Kajsa’s next chapter

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By: Ketil Mosnes
May 28, 2021

Kajsa Balto released a critically acclaimed album in the middle of the pandemic. Now she is ready to get out on the road.

– I'm actually quite nervous! It's been such a long time between each concert, and our rehearsal space in Oslo has been closed for months. And then the first gig in a long time happens at Bergen International Festival…in the Grieg Hall, of all places!

The Oslo-based artist Kajsa Balto has received a lot of praise and attention from critics and audiences in recent years, and when her second album Buot eallá was released in 2020, NRK (Norwegian state television) claimed that it was among the best releases of the year. Balto's upcoming concert in Bergen will be the artist's first encounter with Bergen International Festival and the Grieg Hall, and in an interview with the festival, she talks about the expectations before her upcoming trip to the west coast:

– It's really cool, and I think it's maybe going to be one of the biggest gigs I've done so far. I’m very proud and happy about getting this opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to it. The fact that I’m nervous is a good sign.

Kajsa was born in Oslo, and has Sami roots from the northern part of Norway. She has previously said that her father's everyday joik, as well as joik recorded by her uncle, inspired her to create music. Together with artists such as Marja Mortensson and Ella Marie Hætta (ISAK), Balto today represents an exciting, and growing, scene, where young artists mix traditional joik with other musical styles such as jazz and pop. In 2020, she received the Sami Parliament's two-year artist scholarship for young and newly established artists.

– I actually felt a little sad for many years because I didn’t really focus on music after high school, the artist answers when asked about when, and how, she realized that music was the right path for her.

– The piano was my main instrument, and I didn’t dare to joik or sing in front of others. But then I became a mother, and it became natural to joik at home with the children, like my father did for me when I was a child myself. The joik gradually became a bigger and bigger part of everyday life once again, and not just something I did for myself. And the need to create something grew bigger. When you have small children you have to make good use of your spare time, so I went all in and started playing with Karoline (Bjørhei, drums and percussion) and Ragnhild (Tronsmo Haugland, cello). It escalated pretty quick, and Aleksander (Sjølie, guitar) joined as well. I just recently came to the realisation that I'm actually on the musical path now…it happened when we released Buot eallá a year ago. I have to pinch my arm, actually. It’s a bit crazy to think about the fact that it was in the middle of a pandemic things started happening for us!

– What comes first when you write material? Lyrics or music?

– It varies a lot. Sometimes I use traditional material that already has got lyrics and melody, other times I have a melody in my head or a story that I want to share.

– It may look as if the pandemic is finally about to let go of us. Do you have any specific musical plans now that the world is about to open again?

– Yes, first and foremost I hope that the festivals this summer are actually happening…we haven’t been able to tour properly with Buot eallá yet. I also have some touring plans for the fall as well as an upcoming new album. 

– What do you prefer? Large, outdoor festival stages or intimate club stages?

– I haven’t done that many large outdoor scenes yet, but I’ll learn more about this during the summer. To me, club scenes are not that intimate anymore, as we recently have done several concerts in front of as little as 10, 20 people during the pandemic. I can hardly imagine playing for a couple of hundred. I'm glad that we can soon start playing for an audience of a more normal size again…it's going to feel great whether it's happening inside or outside.

– Nature is a recurring theme in your lyrics. Since you live in Oslo yourself…what’s your best tip for getting a good nature experience in the Oslo area?

– I like to walk around Sognsvann and up to Ullevålsseter, or just along the Akers River from the top and down to the city centre. Otherwise, there are many beautiful areas along the coastline; The islands in the Oslo Fjord have  nice beaches, old meadows and bathing spots. If you want to find something a little more quiet, you can take the trip through Nordmarka up to the heights in Maridalen and get a view of the city from there. Or watch the sunset over the Oslo Fjord from Grefsenkollen, perhaps. Or take a forest trip from Østmarksetra to Mariholtet. It’s hard to choose just one thing! There are so many nice places in Oslo.

– Career-wise, where would you like to be in ten years from now?

– I'm not really sure…I feel quite open. Let’s see where life takes me.

Supported by Vestland county council


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