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Fjarill

Singer & Songwriter, World
  • Aino Löwenmark
    Piano, vocals
  • Hanmari Spiegel
    violin, guitar, vocals
  • + Band ( Quartett auf Anfrage)
Booking-territory: Germany, Austria, Schwitzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg

What power does the spoken word unfold? What magic is created when we move between languages and time? And what thoughts and feelings come when text and music combine? Fjarill answer all these questions on their ninth album “Poësi” and in their musical-literary program.

Their ninth album “Poësi” combines deeply sad and dreamlike poetry by Nelly Sachs and Pär Lagerkvist with their very own multi-layered sound world between folk, pop, jazz and classical music. The Swedish singer and pianist Aino Löwenmark, together with the South African violinist Hanmari Spiegel, walks so artfully between then and now, until an absolutely timeless magic emerges. Poetry, that is.

After the release of their new album “Poësi”, the Hamburg duo Fjarill has worked out a wonderful, new musical-literary program with actor Andreas Grötzinger.

No matter in which form you may experience “Poësi” – whether as a classical concert or with a reading – it will be a magical moment.

biography

The Swedish singer and pianist Aino Löwenmark and the South African violinist Hanmari Spiegel met in Hamburg in 2004 to delight people with their very own sound between folk, pop, jazz and classical music from then on. Fjarill have been part of the German music scene for more than 17 years, although they originally come from Sweden and South Africa. They have already sold out both the Fabrik and the Elbphilharmonie and tour every year (D / AT / SWE). Two powerfully luminous and delicately drifting voices, using different languages – in English, German, Swedish and Afrikaans – to create a universal warmth. A poetic border crossing.

Sometimes in life it just fits. Humanly, musically, atmospherically. “Aino’s singing touched something very deep inside me at the time,” Hanmari Spiegel recalls of her first encounter with the Swedish singer and pianist. “There was an honesty and clarity that rang through that I knew and loved from my native South Africa.” And when a few musicians were needed for a Christmas bazaar shortly thereafter, the fan and the artist suddenly became a duo. “That was really fun, we just improvised, and yet it was the same as in a big, familiar river…” Which is surprising at first: after all, one grew up on a farm near Dalarna in the far north, while the other spent her childhood 12,000 kilometers away on a small farm near Pretoria. Until one day, love took them both to the Elbe and they ran into each other at that Christmas bazaar… That was in 2004 – today, as the duo Fjarill, the smart and pretty women from Hamburg float together on a big, unreal, beautiful musical wave that has long since carried them beyond Germany’s borders: next February, even to South Africa. Because even if the two come from different ends of the world, “we are united by our love of beautiful harmonies and sincere feelings in our music”,
Since then, they have been musically inseparable. “We see Fjarill as a tree that has grown, becoming more stable every year” say the two. Perhaps because one intuitively knows where the other will go in terms of harmony and melody in the next moment – and so then the songs flow along as if in a great, long flow of sound, interrupted only by the listening moments of silence.
Yes, those who want to follow their poetic-melancholic sound paths need time and leisure. Because “especially when we play live, we have long moments of silence,” says Aino Löwenmark. And, small wonder, in an increasingly hectic and noisy world: the audience is also very quiet in these concert moments. “There is a tremendous longing for silence,” says her South African colleague. “We hear that from our audience again and again – which of course makes us very happy.”

