The name Majorstuen has come to signify the revival of Norwegian traditional music and its newly-won popular image as a hugely dynamic and forward-looking musical expression. Already with their eponymous debut album from 2003, this six-strong fiddle ensemble made it clear that things were changing in the sphere of Norwegian folk. Words like “explosive” and “groundbreaking” had not previously been associated with pure fiddle music, but that was before Majorstuen came along.
Majorstuen’s secret is the way the six fiddlers have refined their widely-different musical dialects into a single characteristic and playful language. But just as important is the fact that they have allowed this folk idiom to be influenced and energized by urban and eclectic musical impulses, making their pure fiddle music zeitgeisty and fresh. They are conservative about sound and instrumental line-up, but all the more open and playful when it comes to ways of reinterpreting and reinvigorating the fiddle heritage.
The result is music which is deeply rooted in tradition and distinctively Norwegian, and at the same time it is something new. Majorstuen breaks down old barriers between rural and urban concepts by presenting fiery, energetic and clever music that seems just as appropriate in a city club as on a village stage. More than anything, it is the live spectacle that this band puts on that has earned a reputation. As band member Synnøve Bjørset related in an interview in conjunction with WOMEX last year, “The surprise and freshness of Majorstuen is not so much a matter of constellation and repertoire as the way it is played. We are instrumentalists and I think that our live personalities and the sort of ‘happening dynamic’ we bring to the stage are an inexhaustible source of surprises and unexpected things. This dynamic and the direct relation to the audience are more important to us than experimentation with new sound or new elements.”
The members of Majorstuen are still young and continue to expand their musical horizons in all kinds of other projects. In this way, as well, these musicians have contributed to a new dynamic professionalism among traditional musicians: Highly-educated, musically versatile, involved in diverse musical projects and constantly travelling; Majorstuen’s fiddlers represent the new folk musicians of the 21st century.