Kolonien (Latin: Colonia) - “The cultivator and explorer of new grounds, a place to make things grow.”
Kolonien is one of the most prominent bands in the new wave of Nordic folk. The four members grew up hearing and playing traditional folk music and have in one way or another always played together. Raised in and around Järna, a community south of Stockholm that is known as a back-to-the-land destination for hippies, progressives and people seeking an alternative lifestyle, Kolonien is made up of brothers Erik and Arvid Rask, their cousin Anna Möller and their childhood neighbor, and “brother from another mother,” Mischa Grind.
As teenagers they started writing their own songs and left their countryside home to travel and perform as protest singers in the Swedish green movement. In 2010 they were invited to perform at a festival in Tanzania, and it was there that they officially formed the band Kolonien. The festival was out of electricity for almost a week which turned out to be the perfect conditions for songwriting. When they returned back home, they brought with them the songs for their first full length album.
In 2012 Kolonien released their debut album Clockwise, for which they were awarded “Newcomer of the Year” at the Swedish Folk and World Music Awards earning the following words of praise from the organization: "Kolonien creates its own world on the folk music scene. A generous world of present and past times, of playfulness and seriousness. Kolonien broke through this year and they want more with their music than just to tell a story. This group takes a stance."
The following years were busy with tours in both Scandinavia and abroad. They also travelled as part of several cultural exchange projects to Palestine/Israel, Cyprus, Croatia and across Scandinavia. In 2013 they released an EP and received a grant from the Swedish Arts Council to lead a project bringing fourteen musicians from all over the world to Sweden to create a global music big band and festival in the center of Stockholm. The event was a huge success, and the project became a permanent band itself called Världens Band that has since toured regularly in Scandinavia and the UK.
Kolonien’s second album, Drömmarnas Land, released in 2015, was written during a year of parliamentary elections in Sweden and the album focused on the political power inherent in the act of dreaming, urging all of us to continue to think big. Kolonien finished an ambitious release tour with an opening concert at the prestigious Stockholm Folk Festival. They were joined on stage by artists from a wide range of genres, including Swedish jazz singer Rigmor Gustafsson, global fusion star (and Anna’s father) Ale Möller, pop star Tomas Ledin, reggae artist Syster Sol, American blues singer Eric Bibb, and the Scottish band RURA. That same year Kolonien was selected for an official showcase at the Finnish folk music expo Folklandia.
In 2018 the band took important first steps into the international world music scene when they were selected for numerous official showcases at prominent industry conferences in the US and Canada. As a result, they frequently tour the folk music circuits in North America and are steadily building a following around the world. In 2020 and 2021 Kolonien celebrated ten years as a band by recording their third album, Till Skogen, a collaboration with US-based record label Cumbancha that was released on April 22, 2022.
ABOUT THE BAND MEMBERS
I was born in Falun and even though I moved from there to the Stockholm archipelago at an early age, I have always had a strong connection to Dalarna, not least for the region's exciting and lively relationship to traditional music.
I grew up in the archipelago city of Vaxholm, where we had music at home around the kitchen table with my musician father Ale Möller and his many exciting playmates who often came to visit. I often got the chance to go on long tours and the strongest impressions were probably those and the experiences I got from home, even if the Swedish Kulturskola (where kids can learn music, dancing, theater and all things culture for a very subsidized price) helped a lot. In my late teens, however, it was football that took up most of my time, but two torn cruciate ligaments eventually opened the door for the music in my life.
Studying at Södra Latin’s music program and later studies at the Stockholm Academy of Music for reputable fiddlers such as Ellika Frisell and Sven Ahlbäck have deepened my knowledge of Nordic folk music. The world music camp Ethno with young musicians from all over the world, and many inspiring musical meetings abroad, has helped me discover the activist potential of music as a tool for social change - a perspective that gives meaning to, and runs through, all my work.
I’ve lived in Gothenburg on the Swedish west coast with my family for seven years. I would call my upbringing alternative. I ate organic and almost exclusively vegetarian, attended a Waldorf school, practiced alternative medicine and home birth, lived in a rural house that dad built himself and constantly expanded. Music, specifically folk music, was a big part of growing up. We often went to fiddlers’ meetings and folk music festivals where my father and uncle Ale (Möller) played and we always sang a lot in the family and at school. I have clear childhood memories of slowly falling asleep in a corner of the dance floor in some barn to the sound of dancing feet and playful violin playing.