This silence, or rather the courage to endure this silence, is one of the secrets of the fascination of Fjarill’s music: listening for the sounds of others, “listening very closely: What is she doing right now?” the violinist explains. “Where is the piece going? Who’s setting the next note?” It’s a game of silence as much as improvisation that continues to fascinate her concert audiences and grow her songs.
Wonderful sounds that move in timeless spheres between chamber music folk and world music pop with ethnic as well as jazz sprinkles – and yet take new sound paths at every concert. Especially when the duo embarks on a journey without a band, such as on their “Live in Hamburg” album released in 2012: “As a duo, we are completely free,” says Hanmari.
But the Fjarills have also made this boundless freedom sound on their other eight CD recordings to date, “Stark,” “Pilgrim,” “Livet,” “Tiden,” “Stilla Tyd,” “Kom Hem,” “Midsommar” and now “POËSI” – which earned them both the Global Ruth (2011) and the Creole World Music Prize (2013): Modern folk-pop of intense simplicity that flows along wonderfully relaxed, sometimes even as if breathed, lightly, almost floatingly accompanied by cello, trumpet, lap steel, horn, guitar or accordion alongside piano and violin. And even when they allow a drummer like Tingvall Trio drummer Jürgen Spiegel to take up his sticks, the rhythmic corset at no point restricts the poetic-melancholic sound paths: The duo simply takes the time to search for calm and quiet moments.
Whereby even their wistful moods always have a hopeful ray of sunshine. “I couldn’t make music any other way,” says Aino. After all, “music is like life”. And so not only her subtle play with major and minor (“that’s typically Swedish, this change of mood in one and the same piece”) can develop wonderfully anew again and again, but also that with Löwenmark’s chest and head voice, which brings with it a wonderfully warm and fragile sound. A singing that leaves no one untouched – and that, although hardly anyone in this country understands the lyrics about life and love, nature, transience or the Hamburg rain, but the Swede sings in her native language.
“If you don’t understand the lyrics, your heart opens much more to the music.” Fjarill is just not about being understood, but being felt. Or to put it with a line from their song “Luister”: “If you really want to listen you will discover the secret, you might even hear the beat of a butterfly’s wings also fitting to the band’s name Fjarill (butterfly in Swedish).
After great demand for their songs, their songbook was released in 2013.
And no matter whether in Germany or Sweden, South Africa, Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg or Switzerland: when the two ask their audience to join in the eponymous refrain in the South African peace hymn “Ukuthula” in concert, an enchanting euphony arises from it that is simply one big happiness for all the driven ones of this music world. Because growing doesn’t always have to mean growth and certainly not growing up.

press

How does art stay alive? By reading, listening and contemplating it again and again. By words that were written a long time ago resonating very directly within us. And it is particularly gratifying when art continues to write itself. When past works inspire new ones. In this respect, it is a wonderfully moving event how the Hamburg singer-songwriter duo Fjarill has now set poems by Nelly Sachs and Pär Lagerkvist to music. Their ninth album “Poësi” combines deeply sad and dreamlike poetry with their very own multi-layered sound world between folk, pop, jazz and classical music. The Swedish singer and pianist Aino Löwenmark, together with the South African violinist Hanmari Spiegel, walks so artfully between then and now until an absolutely timeless magic emerges. Poetry, that is.

Both Nelly Sachs and Pär Lagerkvist were born in 1891. And both received the Nobel Prize for Literature in the middle of the 20th century. But beyond these biographical similarities, it is the poetic spirit that fascinates Fjarill. “Both deal with comparable themes: Why do we exist on this earth? What strength do we develop in weak moments? Do we live more intensely in the face of death?” says Aino Löwenmark. “These are questions that we are once again more concerned with in the Corona period.” To illustrate the relationship between Sachs and Lagerkvist in terms of content, the two poets’ names grow together to form the trunk of a tree in the album’s artwork. A base from which Fjarill’s songs sprout like enchanted branches.

While the poetry of the Swede Lagerkvist can already be experienced on the previous album “Midsommar”, Fjarill has newly discovered the poems of Nelly Sachs. “Her texts are more enigmatic. In part, they were written in delirium in a mental hospital. I’m impressed by how she translated her grief into art,” says Hanmari Spiegel. Nelly Sachs had begun to deal with her Jewish origins during the Nazi dictatorship. In 1940, she fled Berlin for Stockholm, where she not only lived as a poet but also translated Swedish works into German, including those by Pär Lagerkvist. “We have chosen poems by her in which a glimmer of hope can be glimpsed,” Aino Löwenmark tells us. “Even more light is then added with the poetry of Pär Lagerkvist.

