Blink, a Contemporary Nordic Folk Ensemble
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Blink

Meet Blink, four women creating new Nordic folk music in a sensitive and powerful ensemble of two strings and two voices. The musicians of Blink are on a two-year adventure as they study at the Sibelius Academy and, with passion, openness, and integrity, explore traditional and contemporary Nordic folk music.

On their travels, Blink visits the traditional sounds of polskas, runolaulus, labajalgs, and ballads, entwining the traditional sounds of the Nordic and Baltic countries with their own tunes, sometimes melancholic, sometimes funny, and never boring.

In the Blink universe, all musicians are equal, roles are constantly shifting and the continuity of traditions is as important as the freedom of their creativity.

"In particular a very sotto voce performance ... by the young Nordic folk quartet Blink was especially enjoyable. These 'four women from five countries'-their own words-played a beautiful blend of music from their respective traditions, combining the voices of Danish-Norwegian Jullie Hjetland (a girl with a jaw-dropping length of hair in an enormous rope-plait) and the Finnish Lotta Hagfjors, with the Estonian fiddle of Johanna-Adele Jüssi and the Swedish nyckelharpa of the lovely Emilia Amper."

-From a review of Blink's October 2010 performance at the 16th annual- WOMEX World Music Expo in Copenhagen, Denmark (www.worldmusic.co.uk/blog).

Learn more about "Blink" and listen to their music at www.myspace.com/musicblink.

Emilia Amper

Emilia AmperEmilia Amper is a Swedish nyckelharpa player, singer, composer, and teacher of music and dance. She is fluent Swedish, English, and Norwegian, she has good understanding of Danish, and knows some German.

She he has worked in various settings and is also a popular dance musician. Her musical passions include polskas, bowing technique, expression, and dance groove. Her style of playing has been described as dynamic, elegant, and groovy.

Emilia's musical background and education are both rich in variety and she has been awarded multiple scholarships for study and performance. She has played with many Swedish and Nordic folk music groups and artists, as well as with musicians in other genres, for example Persian classical musicians, pop/rock and jazz musicians (such as Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebö), organ/piano player Jon Lord from the rock band Deep Purple, and chamber orchestras.

Emilia was winner of the 2010 Nyckelharpa World Championships; she won the Spellemannsprisen (the Norwegian Grammy) in 2011 for Best Classical Album; she was nominated for two 2011 American Grammy Awards (for the album TrondheimSolistene in Folk Style, together with the Trondheim Soloists and Gjermund Larsen), and was nominated as Artist of the Year at the 2011 Swedish Folk & World Music Awards.

Emilia has a master of folk music in nyckelharpa. She has studied at the Royal College of Music, Stockholm; the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki; the Ole Bull Academy, Voss, Norway; and the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts Southern Denmark, Odense.

She also completed a bachelor of performing arts in Swedish folk music and nyckelharpa at the Royal College of Music, and a bachelor of musicology in nyckelharpa and composing at the Norwegian University of Technology and Science, Trondheim.

Before her university studies, Emilia studied English, folk music, fiddle, and nyckelharpa at the Visingsö Folk High School, Visingsö/Brighton/Dublin, Ireland; the Malung Folk High School, Malung, Norway; and the Eric Sahlström Institute, Tobo, Sweden.

Emilia works with a number of music groups, including Blink, an experimental contemporary folk music group with roots in traditions from all over the Nordic countries, which was started in 2009. Others include the Absolut Trio, a playful folk music trio playing music from Sweden, Scandinavia; and Bretagne at festivals and church concerts ; the Emilia Amper Band, Emilia´s solo project started in 2003, in which she plays her own compositions and traditional music from Sweden; the Trondheim Soloists, a world-famous Norwegian chamber orchestra that tours extensively; and KMH Folk, anorchestra of about 35 international musicians from the Department of Folk Music at the Royal College of Music, Stockholm.

Emilia has been performing since 1997 and her concert schedule is impressive. In 2011, so far she has performed close to 50 concerts, about 25 of them with Blink. Emilia has contributed to five music CDs since 2004, including the 2011 self-titled Blink CD.

Emilia has instructed numerous nyckelharpa, fiddle, folk music, and dance workshops and classes for youth, adults, and senior citizens at various schools and festivals in Sweden, Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Emilia is a member of the board of The Eric Sahlström Institute for Folk Music and Dance, Tobo, Sweden.

Visit Emilia's website and listen to some of her music at www.emiliaamper.se.

Lotta Hagfors

Lotta HagforsCharlotta Hagfors has always loved singing.

"I believe the human voice is the most revealing and the richest instrument there is," she says. "And since it's not an instrument, but a human being, it carries the secrets that can be found in that individual. It's something very personal, and at the same time something everybody can share, recognize, and take part in; everyone has a voice."

Lotta is a singer and folk musician from Helsinki, Finland. She studied ethnomusicology at the University of Helsinki and now she is pursuing a master's degree in Nordic folk music at the Sibelius Academy. Her studies have taken her to Sweden, Denmark, and Norway as she discovers the world of folk singing, composing, improvising, and percussion instruments.

