied their name to the local musical history.

All the tunes have a two-part structure: the first one fingered in the Key of D (called "na tenko") and the second one in the key of G (called "na tusto") fingered in the same way a fifth lower.
In the first part the cello rhythmic drone is a double sound D-A while in the second one it is a simple G, so that strings are never fingered at all. Another essential element of the tune is the hard foot stamping of the fiddlers who play sitting down.

Here are some famous players of the past decades:

Music in the pub

The dance

Carnival 1973

Sweden - Jämtland

Jämtland and Häriedalen are two of Sweden’s foremost counties in the realm of traditional folk music. These two former Norwegian counties were ceded to Sweden in 1645 but rich relations have been mantained with neighbours on the other side of the fells and the close Norwegian cities were long used by the “Swedes” as provincial capitals because of the poor communications with the rest of Sweden. The folk music tradition has of course been affected by this contact between the peoples, fiddlers have wandered freely between Norwegian and Swedish provinces and many tunes are thus common to both sides of the border and there is also a striking similarity in the fiddle styles.
This record comes from the Svenskt visarkiv (The Swedish Centre for Folk Song and Folk Music Research) and presents traditional folk music as played by the eldest generations of fiddlers. All the field recordings have been made since 1968.

On Side A we can hear many melodies composed or played by Lapp Nils (1804-1870), a well renowed fiddler from a family of Lapps. Thanks to Lapp Nils the fiddling of Jämtland reached its high-water mark, in spite of the fact that he, in common with many others, stopped playing the fiddle around 1850 under the influence of the religious revival.

Most of the tunes are examples of Polska: the typical Swedish dance that shares nothing with the European 2/4 Polka, it’s actually a ¾ time dance in which the musicians accentuate the first and third beats.

LP 1975 Out – of- print

Side A
Paul Anderson (b. 1898)
01 Wedding march from Jämtland
02 Lapp Nils Polska
03 Lapp Nils Polska
Per Eriksson (b. 1893)
04 Wedding march
05 Waltz
06 Lapp Nils Polska
Erik Nilsson (b. 1886)
07 Lapp Nils Polska
08 Lapp Nils Polska
09 Lapp Nils Waltz
Ante Falk (b. 1886)
10 Lapp Nils Polska
11 Lapp Nils Polska
Andreas Nilsson (b. 1899)
12 Polska
13 Lapp Nils Waltz
Side B
Fridolf Andersson (b. 1886)
14 Polska
15 Polska
16 Polska
Kjell Brannlund (b. 1916)
17 Polska
18 Polska
John Erik Mattsson (b. 1904)
19 Polska
20 Polska
21 Polska
Paul Mann (b. 1899)
22 Polska
23 Polska
Fritjof Mesch (b. 1903)
24 Polska
25 Polska
Jonas Myhr (b. 1897)
26 Wedding March
27 Polska
28 Wedding tune
29 Storhurven Polska


Norway - Sven Nyhus

Sven Nyhus (1932, from the Østerdalen region of Norway) is both a full trained violinist and a great master in playing and collecting norwegian fiddling.
Besides his career in classical Filarmonik and Orchestras he started about 40 years ago to play Norway music in quartet or sextet.
This is his tribute to the pure fiddle music of Norway, a summary of traditional dances and marches, sometimes played for traditional weddings.

The style reveals the ancient music of Scandinavian countries, made by modal scales and often played in open tunings.
Nyhus sometimes plays also the Hardingfele, an instrument rather like the Baroque viola d'amore, with four extra strings vibrating sympathetically under the first set so to give to the fiddle a tipycal, unusual, resonance.
These 20 solo fiddle tunes are a true pleasure for the lovers of the traditional fiddle styles, maybe not if you're looking for "progressive folk".

Leken Hos Kokk-Sofia
Myllargutens Brurmarsj
Reinlender from Roros
Leken Hinnes Kvaernengs-Kjerstna
Bridal March from Engerdal
Nigvals from Roros
Rindholen, Rundhaugjen

MP3 -- NEW LINK ! The older one was lost

Canada - Cape Breton

No doubt, Cape Breton is the best place to hear the old Scottish repertoire, brought in Canada by Scots immigrants centuries ago, before the changements that Scott Skinner's influence had in traditional style.
Nowadays the Cape Breton music is very well known in the world mainly thanks to Natalie McMaster, reputed by many peaople to be one of the best fiddlers in the folk scene, however I think it's still a great pleasure to watch at her uncle Hugh "Buddy" McMaster.
When this elegant man plays his fiddle we can hear a musical taste that is unknown to most of the younger and more skilled musicians. Here in 1984

France - Le Massif Central

Since the early 70's, many field recordings took place in the different areas of Centre France, where fiddle traditions were still alive.
We must say thanks for this job mainly to the Association of the Musiciens Routiniers that also published many documents on LP (some of them remastered on CD). The great French folk revival movement of the following years allowed to preserve and continue a rich corpus of dance tunes as Bourrées, Scottishes, Branles etc.

In this beautiful video "Des violons en sabots" by Francis Lapeyre, we can see three great violoneux from Cantal: Jean Chastagnol, Leon Peyrat and Joseph Perrier

And here is Joseph Perrier again, some years later, with many younger fiddlers playing his tunes

Italy - The Caffaro Valley

The musical tradition in the Caffaro Valley, sited in the north-east Alps of Lombardy, in the province of Brescia, is featured as one of the most interesting fiddle traditions all over Northern Italy. It is still alive and in progress since it is closely linked to the rite of Carnival.
The fiddle repertoire in the Caffaro Valley was made of twenty-four ritual dances, which were similar both in the villages of Ponte Caffaro and Bagolino.
Since the second half of the 70s, other dances no longer in use were reintroduced notified by Marcello Buccio (1912-1978), Costante Cosi (1917-1988), fiddlers of the old Fellowships, and Stefano Bordiga (born 1931), still a member nowadays .
Despite some differences in harmonizations, the tunes are still quite the same in the two villages.
Here is the old LP published by the Lombardy Administration, containing recordings made in Bagolino in the year 1972


Regione Lombardia Vol.4 - La musica del carnevale di Bagolino

Here is the Bagolino Carnival in the year 2000

And here is the Carnival in the hamlet of Ponte Caffaro in 1993