Arts, Culture & Media

Swedish Jam Session: Väsen Plays The World

Band members Olov Johansson and Mikael Marin started playing music together when they were teenagers, learning traditional tunes from older musicians in Sweden's Uppland region. In 1989, Roger Tallroth joined them, and Väsen was born.

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Listen to the Story.

Front and center in the band's music is the nyckelharpa, played by Johansson (who says the best approximation of his last name is "you want some").

The instrument dates back to the 14th century, if not earlier. It looks a bit like a long skinny fiddle with keys on one side.

"It's a very resonating instrument, full of many sympathetic strings ringing along," says Johansson. "It's a kind of sound with an edge to it, a sparkle of overtones when you're playing."

Väsen visited The World's Boston studio to play some tunes and chat with Marco Werman — whom they'd last met in a Stockholm sauna about a decade ago (it was a publicity event!). They're currently on a short US tour.

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    Swedish Group Väsen (Photo: Väsen)

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    Olov Johansson with the nyckelharpa (Photo: Carol Zall)

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    Olov Johansson with the nyckelharpa (Photo: Carol Zall)