"Studying at the Sibelius Academy has been the greatest privilege of my life," Lotta says. "The way they teach music in the Folk Music Department is very creative and allows the student a lot of freedom. I have gained a lot of open-minded thinking about music and learned to improvise and enjoy the moment."

Folk singing is Lotta's primary subject at the Sibelius Academy, along with harmonium, percussion, and composition.

In the course of her education, Lotta has had many great teachers, many of them well-known with international careers. "They have guided me deeper into the sources of folk music and helped me to learn and grow as an artist," Lotta says of them all.

For Lotta, open-mindedness and freedom are the most valuable things in music. She loves to make discoveries and mix art forms, and theatre is especially close to her heart.

Her musical interests include the world's "traditional" music, in all its various forms, and in particular Finnish rune singing, contemporary folk music, free vocal improvisation, "and, of course, the old loved one, tango."

Lotta has performed with ensembles and projects in many parts of the world, from China to Africa. They include the folk quartet Blink, Philomela, Play! Soundpainting Ensemble, the Ilona Korhonen Ensemble, Venho, and the Finnish-German project Nordic Appeal, which includes two jazz-musicians from Berlin and an innovative and gifted folk cellist from Finland.

She also performs in theatre and dance productions and works part-time as a radio announcer for the Finnish National Broadcasting Company (YLE). And drawing on her background of singing in vocal ensembles, Lotta also composes and arranges music for vocal groups.

Lotta wants the folk tunes she sings to become a part of her. "I want them to be alive, not just reconstructions of something I heard on a tape," she explains.

"Music is a way to give something of yourself to the world-and to receive as well," she adds. "It's a product of the moment, yet it's something that comes and then goes on forever. It's unique. I believe we all are musical."

Like many children, Lotta dreamed of becoming a singer and an actor. Her godmother bought her a beautiful white piano when she was five years old,she says, and she studied classical piano until high school ... where she met friends who were playing folk music.

"It was eye-opening for me," Lotta says of her discovery of folk music. "I always have enjoyed improvising and doing things in my own way, making up new voices... the folk music environment allowed all that."

Before long, Lotta became convinced that folk music was the best genre through which to express herself. And, as she learned more about the rich tradition of Finnish folk music, she fell in love.

Following high school, Lotta joined the high-profile, all female Finnish choir Philomela, which performs pieces composed by Finnish contemporary folk musicians, and was a member of serveral other vocal ensembles for which she had opportunities to write folk song arrangements and compositions. "We also did a lot of vocal improvisation," Lotta adds. "All this has had a huge impact on my thinking and my taste in music."

With Philomela, Lotta traveled to China, Zambia, and Brazil. "It's always exciting to perform abroad, since you can't predict the reactions," she notes.

In particular, she recalls a concert at Pemba High School, Zambia, where all the students burst into laughter when Philomela began their choir set. "It was something quite unexpected, but they explained later on that it was about the Finnish language."

One of Lotta's most exciting moments with Philomela was in Finland as they were performing in a televised competition.

"I was the leading soloist and one in five people in Finland were watching the broadcast (about a million people)," she recalls. "It made me very, very nervous, but finally, everything went well."

Another important influence on Lotta's singing style is Finnish folk singer Santra Remsujeva (1913-2010). "She was a real folk singer, singing straight from her heart. Unfortunately, I only know her through tapes. She sang with her own style, not caring about the opinions of others, and it sounds marvelous to me-just the way it should be: full of life, not too perfect."

"What I love as a musician is the possibility of communicating with an audience, to speak the common language of music that everyone who just wants to hear, understands," Lotta says.

"I love to mix art forms and go beyond music in the performances," she adds. "For example, I will soon start a collaboration with three dancers to combine runic singing and modern dance."

Besides performing and working to create something new, Lotta hopes to teach music in the future. "I have found the strength of folk singing, and have seen how it can bring people closer and give joy for everyday life," she explains.

In summer 2010 Lotta, with Blink, performed 18 concerts in the Nordic countries and Estonia. "The music got better and more innovative all the time," she says of that tour. "As we performed, the audiences gave new impulses, so the music grew and developed."

Blink has garnered much positive feedback from listeners and from the media in the Nordic countries, which Lotta describes as very rewarding.

"I think it's very important to let the personality to be heard through the music, no matter what style or genre, or instrument," Lotta says. "To put yourself in the soup, so to say, and to try not to pretend. It asks for courage, and that's what I've been trying to learn during these years of studying."

When Lotta is not studying, practicing or performing, she often likes to sit in Helsinki cafés and dream.

No one in Lotta's immediate family is a musician, but she says that her father is a great singer, although "he chose to try to make the world a better place by studying social politics." Lotta's mother is a school nurse, but she sang to Lotta often when Lotta was a child.

"Luckily my family has always encouraged me to do what I really want, and supported me in my musical studies when I was younger, since they saw and were told by my teachers that I had gifts, as well as a strong interest.

Traveling to the Midwesat for this year's Sibelius Academy Music Festival is Lotta's first visit to the U.S. "It gives me encouragement and good feelings to know that I was chosen to perform at this festival with our Nordic band. It's a privilege," she says.

