The Norwegian town of Forde is located, not surprisingly, on a fjord. Since fjords are almost as common as herring in Norway, the town's contiguity to a one does not distinguish it as an aberrant hamlet in this mostly homogenous nation. Barring geography and ichthyology, it does stand out as a unique Norwegian community in that it hosts a yearly international folk music festival. Since its inception in 1990, the Forde International Music Festival -- as it is known among English speakers -- has had over 300 bands and over 2000 artists grace its Scandinavian stage. On the Helio release Forde: Internasjonale Folkmusikkfestival a variegated musical slice, cut from performances between 1990 and 1998, is heard. The mellifluously gliding Phong Lan from Vietnam, the pan-piping Rumillajta from Bolivia, the nimble drumming Al-Tannoura from Egypt, and the Bolero singing Vieja Trova Santiaguera from Cuba appear along side of a substantial European roster of folk acts from such countries as Hungary, Ireland, Albania, Georgia, Spain, Corsica, Poland, and -- of course -- Norway. By and large, the CD reflects the mostly European bent of the festival: over half of the tracks are European acts while five of these are specifically Norwegian.
One of the most striking of the CD's 23 tracks may be Ante Mikkel Gaup's vocal recitation. An indigenous Sami from Scandinavia's northern regions, Ante Mikkel Gaup presents a solo song that sounds part Sioux Indian and part Tuvan. The audience reacts to the song with something that sounds like nervous laughter. Could it be that the dominant Norwegian audience is uncomfortable with the Sami song because it reminds them of the way they have mistreated these native peoples? Whatever the reasoning behind the squirming cackles, this CD is first rate. The performers are all exceptional and even the quality of the recordings (which were engineered by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) is of an impeccable audio quality.