Sometimes can be an amazing experience to get out of your musical comfort zone and go on a sonic, rhythmically expansive global adventure that truly transports the heart and soul while giving one’s mind colorful time traveling lessons it will never forget. You’ve never heard a brother and sister act like Norwegian born Julie and Andreas Rokseth, who take the concept of transatlantic cultural fusion to its most melodic, danceable and compelling extreme on With the Sky in Our Hands, their brilliant new collection classic and original tangos.
Creating a sensual yet playful, fresh contemporary twist on the classic style (which originated in the 1880s along the Rio de Plata, the natural border between Argentina and Uruguay), Julie (harp) and Andreas (bandoneon) create innovative arrangements which allow them to transcend the harp’s stereotypical classical limitations and sway and groove through the emotional joys and pains of these pieces with vibrant tango authenticity.
Some fun background facts to think about as you’re enjoying the romp from the alternately plucky and poignant original “Noctilique del Tango” to the elegantly and thoughtfully rendered, somewhat obscure Astor Piazzolla piece “El Cielo en Las Manos” – the title track that artfully showcases how the harp can use the “bandoneonistic” techniques of expressing tango music. Both siblings graduated cum laude in Master of Music (MMus) from Codarts, University of the Arts (in their second home of Rotterdam, Netherlands). Julie received her degree in tango harp (a world first!) and Andreas in bandondeon.
She started playing pedal harp at 9, and he started on the accordion at six and the bandoneon at 10. Since their instruments were parts of different traditions and genres, the Rokseths didn’t realize that these instruments could fit together until their later teens. It took them several years before they took on the challenge of creating compositions and arrangements, and by 2014, they began performing in Norway and internationally, staying six months at one point in Buenos Aires.
Aside from melodic and rhythmic diversity and multiple moods expressed in each piece, the true joys of the collection emerge from the way they create a narrative that blends their masterful interpretations of pieces by legendary composers like Anibal Troilo (“La Trampera”), E.N. de la Cruz (“El Ciruja”), Juan Carlos Cobian (the multi-movement “Los Mareados”) and Piazzolla with uniquely recorded originals that feature Julie on different harps. She plays lever harp on “Noctilique del Tango” and the lighthearted “Tijango,” solo pedal harp on the dark, haunting “Alma Herida,” and medieval on the largely atmospheric “Alma, no Entornes tu Ventana.” That last piece was improvised with field recordings from the siblings’ favorite place in the world, the birthplace of their mother, the Norwegian island of Sula.
Listening to this album, you’ll travel through time, cultures and history – and be left with a soaring feeling that somehow Julie and Andreas have left you with the sky in your hands.