FolkWorld Issue 40 11/2009; Article by Morten Alfred Høirup (Translation by Rod Sinclair)


På Dansk

Henrik Jansberg
a significant young Danish fiddler with a blast of a band

In his early 30s, Henrik Jansberg is one of the young lions of the new pride of Danish folk fiddlers. His band, Jansberg Band, plays mainly acoustic music composed by Henrik himself, and he already has several albums to his credit. Henrik Jansberg has won Danish Music Awards, for Danish Debut Album of the Year and Traditional Danish Folk Artist of the Year.

From Juelsminde on the east coast of Jutland, Henrik has played violin since he was 7. His parents were active folk dancers, so Henrik had the music, and in particular dance music, around him from the start.

Henrik Jansberg

Henrik Jansberg @ FolkWorld: FW #30, #35

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He spent his childhood and early youth surrounded by traditional Danish folk music, on the Århus folk scene, at the East Jutland Folk Dance Festival and at Roskilde Folk Dance Festival.

“Some debuts are calculated for success” - Sing Out!, Chris Nickson

In 2000, Henrik matriculates at the folk department of the Carl Nielsen Academy of Music Odense (Det Fynske Musikkonservatorium), graduating in 2004, the year he releases his first album, Signatur. With his band or solo, Henrik Jansberg has performed and given workshops internationally: in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Scotland, Japan, Taiwan and USA.

The New Music and the Tradition

Henrik Jansberg was born into the Danish folk music tradition, he knows his tunes and dances like the back of his hand. What is remarkable is that from the word go he has made his name as a composer and innovator within the tradition. That is not the way these things usually work in traditional Danish folk music circles. Henrik describes his mode of operation, saying that it is simple; he calls it “Instrument + Theme”:

“What it means is that I toy around with a theme on the instrument - usually violin but occasionally also viola, mandolin, mandola, piano or guitar. Sometimes I write the theme down, sometimes I make a recording. It matures and a B, perhaps a C part, crop up. When I have a whole tune, I test it with other musicians and that’s where the arrangement is shaped. For me, my tradition is right there in everything I have ever composed. I have often gone in to a certain polka form or a circle dance form and created new tunes to those dances. I have also tried making variations on a tune until the original is no longer recognisable. Another tradition I have used is to make suites of melodies – perhaps composing a new tune then combining it with a traditional melody.”

How important for you is the teaching of traditional music? “I feel that it is extremely important to pass on your knowledge of the tradition. The more good traditional players who hand on their skills, the more subtle and refined the music will become. My particular specialities, the ones I give on, are naturally not the same as other players’. In the music schools, my main aim is to convey my enthusiasm for the music and to motivate the youngsters. The bit about the tradition comes later, when they are no longer strangers to their instruments and the interest in learning has begun to show in my pupils. I have taken my pupils out to play for dancing: that is often an open sesame – people can dance to my music! That often takes the biscuit.”

The Band

“Jansberg Band impressed the crowd and was definitely the most humorous act of the night” - Shetland News, Gawin Morgan.

In recent years, Henrik Jansberg has been working intensively with his band, Jansberg Band, which numbers some of the most distinguished Danish folk musicians of his generation. They tour and perform at festivals in Denmark and abroad. Henrik Jansberg Band In 2008, they were a hit at the Shetland Folk Festival, and since they had a camera crew with them in Shetland, we will see the result in the course of 2009 in the form of a short documentary film about a young Danish band and their experiences on a little archipelago in the North Atlantic.

Henrik Jansberg: “Jansberg Band was originally quite simply the musicians who worked with me on the first album, Signatur. Since then there have been some changes, but the basis is still the same. Now after recording Omnivor Jansberg Band is Rasmus Zeeberg (guitar, mandolin), Rasmus Brylle (percussion), Steffan Sørensen (bass, violin) and Perry Stenbäck (guitar, mandolin & nyckel harp) plus myself on fiddle, of course. The distribution of roles is now in place, and that means that we can begin to play more freely, without losing the tightness, it goes without saying. I have always dreamed of having a super-talented band that could fuse the straight, traditional sound with a more rock feeling, keeping to acoustic instruments.”

What's the difference for you between performing with the band and working solo? “Solo, I am more traditional, often playing for dancing. The solo aspect lies in the more direct contact with the dancers via the music, small variations in melody and timing. I have also worked solo in the studio, with Danish and Faroese songwriters like Peter Abrahamsen and Stanley Samuelsen. What is needed then is the ability to hear precisely what the song requires, and add it in the right amount at the right time. Working with the band calls for artistic effects on a larger scale: breaks, powerful dynamics, the sounds of the different instruments, solos and riffs. I love working on all these levels, they challenge me and I learn from them. I have got to the point where I believe in my own playing; standing alone on a stage, you are on the spot in a different way than if you also have to communicate with a band.

Morten Alfred Hoirup
Morten Alfred Høirup (*1961) is a Danish musician, composer and music journalist. He has been playing the guitar and singing in the Danish duo Haugaard & Høirup, and is currently working freelance for Danish Roots.,
Henrik Jansberg and his band are one of young Danish folk music’s most potent projects and it is not by accident that the band appeals to a younger audience in Denmark. In the coming years Jansberg Band will be on tour both in Denmark and internationally, but until you can hear them live at a music venue or festival near you, you can hear them and learn more about them, on YouTube and MySpace or at one of the links above.

Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Henrik Jansberg (from website); (3) Morten Alfred Høirup (by The Mollis).

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