Nyckelharpa Project: Harpaphonics
Sonic Arts, Composition and Performance Projects
Griselda Sanderson & the Harpaphonics Ensemble
A new ensemble performing traditional & original music with roots in Scotland, Sweden and West Africa, and featuring the Swedish Nyckelharpa
"Mesmeric instrumental music"
- Simon Kirby
Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2007
Medina, Lothian St., Edinburgh
The Harpaphonics Ensemble is an aromatic mix, combining the strange and beautiful resonances of the Swedish nyckelharpa and fiddle played by Gris Sanderson & Hinny Pawsey with an array of percussive accompaniment. The musicians draw on influences from Scotland, West Africa and Transylvania, amongst others. Traditional percussionists Sam Yeboah from Ghana and Louis Bingham from the UK complete the ensemble to take you on a global tour through a hypnotic and enchanting sound world. This is instrumental music at it's most adventurous!
The nyckelharpa has its origins in Sweden, dating back at least to the C14th. Currently there are only a handful in the UK. This bowed keyed fiddle has twelve sympathetic strings, thirty-four keys and four playing strings, one of which is a drone. It blends highly resonant tones with percussive textures. Griselda acquired her nyckelharpa at the St. Chartier Festival for instrument makers in Central France in 2005. Since then she has been composing new material for live performance that highlights the instrument's extraordinary qualities. The Harpaphonics ensemble aims to bring this unusual and enthralling instrument to a wider audience with both traditional and contemporary compositions. The group is based in South West England.
As one of six children of violin-maker Derick Sanderson growing up in Scotland, Griselda developed a deep interest in all things fiddle related. After years exploring traditional music Griselda and her brother Laurence formed the band Waulk Elektrik in 1989, touring extensively in the 1990s and playing at festivals such as Cropredy, Towersey, Sidmouth and WOMAD. For the last two of four Waulk Elektrik albums she established her own label, Waulk Records. In 2001 she formed the trio Spyka with Mike Cosgrave (Jackie Leven band, Sin É, The Daily Planet) and James Dumbelton (Jim Causley, Jackie Oates). This group performed mainly original material based on the traditional music of the UK and other European countries with an emphasis on scordatura tunings and more unusual rhythms. A lifelong interest in African music has led to collaborations and explorations with Ghanaian & Gambian musicians. She spent some time learning the one-stringed riti from Gambian griot Juldeh Camara. This latest Harpaphonics project is a manifestation of the desire to work with both African and European traditions in a live context. Griselda has a degree in music composition and performance and a PhD in musicology.
Sam Powerful Yeboah
Sam is a skilled percussionist, drum-maker and teacher. He has been living in the UK for the past six years. Live projects include his band Unity Train and the Nkabom ensemble founded in Ghana in 2000. A few years ago Sam was instrumental in setting up Project Okurase, a project that addresses the HIV/AIDS crisis in Ghana by empowering women and at-risk or orphaned children through education and skills training. He received an honorary degree from Charleston University in South Carolina in 2008 in recognition of this humanitarian work. Sam and Gris have been experimenting with the combination of African, Scottish, Irish and Swedish musical traditions since they met in Devon a few years ago.
With professional musicians in the family stretching back several generations it is not surprising that Louis has been performing most of his life - a week long stint as a percussionist for a theatre show at the world-famous Minack Theatre in Cornwall at the age of nine, for example. More recently he played percussion with South West band Jiggery Pipery (featuring ex-Boomtown Rats drummer Simon Crowe and seventy-five year old highland piper James Robertson). Louis has performed regularly with Gris and in this line-up plays percussion (bodhrán & cajon) and electric guitar.
Based in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Hinny graduated from the folk music degree course in 2008. A brilliant young fiddler, she worked as part of a duo with Gris in 2003. Their repertoire explored both their interests in Swedish and other contemporary 'folk' styles of Europe as well as showcasing Gris and Hinny's compositions.
The duration can be 45 minutes to 1 hour.
The set may include some solo material.
All band configurations perform both original compositions with some traditional and contemporary Swedish material.
As well as the full band, solo, duo and trio versions of the ensemble are available from time of writing.
Griselda Sanderson & The Harpaphonics ensemble are available for touring from July to October 2009.
Technical Requirements & Stage Plan
Gris and Hinny: front; Gris stage R, Hinny stage L
Louis: stage R, set back
Sam: Stage L set back
The band requires the following equipment:
1 DI for the nyckelharpa
1 condenser mic to pick up the sympathetic strings & keys
1 vocal mic for announcements
1 drum mic for the bodhrán & cajon; DI for guitar; mic for amp
1 moveable mic for aslatua and djembe
1 mic for bottom end of djembe
1 drum mic for kpanlogos
1 DI box
1 overhead mic for fiddle
"The interplay of nyckelharpa and percussion, the brilliant sound quality and the melodies are all wonderful"
- John Crosby
The concept for this album was to write new material for the Swedish nyckelharpa, an unusual, beautiful and versatile instrument. The result is a world/folk album of mostly original instrumental material (there is one traditional Irish and one Transylvanian tune) arranged for nyckelharpa, percussion, viola, fiddle, accordion, guitar and bass.
Although there are several Sweden/Norway based nyckelharpists there are very few in the UK. The aim is to draw the attention of the public to this amazing instrument, and in order to do so a video is also included on the CD (as an enhanced CD) so that people can see the nyckelharpa for themselves. You can also watch the video (entitled Irime) at www.myspace.com/Nyckelgris and on Youtube.
Another aim is to use the album as a vehicle to promote awareness of Ghanaian percussionist Sam 'Powerful' Yeboah's Project Okurase. A donation from each physical album sale will go to Project Okurase in Ghana. The project addresses the HIV/AIDS crisis in Ghana by empowering women and at-risk or orphaned children through education and skills training. For more information on the project visit www.projectokurase.org
Label: Waulk Records
Catalogue no: Waulk3
UK Release date: 19.1.09
Instrumentalists on the album:
Griselda Sanderson: nyckelharpa, violin, viola, keyboards
Max Moya Wright (Ojos de Brujo): cajon
Riaan Vosloo (Twelves Trio): double bass
James Dumbelton: guitar; bodhrán
Josh Stopford: electric bass
Louis Bingham: bodhrán
Sam Powerful Yeboah: Ghanaian percussion
Alex Roth: guitar
Toby Morgan: guitar
Steve Turner: accordion
Russell Harris: Middle Eastern percussion