Saturday, September 10, 2011

Paul Dahlin and His Grandfathers Swedish Music.

Paul Dahlin is probably the most famous fiddler in town, but you may not have heard of him, unless you are Swedish or pay close attention to the arts. He was a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow in 1996, performed at some of the country's biggest folk festivals and put out recordings on prominent folk labels, such as Rounder. His story is well-documented on his website, where you can also buy his CD's. I felt really lucky to get to interview Paul for this project.

( Sorry about the darkness and quietness in this video. It was a rather intimate setting).
On my way to interview Paul, the first thing I noticed was how tranquil and peaceful his neighborhood in south Minneapolis felt. Upon entering, I noticed his makeshift woodshop in his living room. The first thing I thought of was how my Swedish stepfather would have felt very welcomed by this sight. That thought was reinforced later when I heard the story his family told him about going to America" You are going to America to work, not to play fiddle".

Luckily for us, he did come to play fiddle and taught his children, who taught the next generation, who taught the younger generation who are alive right now. Four generations of their family have fiddled here in Minnesota. I love the story about how Paul's son Daniel still goes to play with Paul's uncle Bruce and that Daniel is the one who really embraces the old tunes (along with writing some new ones).

This project of mine started with the questions as to where all the fiddlers went to. In my interview with Paul you hear about one great place they went to. Every Friday night they congregated at --- of Cedar and had a dinner and a lively dance. When Paul was describing it, I swear I was right there. I didn't remember until after I left Paul's house that my stepfather pointed out that old Swedish hall as we passed by there years ago.

Even though the traditions are firmly entrenched in his son, he uses the word "fragile" to describe the music's place in modern society. Thankfully, Paul and his family has been committed to teaching this music to hundreds of folks over the years through his partnership with the American Swedish Institute. This is one Minnesotan fiddle tradition that is properly preserved and nurtured.

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