‘Only at the Fringe,’ you might hear from the uninitiated, shaking their heads at the madcap eccentricities on display daily and greyly on the Mile. Nordic Raga has none of this kind of superficial, attention-seeking oddness. This is a show so niche that it’s honestly hard to think of it existing anywhere other than the Fringe. It has no hidden designs, no lofty aspirations: it is born simply of three musicians’ deep love of music and experimentation. It is also one of the most unabashedly unusual Fringe shows I’ve ever seen.
The trio treat us to some fascinating, quietly amusing explanations of their “cultural exchange”
The collaboration between Carnatic violinist Jyotsna Srikanth and Swedish folk musicians Pär Moberg and Dan Svensson has its origins in the Swedish performers’ desire to improvise. The Malmo-based pair met Srikanth early this year and found the idea of fusing their divergent musical genres too appealing to pass up. The resulting mix of Indian raga and Scandinavian folk music is at times absolutely beguiling.
We can appreciate obvious differences between the musicians as soon as we enter the room: Srikanth is resplendent in colourful Indian garb, while the Swedish musicians sport dark, plain clothing. Srikanth sits on the floor with her violin, the Swedes on stools. Svensson’s percussion is delicate but intricate, Srikanth’s violin sings and Moberg’s impressive multi-instrumentalism spans the recorder-didgeridoo divide. The trio treat us to some fascinating, quietly amusing explanations of their “cultural exchange,” with descriptions of gamaka or Balkan scales adding to our understanding of the musical hybrid and hence our appreciation of it.
The artlessness of Svensson’s improvised scatting in the time-shifting polskas often makes it feel as if we’ve wandered in on something intensely private, almost cult-like. Srikanth even has us chanting along to one raga. The greatest pleasure of the show, though, is in hearing the rigid rules of specific musical forms being peeled away. This innovative collaboration – or perhaps, compromise – is World music in its truest sense.