My first and biggest passion in life has always been nature in general and birds in particular. As a ten-year-old, I became interested in birds, an interest that has since grown and expanded to plants, butterflies, beetles, etc. In 2017, I became a world champion in bird watching (yes, there is such a thing) after spending a whole year watching birds in a total of thirty-two countries in our biological zone: Western Palearctic.
I only really discovered music as a teenager when my big brother Arvid started playing guitar, mostly Dylan and similar stuff that my dad had on LP. Arvid wanted me to play bass but we didn’t have a bass at home, so I had to get by on a nylon string guitar. Together with Mischa, our neighbor, we started exploring music and writing our own songs, which later became the band Kolonien when cousin Anna joined. I went to a high school in Södertälje with a focus on music, but I would still describe myself as mostly self-taught. I have found my own special variant on playing the nylon string guitar as a bass, just as when I started but now with different octave and effect pedals.
The world music camp Ethno in Rättvik was a life-changing experience. The discovery that folk music from all parts of the world more or less speaks the same language, that through music we are able to bridge contradictions between people and cultures and see what we have in common. Since then, I have constantly worked to enable such meetings and collaborations; Kolonien’s multinational big band project Värdens Band, various folk music clubs and festivals and in recent years as a producer for the Ethnolägret in Rättvik. For me, music is as much creative and personal development as a tool to express and deal with things that I think are important in life and society, which can probably be summed up in one word: diversity, both biological and social
Growing up, music did not attract me at all, even though it was constantly served to me on a silver platter by parents and relatives who played. The exception was singing, preferably choir singing, which I appreciated participating in.
Instead, my main interest was politics and live role-playing, as well as everything that had to do with the Middle Ages. I saw a clear path ahead of me as a history teacher or archaeologist with acting as a hobby.
However, all this changed at a specific moment. I was digging through stuff out in the storeroom when I found dad’s vinyl collection. I turned on the stereo and put on the first record I found, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan which included the song “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” It felt like an explosion in my head. I just had to learn how to play like that!
A new world had opened up, and I quickly realized that I would probably still benefit from all the music I had marinated in as a child. Especially folk music, which became one of the big areas of interest for me. Shortly afterwards I started playing with my brother on the sofa at home, our neighbor hooked up with his djembe drum and later our cousin Anna joined in with her violin. This became the band Kolonien, which in various constellations formed the basis of my musical career and took me to festival stages all over the world.
I studied at the Gothenburg Academy of Music between 2014-2016 and now live in a house in Järna with my two sons and my partner. I write songs and film music, arrange concerts and festivals and tour with Kolonien.
I am a musician and composer and I draw my musical inspiration from the natural world and that which I find genuine in my surroundings.
I started playing piano and drums as a child. When I turned twelve, the farm I grew up on was visited by a man named Bambalai. Bambalai came from Gambia and always had twelve djembe drums with him. He lit a flame in me that has not yet been extinguished - the love for the infinitely creative current of music. Now, almost seventeen years later, percussion is still what I love to do most of all.
Historical ecclesiastical bans on percussion in Sweden have created a gap in the use of rhythmic instruments in our traditional folk music. The natural way to introduce it back into our music has been to borrow instruments and ways of playing from other countries and cultures. This process is relatively young and has been going on for about fifty years, and when I was growing up, I made a similar journey. I started borrowing both instruments and playing styles from other traditions and in 2017 I decided to embark on a big journey, examining our Swedish percussion heritage in relation to other countries by traveling to places where I myself have borrowed instruments from. I chose to visit several teachers in a total of eight different countries: Paby Sow Cissokho in Senegal, Sebastian Notini and Giba Conceicáo in Brazil, Tomas “El Panga” Ramos in Cuba, Rubem Dantas and Miguel Rodrigues in Spain, Mitko Popov and Asen Musov in Bulgaria, Hakan Kaya and Tarik Aslan in Turkey, Kurumaya Masaaki in Japan and Charu Hariharan and Sukhad Munde in India.