Being in a room with Sinikka Langeland is like being charmed into a northern forest under a night sky. Her presence and her voice are magical enough, but when she plays her kantele you can almost feel nature itself quivering with joy.
Fiona Talkington, Songlines
Few artists have embodied the idea of the spirit of place as comprehensively as Sinikka Langeland whose music, performances, research and recordings have given a new profile to the culture of Finnskogen – the “Forest of the Finns” on Norway’s border with Sweden. Half-Finnish herself, Langeland (born in Grue in 1961) plays the Finnish national instrument, the kantele, and draws upon older traditions of folk music including rune songs and incantations in the creation of vibrantly new work. Her songs give voice to the interdependence of humanity, the natural world of plants and animals and the world of spirits. Sinikka’s deeply-rooted music has often branched out to connect and communicate with key exponents of other arts – improvisers from the jazz world, classical musicians, poets, visual artists. Sometimes, reviewer Audun Vinger suggested of recent performances at Vossajazz, Sinikka seems “ultra-hip, like a Finnish Forest Alice Coltrane. At other times, we are in the Middle Ages, in the church, in the jazz club…” The expressive arc of the music extends from the archaic to the creatively forward-looking.
Settings of poems by Hans Børli, Edith Södergran, Olav Håkonson Hauge and Finnish Forest rune songs have formed the core of Sinkka’s repertoire to date. With her newest album Wind and Sun, she turns her attention to the contemporary poetry of Jon Fosse, who has described the process of writing as “an act of listening,” and wrestles with questions of faith in his work in a way that resonates with Langeland’s fascination with natural mysticism. “There is so much room in Fosse’s poems, and seldom limiting terms and references. He manages to point to something touching…”
I want to listen to the angels who come from my dead friends
silent as snow distinct as snow
I shall see the snow melt and become water
I shall see it disappear
and come back, like eagles
I shall see the eagles come
I shall see it disappear
and hear the music
in the movement we create
and that creates us, so distinctly, in the darkness
Jon Fosse, Hund og engel 1992
Also participating in the Wind and Sun project is photographer Dag Alveng. “I have worked with Dag in many projects,” says Sinikka, “but I think that his art and Fosse’s poems is an especially good combination, as they also are so simple in a strong way. Jon Fosse wrote to me that he really liked Dag’s pictures: ‘There’s a kind of present disappearance in them’”.
The outstanding band on Wind and Sun – formed for concerts to celebrate Sinikka’s 60th birthday – is an all-Norwegian all-star constellation of players, all of them ECM recording artists and ensemble leaders in their own right and with complex interwoven histories going back many years. Saxophonist Trygve Seim has been an important presence on Sinikka’s recordings including Starflowers, The Land that Is Not, The Half-Finished Heaven and The Magical Forest. The yearning, vocal quality of his playing adapts itself ideally to Sinikka’s soundworld. Seim also has an affinity for sung verse, as his own Rumi Songs project with settings of the great Sufi poet has demonstrated.
Trygve and trumpeter Mathias Eick have played together in wildly different contexts ranging from Iro Haarla’s Northbound quintet to Jon Balke’s Batagraf ensemble via the Manu Katché band. Eick and drummer Thomas Strønen have collaborated in the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, while bassist Mats Eilertsen and Eick have both been members of Jacob Young’s groups. Furthermore, Strønen continues to play in Eilertsen’s trio with pianist Harmen Fraanje, and Eilertsen is a long-time member of the free spirited ensemble The Source, which also features Trygve Seim. In brief, these are sensitive players, who share an advanced improvisational understanding, individually and collectively elevating the atmospheres of Sinikka’s songs, and fleshing out the musical implications set in motion by the kantele and Fosse’s verse. Sinikka: “All of the players have really been very loyal to the simplicity in the music, following my writing and the expressions of the poems and then taking things further in their own incredible improvised solos.”
Wind and Sun was recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio in September 2022 and mixed at Munich’s Bavaria Tonstudio in March 2023.