Ingolv Haaland is a ‘freelance musician/composer/arranger/producer, programmer and professor’ from Norway.
Haaland has composed, performed and produced five albums of fusion music which successfully blended Western orchestral and electronic sounds with traditional instruments from the Middle East, Thailand and Cambodia. During the making of these works Ingolv forged a successful creative partnership with the celebrated Cambodian singer Ouch Savy.
Haaland’s compositions from the albums Asian Flow and Journey were performed at a large scale concert in Norway in 2015, which was in turn released as the album Live in Concert. As he prepared to jet in to Phnom Penh for a gig at Meta House with Ouch Savy, Ingolv took a call from Leng Pleng to let us know some background about the upcoming gig and his musical work.
Hi Ingolv! Saturday’s performance with singer Ouch Savy, bassist Torbjorn Tveit and Tro player Tola Say will be the first time you’ve played in Cambodia with Ouch Savy since 2013? Whereabouts in the Meta House building will the performance be staged?
We haven’t done that in five years. I decided to do it upstairs, where we can get a slightly better sound. Probably inside – it depends on the weather. The instrumentation will be piano, bass, tro, with backing tracks – some tracks from the original album, recorded with a string orchestra in Bratislava. The backing tracks are a compromise – I want people to experience the full sound [of the orchestra].
You are known for incorporating South-East Asian and Middle-Eastern instrumentation and styles into your music. Does your music represent the countries you’ve lived in or visited?
Yes, my music is a reflection of where I’ve travelled in the world.
Music helps open the world rather than closing it. Music can be a bridge between cultures and also solve problems and challenges. As an example, working with Arabic and Cambodian musicians during the Norwegian concert, you can see a [positive] reaction [from the audience]… it sounds really naive but I see it time and time again.
In other examples, there is something about using music as a softener. It’s nothing new – In Thailand they used it the 1700’s and 1800’s when the British came, traditional songs played with horns. People use music as a bridge between cultures. I really believe this is the way to go.
Do you hear much interesting music coming out of Cambodia at the moment?
I think there is more and more happening, I went to a metal concert some months ago… I’m really happy to see the diversity of different genres. I’m going to do a 1700sworkshop with Tiny Toones on Friday, workin with hip-hop breakbeats. Klap Ya Handz started something [a few years ago] and now there is a variety of people working… singers and rappers emerging. I’m actually very positive and I think I see good things happening in the future. Everything happens outside education systems, it’s a good thing… an on-the-ground feel.
It is possible to think creatively about how education should be. I would like to contribute at some point, networking in Asia with big institutions, setting up education systems.
Khmer instruments and vocals were recorded in Phnom Penh… sometimes in my hotel room, or in the Cambodian Living Arts studio, and also recorded all over the world. Norway, Bratislava in Eastern Europe. The compositions were composed mostly in Norway and Cambodia. It took me four years to do it. I work very slowly but I’m getting there. I maybe do three songs in half a year.
Singer Ouch Savy is very talented, what is it like working with her?
One of the best artists I have worked with – and I’m not saying that because this is an interview, I’m saying it because it’s true.
She has insane potential, there are so many venues she can do if she wants to. We are looking into the next step. She can collaborate with anybody, she is spontaneous, the way she works in the studio, she just gets up to the microphone and does it. Her flow of music, energy, with the most precise intonation.
[Following the Kristiansand concert] Savy was also involved in a big concert with 56 musicians from 70 countries… [and recorded] that CD ‘Ferd’ by ‘Music Without Borders’. She improvised in Khmer… they played it on Norwegian TV, in South America. Intriguing that what we started off in Phnom Penh, going to Norway… she has gone further. She sings in her own language and she uses ornamentations from the traditional [Khmer] singing – so a lot of people who have not been exposed to Khmer [music will hear it via Savy].
After the big concert with Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra at Kilden Performing Art Centre, Kristiansand, Norway in March 2015, you described the performance as a “once in a lifetime event” – do you think you could put something huge like that together again?
Playing a lottery… sometimes you win! Getting those musicians and artists together took a little bit of luck. The Arabic artists are world famous. When everyone has a good day, [and the musicians are] interacting… what was delivered was world class. It is rare to make a concert like this.
There was two years of pre-production for that concert… raising money, convincing people to take part… a string orchestra, organisations. I was able to choose musicians from the top of my list. The drummer from A-Ha, Karl-Oluf Wennerberg, he played at that concert and on all my records.
We were also able to promote Cambodian culture in Norway. The concert was broadcast on national television. We spent Khmer New Year there, played a separate concert for a Cambodian centre in Norway. The awareness of Cambodian culture is stronger now in Norway.
The bigger [concerts] in Cambodia will be a reality… we just need some time.
Thanks so much Ingolv, and we’ll see you at Meta House on Saturday!
INGOLV HAALAND spoke to Joe Wrigley for Leng Pleng, August 2018.