Kari Tauring – Nykken and Bear

Kari Tauring – Nykken and Bear

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For those people that are into ethno-musicology and like a little bit of education with your music, Kari Tauring‘s new album Nykken and Bear is something that you will want to check out. Largely Kickstarter funded, the album is “a collage of poems, songs, and stories about the Nykken (a water spirit) and the Bear (in all its forms).” Backed up by musicians from the Celtic rock band Boiled In Lead playing such instruments as the dulcimer, fiddle, and baritone ukulele, the album, as you might imagine, feels very authentic.

The first part of the album is dedicated to the Nykken. “Villeman og Magnild” starts the album with fiddle, guitar, and Norwegian lyrics in a “American folk-rock gallop.” It would be nice to know what she was singing but it seems to be a happy song based on the instrumentation and pace of the song. This is contrasted with the slow and pensive “Runarvisa.” A sad love song sung largely in English about a forbidden courtly relationship, “grieving” and “shame” being but a few words that appear within the story.

In “Heiemo og Nykken,” Kari goes back and forth between English and Norweigian in a song styled after Kristen Braten-Berg’s version with the addition of a bowed dulcimer and slightly creepy vocal effects in the background. The minor key in which it is in adds to the dark feeling of the song. “Nekkens Polska” is a reinterpreted song originally from Sweden and again is sung in multiple languages with a loping rhythm.

“Nedberge til Nykkenheim”is the first poem on the album. Again, largely in English, flowing water fills the background as the piece tells of creation and water spirits. Appearing halfway through the album, the second poem “Selefloyte” talks of a bear listening to a willow flute, which fills the background much like the water of the previous poem.

“Bjonndans” is set in the summer of 1945 after World War 2 and is a story about hunting a rogue bear and the ritual around it within a village, it’s capped off by a staff accompanied chant to support the story. “Beginnings” starts, “To me this is the place of creation.” It is a contemplation on the sacred and sacred sound.

The second part, of course, is dedicated the the Bear. “Bears Waltz” is a bright and playful song full of fiddle and fun with more vocalizations than lyrics. There is more than a little playfulness in “Kinderspiel,” a 15-second playful child’s chant that sounds like it was recorded through a tin can. “From Dansar ein Haugkall” is a waltz about a brown bear again sung mostly in English with an instrumental fiddle line that creates a story-telling mood. “Bjornlaten” closes the album in an almost ceremonial way with its fiddle and Norwegian chanting.

More than a musician or a storyteller, Kari Tauring is a staff-carrier, the keeper of ancient knowledge and spirituality. This means that not only is she able to share stories and songs of her Norwegian past but also that the authentic and deep nature of them is carried forward with every word and every click of her staff. Nykken and Bear is not really a light album as it requires a good deal of openness, but if you are moved by cultural exploration, this is definitely an album you want on your list.


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