"It's been a long journey to get this band and this program together, and it feels lovely to be able to share it with people who have roots in the Nordic countries and Estonia," Lotta says. "I am especially looking forward to meeting Finnish-Americans in Michigan, and hopefully hear some of their stories."

Lotta also wants to find out if it really is true that in Michigan the nature looks very much like it does in Finland

Find out more about Lotta Hagfors at http://hagforslotta.wordpress.com and http://www.myspace.com/lottahagfors.

Jullie Hjetland Jensen

Jullie Hjetland JensenActive in the contemporary Nordic folk, electronic, and jazz music scenes, Jullie Hjetland Jensen has toured all over the world, performed with many well-known musicians, and appeared on more than ten albums and EPs.

She is a singer, composer, performer, and dancer. Born in Svendborg, Denmark, on the island of Funen, Jullie has been singing since early childhood. She began her journey to become a professional singer in 1999 at the Saga Music Academy, Odense, Denmark.

In 2008, Jullie completed a bachelor's degree in folk music at the the Carl Nielsen Academy of Music in Odense, and in spring 2011 she was awarded a master's degree in Nordic folk music from the Ole Bull Academy in Voss, Norway, studying for that degree in Odense, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Bergen, Norway.

Jullie was awarded the 2009 Danish Music Award for her vocal performance on the album Kryss, and in 2010 was nominated for the Odense Live Talent Award.

Jullie has lived in Greenland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and she is a fluent speaker of Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. In 2009, she and the music ensemble Nordens Tone released a CD on which Jullie sings in seven different languages.

Jullie does not allow herself to be limited by genre boundaries. She explains that experimenting with her voice and improvising without borders or limitations is her brand. Her harmonic compositions, which blend jazz, folk, electronic, and noise, represent a new creative and open-minded way of composing on the contemporary Nordic Music scene.

An intense presence on stage with a full and expressive voice, Jullie is a much-sought-after musician in the genres of folk, jazz, and others. She describes her sound and voice as clean and recognizable, with a tenderness and power that can be heard in both her interpretation of old Nordic songs and in her own compositions.

Apart from her singing and performance career, Jullie arranges and promotes the annual art and music event Kvamsøy Veka in Norway, an initiative organized by and for young artists that presents a forum of concerts, workshops, and exhibitions where young artists and musicians can meet and make art, music, and connections.

Learn more about Jullie and listen to her music on her MySpace page at www.myspace.com/julliehjetland.

Johanna-Adele Jüssi

Johanna-Adele JussiViolinist Johanna-Adele Jüssi is living her dream: working as a freelance musician and traveling around the world. She collaborates with a number of musicians and ensembles, performing for large audiences and in cozy environments. She teaches a bit and plays music for dance.

"What job could be better?" Johanna-Adele says of her career as a musician. "I travel to play at festivals and events where I can make people feel something; I can touch their emotions. I am accommodated, fed, taken care of. I meet wonderful people on the way, get to play with lots and lots of amazing musicians, and for all this I often get paid!"

It's common in Estonia for school children to study music, so early in life Johanna Jussi didn't have a special interest in music. It was at the recommendation of her music pre-school teachers that she continue with the violin.

Now, the violin is the best and most important thing in her life.

Johanna-Adele participated in an improvisation course at the Sibelius Academy in fall 2010, where she met and began to collaborate with the musicians of the folk ensemble Blink.

"I feel the improvisation course opened my musicality a lot," Johanna-Adele says of her course at the Sibelius Academy. "I felt so much more relaxed and more open-minded after that."

Johanna-Adele says that her teachers inspire her simply by being excellent musicians themselves. Among the best advice Johanna has received over the years is from Danish fiddler and musician Harald Haugaard, who urged Johanna-Adele to "remember that every note is important!"

"You have to listen a lot ... all the time," she says of performing with other musicians. "You have to be aware of what the other musicians are playing and fit yourself into the moment. You have to feel what is needed and what best serves the common goal."

"Music is a companion of our everyday lives, through the highlights of our lives, through our emotions and feelings," Johanna-Adele says. "It helps us feel more, feel less, relax, get excited...  Music is my life."

"I love to touch people. ... to make them feel ... and to be touched myself," Johanna-Adele says of the thrill and rewards of performing. "I love the feeling of having totally opened myself. There have been times when I have really felt high after a concert. Mostly, I think, because of the good atmosphere and great feedback from the audience."

Johanna says she applied to perform at this year's Sibelius Festival to "see the world." It is her first visit to the U.S. and she says she is looking forward to seeing and experiencing life in the Midwest, the Copper Country, and the U.S.

"All travel widens your perspective on life-and on the world in general," she adds. "Maybe I will even meet people I can cooperate with in the future."

Johanna-Adele is the only musician in her immediate family. "But my father would have been great had he started playing a musical instrument," she adds. "He is so musical. He is singing and whistling all the time."

In her free time, Johanna-Adele enjoys visiting friends and spending time with her boyfriend. She likes to create art, especially paintings, and read books written in foreign languages.

Visit Johanna-Adele's MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/johannaadele.

Blink