Swedish music isn’t only Robyn, the Hives, and Peter Björn and John. During the recent APAP conference in New York (a global performing arts conference), Swedish Music presented a showcase with nine different artists. One of them, the group that opened the showcase, was Irmelin. A trio of women singing (mostly) old Swedish folk music unaccompanied by any instrument, might sound slight, but when Eva Rune, Karin Ericsson Back and Maria Misgeld take tone, people listen. Their clear voices interweave and soar in simple, melancholy harmonies, of the kind that makes your heart flutter—no instruments are needed. The texts are often longing in nature.
“We had a great reception,” says Eva about the group’s participation at the APAP conference, which took place at the Hilton Hotel. “I think oftentimes we get a little deaf when it comes to our own music, we are so used to it that we don’t know what it sounds like to fresh ears.”
Karin adds, “I think it’s unique to have three strong women on stage, and nothing else.”
Irmelin was founded in 1999, and has since released two CDs, toured in Scandinavia, Europe and Asia, performed for children’s shows, and sung in theater, on radio, film and television. The group was recently awarded a grant from the Swedish Arts Council. Although they love Swedish folk music, the women of Irmelin don’t want to put any limits on their music. Their latest effort includes songs from the entire North Sea area.
“It would feel very odd to limit ourselves geographically,” Eva explains. “We are not a museum piece, you know?”
Maria nods.“I think we are constantly on the look-out, constantly listening for new material,” she says. “And when we find something, a song that may be for us—since we always do our own arrangements—it somehow ends up having an Irmelin sound to it.”
Their influences are many and varied: everything from Tori Amos to music from South Africa and American swing jazz. Singing in English of course also makes them an easier sell on the international music scene.
“And we have to try the international scene,” says Karin eagerly.
New York whet their appetite, and they laugh and say that a U.S. tour would be just the thing.
“But we also hope to be able to record our third album this year,” Maria says. “We have the material, the North Sea Stories material.”
And I dare you to listen to a song like “Darling now the day is ending” (a lullaby from Shetland) without getting goose bumps. Listen to a clip from this and other songs on Irmelin’s website.

The APAP/NYC conference is one of the world’s largest fairs promoting performing arts, it took place January 6-10 at the Hilton Hotel in New York City. The music presented ranged from folk to electronica. Swedish Music presented nine artists: Irmelin, Skaran, Vacuum, Cecilia Persson, Fredrik Kronkvist Quartet, Haci Tekbilek, Midaircondo feat. Michala Ostergaard-Nielsen, Josef & Erika, and There Are No More Four Seasons.