Even after a quarter century as front figure in the Balkan jazz orchestra Farmers Market, Stian Carstensen is convinced he has more to learn. «The downtime where people read the Qur’an, celebrety magazines and solve Sudoku, I try to learn how to play new instruments,» he recently told the Norwegian periodical Jazznytt.
As far as we know, the 45-year-old masters banjo, flute, guitar, violin, kaval, gaida, and – gasp! – pedal steel, as well as the instrument his father taught him: the accordion.
In that sense, he is like an explorer. But rather than jumping onboard a (space) ship to Antarctica, the Moon or Jupiter, his field is the hunt for every culture’s deepest secret. Through Farmers Market, which was founded when they were students, Carstensen & co. has allied themselves with Indian high castes, west Norwegian farmers, Bulgarian Roma people and bluegrass cultists from the Appalachians.
It’s possibly this endless hunger for musical wisdom that is to blame for the quintet being exceptionally vital 25 years into their career. Case in point: Their last release thus far – «Slav to the Rhythm» (2012), which, like its predecessor cleverly plays with Soviet aesthetics – got ecstatic reviews in their homecountry.
During this year’s festival, Farmers Market will perform with Minko Illev on clarinet and Giani Lincan on cimbalom, a Hungarian and lush cousin of the stringed instrument dulcimer. Good luck with finding better partners for a Balkan jazz jubilee.
Text: Kim Klev