Salamander

Salamander is a trio based in Gothenburg, Sweden, which plays Jewish folk music - mostly from the Sephardic tradition, mixed with Early music from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque eras performed in a "folkified" style. Occasionally other types of folk music are thrown into the mix as well (Greek Rebetika music and Italian folk songs to name but a few examples), but the group's main focus is on Jewish folk music.

The salamander, to whom the band owes its name, is considered a fire spirit in ancient and medieval symbologies and mystery traditions – one of the four elemental spirits. The Salamander is, among other things, the embodiment of courage and resourcefulness.


History

Salamander was founded in the autumn of 2010. Marita Johansson (vocals and guitar) and Jonas Liljeström (fiddle, vocals and percussion) were the original members, and the melodeonist, mandolinist and vocalist David Odlöw joined the group in the summer of 2011. Since then, they have been developing their repertory and appearing locally in various venues on the Swedish West Coast and in Stockholm, and now they are ready to go further afield.

David Odlöw left the Salamander due to time constraints in 2017, and was replaced temporarily by Kristofer Yffén. As of January 2018, Emil Pernblad is a permanent member of the group.

In the spring of 2014 Salamander's debut album was released to critical acclaim in various Swedish media, and a new album entitled "Como La Rosa" was released in May 2018. "Como La Rosa" was financed in full by a grant from the Katz Jewish Culture Foundation; the album has received enthusiastic reviews in both Swedish and international music magazines, and it has been played on radio stations in the USA, Latin America, Spain, Greece, Australia and Germany, as well as in Scandinavia.

In 2019, Salamander received another grant from the Katz Jewish Culture Foundation which is intended to finance a concert tour in Andalusia in 2021.

The members

Marita Johansson (vocals and guitar) is Salamander's founding member and initiator. She has 25 years of experience of singing folk songs, including Roma/Gypsy songs from Russia and Eastern Europe - which she performs with fiddler Jonas Liljeström and flamenco guitarist Emil Pernblad in Salamander's parallel group Krilja - as well as songs from the Jewish and Greek folk music traditions and much more besides. She has studied music and song privately and has also learned various languages in order to correctly interpret the lyrics of the songs in her repertory, including several dialects of Romanes as well as Russian.

Jonas Liljeström (fiddle, ghatam and vocals) started playing the fiddle on a professional level in 1990. He has played in bands with widely different musical orientations over the years, and also participated in the organising of the annual Irish cultural festival ”Gothenburg Irish Festival” in the late 1990s. He is proficient in many different musical styles, including Nordic, British and Irish folk music, jazz, blues, bluegrass, klezmer and various kinds of East European folk music. Jonas is also a PhD student of ethnomusicology at Gothenburg University. Jonas has partly Jewish ancestry and has had a strong interest in Jewish culture and history since childhood.

Emil Pernblad (Irish bouzouki and guitar) is known mostly as one of Sweden's leading flamenco musicians, but he has also delved into Celtic and Arabic traditional music as well as Latin American music and jazz during his long career. He has also recorded and produced Salamander's debut album as well as the group's second album "Como La Rosa" where he features as a guest musician on a few songs. Since the Spring of 2018, Emil is a permanent member of Salamander.

Reviews for Salamander:

“A feeling of magical intensity…A timeless record to take pleasure in for a thousand and one nights.”
(Bengt Edqvist, Lira Music Magazine)

"...A clear tone of authenticity. If somebody had recorded these songs three hundred years ago, , or when they were created, they would probably have been sung exactly like this." (Bengt Edqvist, Lira Music Magazine)

Feedback for Salamander:
"The groups Salamander and Krilja in combination played beautiful and well performed Romani and Jewish folk music during Victory and Peace Day celebration in Gothenburg Cathedral on the 8th of May 2018. The concert was highly appreciated by audience and staff alike, and I warmly recommend these groups to other concert organizers."
/ Cathedral Chaplain Jan-Olof Arkstedt Broberg, Gothenburg, Sweden, May 20 2018

"... We're very much satisfied with you - you were professional, flexible and skilled musicians. We can only hope that more people discover you. Not least for wedding gigs, many guests commented that they felt shivers of pleasure just about constantly while you were playing. It's almost a pity that the event is over and we won't have any further contact ..." / Daniel Wihlstrand, Gothenburg, Sweden, August 8 2018

Video clips from some of Salamander's concerts can be seen here.

Music examples from Salamander's debut album are here.

A gallery is here.

Salamander's second album "Como La Rosa", released in 2018, is available on Spotify, iTunes Store and Youtube Music. A physical CD can be ordered at Bengans and CDon.com.

Press photos can be downloaded below.