There's a popular association between Scotland and bagpipes, but actually there are long bagpipe traditions all over the world, and Scotland is a relative late-comer. But, while there are Swedish bagpipes, there’s no evidence of a bagpipe tradition in Norway. Not to say they were never there, though, and as Tellef Kvifte observes, the ringing sympathetic strings and double-stopping technique of Norway’s Hardanger fiddle (hardingfele), a much younger instrument than bagpipes, create something of a drone effect.
“So,” says Kvifte, “in the 1990s, I decided that the bagpipe had to be the solution for a wind instrument that could be used for Hardanger fiddle tunes.” And what he says, and plays, is worth listening to; as a musicologist, multi-instrumentalist and teacher (he’s Emeritus Professor in the Department of Traditional Arts and Traditional Culture at the University of South-Eastern Norway, but he’s no stiff academic), for decades he’s been a significant influence on the many younger musicians in the Norwegian traditional music scene.
These recordings, of song melodies and hardingfele tunes, are actually from 1995-6, so they precede 2015’s first volume of The Norwegian Bagpipe (?). In this set he plays a bellows-blown bagpipe, made by in Sweden by German-born maker Alban Faust and based on a French bagpipe, with a two-bladed reed in its chanter (as have many other bagpipes, but unlike rather the single-reed of the Swedish sackpipa chanter).
The prompt to return to them was an email to Kvifte from musician (and fellow Rootsworld writer) Mike Adcock, who recorded a couple of the tracks back in 1995 and contributes to the album’s notes. It’s entirely solo bagpipe, but it’s a mellow sound, without the stridency and tight, complex grace-noting of Scotland’s Great Highland Bagpipe, in a good, varied set of tunes to which the bagpipe brings a new focus and perspective.
Not on the album, a piece recorded by Lake Vegår in Norway.
And now, perhaps some gajdy from Moravia?