In the face of the pandemic, the musicians want to donate a special measure of strength and courage with their album. How solidly the fans support the work of Fjarill was impressively demonstrated by the crowdfunding for “Poësi”. The targeted 15,000 euros were exceeded by a whopping 2000 euros. As a thank you, among other things, singing workshops could be purchased, which Fjarill gives at Walden Studio on the green outskirts of Hamburg. “We are enormously grateful for the great trust that so many people have placed in us for years,” says Hanmari Spiegel. Since 2004, the charismatic duo has earned a steadily growing audience from South Africa to Sweden. Their performances charge concert halls and outdoor festivals, clubs and churches with a unique collective energy. Until everyone present is filled and electrified with sensitivity and euphoria.

The new sounds that Fjarill found to the old poems developed quite intuitively. Depending on what vibration the words triggered in the musicians. The opening number “Ljus från utslocknande stjärnor” (“Light from extinguished stars”) tells of how ideas come and go. Piano and violin gently pave the way for the verses. A search and wonder. “Not every creative impulse manifests itself, some things can flow by,” Aino Löwenmark explains. “We don’t have to bring all processes to a heady conclusion.” Art can’t be forced. “Nelly Sachs’ texts have been working in me for a long time. All of a sudden there’s an opening and the music comes in,” says Hanmari Spiegel. The transparent compositions often serve as a balance to the melancholy of the poetry, such as in “So rann ich aus dem Wort. A finely tuned balance.

The free-breathing atmosphere that pervades “Poësi” was carefully captured by Hamburg-based producer Stephan Gade. “Stephan is a relaxed person whom we have known for more than 15 years. Working with him felt like an extension of our creativity,” says Aino Löwenmark. “Because of Corona, we have been sending our material back and forth digitally a lot. That has worked very well,” explains Hanmari Spiegel. Stephan Gade contributed bass, guitar and percussion to the recordings. And other loyal companions also contributed to the album, such as musicians Jürgen Spiegel and Stefan Stoppok. Actor Andreas Grötzinger, on the other hand, recites the poem “In der blauen Ferne” in a dark, warm voice. What is new is that Fjarill has expanded its instrumentation. Thus Hanmari Spiegel can be heard on the synthesizer for the first time, which dynamically enriches the sound of the duo.

With the poems by Nelly Sachs, German also enters Fjarill’s linguistic cosmos. When Aino Löwenmark sings the poem “Hier nehme ich euch gefangen / ihr Worte” (Here I take you captive / you words), an obstinate as well as delicate poetry unfolds through her Swedish accent. She recorded the song over and over again for two months until articulation and emotion felt coherent. Just as all of the 13 songs have developed a personality all their own. There is the lilting “Önskevisa” (“Wish Song”), which celebrates democracy with a wild folk dance. Or the sustained “Vår är himmeln” (“Ours is the Sky”), which praises vulnerability. “We become soft of fate the older we are. The realization that everything is fragile makes us humble and grateful,” says Aino Löwenmark. “This text by Pär Lagerkvist is so beautiful and confident, it could be a kind of Our Father for a new religion,” says Hanmari Spiegel.

There is a healing and uplifting quality to the way Fjarill explores human soul states on “Poësi. How the musicians plunge courageously into those states that seem to lie between worlds. How voices and sounds complement each other layer by layer. And how, at the same time, there is a lot of room for their own thoughts. With the tension-laden rhythm of “Glömma Glömma”, anger and frustration can be channeled. And with Lagerkvist’s well-known poem “Det är vackrast när det skymmer” the listeners are gently led into the twilight at the end of the album. The song celebrates an all-encompassing love that we can feel all to ourselves. What a fitting and comforting message at this special time.

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