ANYONE FAMILIAR with the traditional Irish music scene in Galway will know accordion player Anders Trabjerg. A native of Jutland in Denmark, he has been playing in Galway for over a decade and has become an integral part of the rich musical tapestry.
Through Anders, other Scandinavian artists have been inspired to play Irish trad and in recent years his good friend Jonas Fromseier has joined him on the city’s session scene.
The duo have just recorded In Ireland, their first album together, and will launch it at their gig in The Crane Bar, Sea Road, on Tuesday at 9pm.
When I met with Anders and Jonas I felt like a dwarf next to these long-haired Scandinavian giants. From a very early age they have shared a keen understanding of each other and sometimes finish each other’s sentences.
The concept of two Danes releasing an album of traditional Irish music may seem strange to some people, however, for Anders and Jonas the music scene in Galway has always been a very cosmopolitan one and they have been readily accepted from the beginning.
“In Galway you can meet people who hardly have any English but you can sit down and play music with them for two hours and have a great session,” says Jonas.
Anders sees a lot of positives in this willingness to welcome people from other countries into the trad scene.
“It’s great because one night you might play with a concertina player from Argentina and the next night it’s a fiddle player from Japan or a box player from China,” he says. “Traditional Irish music has become a very global thing.”
When Anders first arrived in Ireland in the early 1990s he was a novelty on the scene but his love of the music immediately made him welcomed as family.
“I 1996 I was lucky that I got a grant from the Danish government to come and study music in Ireland,” he says. “Everyone I spoke to said Galway was the best place for traditional music in Ireland and so I headed to the west.
“I’d been playing for a good few years in Denmark learning from Danish musicians who had learned from Irish musicians. The scene is very strong for Irish traditional music in Denmark and there are some sessions that have been going for more than 20 years. I really came to Ireland though to experience music from the very source.”
His determination and, some would say bravery, to move to Ireland to totally immerse himself in Irish trad has paid off and he has become an inspiration to many emerging Danish musicians.
“Anders has become a sort of a magnet for Danish people playing Irish traditional music,” says Jonas. “I had just finished my studies in Copenhagen and wasn’t sure what to do next. I came over to visit Anders in Galway for a week and ended up staying three years!”
Anders released his debut solo album Boxed in 2001 and in 2004 released For The Same Reasons with Japanese musician Tak Tamara. Jonas played with lauded Danish-Irish group The Trad Lads from an early age and toured Europe extensively with them.
Both Anders and Jonas have always had a keen interest in the Irish traditional recordings of The Flanagan Brothers and Dan Sullivan’s Shamrock Band from the 1920s and it is this music that provides the inspiration for In Ireland.
“Some of the best recordings were done in the 1920s and the sound quality still stands up today,” says Jonas. “A lot of those recordings were done in America in the ballrooms when there was a hugely vibrant Irish community over there. We try to get the feel of those tunes by using a lot of the original instruments from that time.”
Another big inspiration for Anders and Jonas is the recordings of legendary south County Galway accordion player Joe Cooley - many traditional music enthusiasts have stated that Anders “sounds like Cooley’s reincarnation”.
“There are so many great musicians in Ireland but, from my perspective, the playing of Joe Cooley was the main inspiration for my getting involved in traditional music,” says Anders. “He died in 1973 but the feeling he incorporated into his music lived long after him in his fantastic recordings.”
It is this same feeling and love for music that has inspired both Anders and Jonas to move to Ireland and to play sessions at the drop of a hat. Even spending an afternoon with them you become inspired by their enthusiasm for Irish trad.
Throughout Irish history the phrase ‘The Danes are coming!’ has referred to the marauding Vikings and the bloody Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
“I’ve heard about that battle many times during my time in Ireland” says Anders. However, Jonas quips, “but we’re much nicer than those Danes were…”
Admission to the concert is free. For more information contact The Crane on 091-587419