Saturday, July 25, 2009

Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival

One more post from my recent trip to the Midwest and West:  Dad and I traveled up to Moorhead, Minnesota for the 32nd annual Scandinavian Hjemkomst (Homecoming) Festival.  This year, the focus country was Finland, but there were plenty of tables and exhibits from the other Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Saami Land and Sweden, too.  If you wanted to spend a little money, you sure could have found plenty to spend it on!  The crafts, jewelry, books, clothing and food were to die for!

One of the most interesting crafts was a type of quilling done in Finland, only with wood strips, called Lastu, instead of paper.  The ornaments were extremely intricate and beautiful with multi-colored strips of wood making up the designs.  I found this image online, but it doesn't do justice to the beautiful ornaments on display at Hjemkomst.

Back in the 70s, a man named Robert Asp decided to try to make a replica of a Viking long boat.  He dreamed of sailing his ship, the Hjemkomst, from Minnesota to Norway.  He built his ship, and even sailed it on Lake Superior in 1980, but he died of leukemia that same year.  In 1982, Robert Asp's family and friends sailed the Hjemkomst 6100 miles from Duluth to Bergen, Norway in his honor.  The ship is now stored in the Hjemkomst Center.

There were many musical events during the festival, and the one that really caught our attention was a Finnish rock/jazz band called KEHO.  The young men in the band range in age from 16 to 19 and the lead musician, Anttu Koistenen, plays a traditional Finnish instrument called a kantele.  The kantele is similar to a zither, but when electrified, it has a thoroughly modern sound.  Everyone should hear Santana played on a kantele!  Although the music was a little too loud for my Dad's taste, I really enjoyed their playing.  I asked one of the boys later if they had a CD, and he replied "Not yet," but you can listen to some of their music on Vimeo.

The name, KEHO, comes from the last names of the performers:  Anttu Koistenen (16) who is studying the ancient Finnish kantele instrument in a more "electric" way, Teemu Eerola (18) who is a first year bass student at Helsinki's Pop Jazz Conservatory, Rasmus Harinen (19) who studies violin, keyboards and guitar at Helsinki's Joensuu Conservatoire, and Jesse Ojajärvi (17) who is studying drums at Helsinki's Sibelius Junior Academy for talented young musicians.

As the brochure says, nothing Nordic happens without food.  The festival's method of selling food really seemed to work well — they sold tickets for 50 cents and each item of food was some number of tickets, so no fumbling for cash and no change required.  For example, the Danish Æbleskiver were 5 tickets and the Norwegian lefse was 1 ticket.  Dad and I tried several different things, some of which neither of us had had before.  I had Finnish Mojakka ja Voi-leipä (beef stew with cracked wheat bread) and Norwegian lefse (potato flat bread similar to a tortilla).  Dad had Danish Frikadeller (meatballs) with potatoes and red cabbage and lefse.  We shared a dish of Norwegian Rømmegrøt (cream porridge) and Swedish Krumkaka (thin, crispy cookies).  Heavenly!  And, no, we didn't have any lutefisk!  If you're Norwegian, you know what I mean!

There were also musicians playing while people ate, and the group playing while we ate was ASI Spelmanslag Friends.  The group is headed by Paul Dahlin and includes his wife, Marikay, and his son, Daniel.  They are often joined by students from the American Swedish Institute Spelmanslag (fiddlers' team) where Dahlin teaches.  The group plays traditional Swedish dance tunes such as waltzes, schottisches and polskas.  The polska, not to be confused with the polka, is the oldest dance rhythm in Sweden and feels just a bit strange to modern tastes.  Daniel Dahlin has even written several original polskas, one of which was played during their set.


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