Alban & Josué’s Polska på Pan (Polska on Panpipes)

Multi-cultural is a word too often used, but here it is most appropriate, because this is truly multi-cultural. Alban is Alban Faust, born and raised in Germany, but for many years now living in rural Dalsland, west of Lake Vänern in Sweden. First and foremost an excellent maker of droned instruments — his bagpipes and keyed fiddles are used all over Europe — he is also a good musician and a prolific composer. In spite of his German origins, he has truly adopted the Swedish folk music tradition, and some of his tunes sound more Swedish than the traditional ones.

Josué is Josué Trelles, born and raised in Peru, but now living in Gothenburg, Sweden. He met Alban Faust when he turned to him to learn how to make instruments. For many years they worked together without playing together. I heard them together for the first time at a small folk music convention in west Sweden two years ago and have awaited this CD with both anticipation and anxiety. Anticipation because I was stunned by the magic produced by Alban’s keyed fiddles and Josué’s flute; together they created a completely new sound, a mix of European traditions and those of the South American Indians. Anxiety because I was afraid I was expecting too much; was that just the magic of a beautiful Swedish summer, or would it last when you put it on a CD?

After listening to the CD a couple of times my anxiety has vanished, leaving only excitement for a great musical achievement. Alban sports a number of different keyed fiddles on the album, almost treating it like a showcase for his instrument making, as well as using the bagpipes on a few tunes. Josué plays both the pan pipes and the quena, a South American Indian flute. But he also throws in a bit of the digderidoo for the fun of it. They trade the melody lines between them, swapping in the middle of the tunes, and this is the first time I have heard the pan pipes accompanying another instrument. Josué at times produces an almost percussive effect on the instrument and makes it provide the rhythm. Alban plays a lot of drones to back up the melodies. He plays the keyed harp in quite a different manner than other Swedish champions of that instrument, like the legendary Eric Sahlström or Åsa Jinder. Sometimes the effect is stunning, like in the traditional “Mofat”, when a set of French bagpipes competes for space with the didgeridoo. Sometimes it is just plainly beautiful, like in another traditional tune, the wedding march from Laxarby in Dalsland, a tune Josué performed at Alban´s wedding a year ago.

Seven of the fifteen tracks are composed by Alban. As I mentioned earlier, he sticks close to tradition, with a great sense of both rhythm and melody. A few of the tunes are dedicated to friends, like “Dieters Vals”, a simple, yet effective tune, and “Dansen med Björnen” (The Dance with the Bear), a rythmic polska. The rest are traditional, like the ones mentioned above. Many of them are from Dalsland, but there is also “Mamo Kriso”, an Andean tune showing Josué’s origins.

If you are the least interested in Swedish traditional music, keyed fiddles, Indian flute music, or just crosses between different musical cultures, you should well consider giving some of your listening time to this. It is an excellent example of what can be achieved if one is firmly rooted in a tradition but daring enough to expand the boundaries of that tradition.

(Tonart, 2002)

About Lars Nilsson

Lars Nilsson is in to his 60s and works with cultural issues in his hometown Mellerud in the west of Sweden. He has a lifelong obesession with music and has playing the guitar since his early teens, and has picked up a number of other instruments over the years. At the moment he plays with four different groups, specialized in British folk, acoustic country, Swedish fiddle music and the ukulele.
Lars has also written a number of books, most of them for school use, but also a youth novel and a book about educational leadership. He joined the Green Man Review team in 1998.