Nordika is a duo of Niles and Deborah Hokkanen from Winchester,
VA, formed in 1993 as a vehicle for playing the folk music of
Finland and Finnish America. They began playing at Finnish-American
functions and ethnic music festivals. Eventually, they expanded
Nordika's repertoire to include traditional folk music from many
lands around the world, as well as the many different styles of
"roots" music from all over the US.
In addition to their broad range of musical styles, they play
a wide variety of instruments. Niles is featured on the mandolin
family of instruments; mandolin, mandola and bouzouki, as well
as ancient Scandinavian instruments such as teh jouhikko (an ancient
precursor of the violin), natural scale flute and kantele (lap
harp). He also plays guitar, bass guitar, and bass pedals and
percussion. Deborah plays the violin, viola, 5-row button accordian,
guitar, piano and keyboard, plus she sings! They provide an amazingly
full sound from just two people.
Niles Hokkanen grew up in central Florida. Musically he moved
back and forth from Dan Hicks and Frank Zappa to Bill Monroe and
Buck White. Eventually his attention focused on acoustic folk
music. Choosing a Gibson F-4 mandolin as his instrument, he launched
into a career based on his belief that any style of music can
be played on mandolin (or whatever your instrument of choice is).
The instrument's capabilities are up to you.
In a few short years he taught himself into the top rung of bluegrass
mandolinists, publishing almost two dozen books on mando-related
instruction and mandolin instruction columns for such publications
as Acoustic Musician. He has been a prolific musical journalist,
writing for many music-oriented magazines in the US and abroad.
From 1986 to 1998, he published The Mandrocrucian's Digest, a
periodical about the mandolin. Niles conducts mandolin and improvisation
workshops throughout the US, Canada and overseas.
Having recorded and performed with such luminaries as Larry
Rice, Howard Levy, Micheal Doucet (of Bousoleil) and British guitarists
Martins Simpson and Richard Thompson, Niles Hokkanen has been
called "a musician's musician" and a 'teacher's teacher." Seeing
him go off on a non-stop 20-minute Nordika medley with his wife
(which might include Snowflake Breakdown, Las Golondrinas, Whiskey
Before Breakfast, Merry Blacksmith, Summertime Blues and Purple
Haze) will definitely convince you that you have entered the wild
world of Hokkanen!
Deborah Hokkanen has played piano since age nine and has been
singing and playing guitar and fiddle/violin for most of her adult
life. Since being involved in Nordika, she has also taken up piano
and 5-row chromatic button accordian. For some years she lived
in San Antonio, TX, which introduced her to western swing as well
as the Tex-Mex and blues styles that have influenced her playing
ever since. She performs a variety of music ranging from traditional
forms such as Appalachian and Celtic, to blues and rock, with
Cajun, country, and old jazz and blues standards thrown in for
good measure. She has sung and played keyboards and fiddle for
a number of professional groups.
In 1989, Niles returned from a tour of Scandinavia with "a big
stack of albums" of that music, and by the early 90's they became
the acoustic duo, Nordika. Initially they concentrated on Scandinavian
music, but gradually expanded to integrate folk music from lands
around the world. By 1995, Deborah also got to go on tour in Finland,
and while there, performed a number of styles of American "roots"
music in addition to the Scandinavian music for which Nordika
had become known . She taught American fiddle styles and folk
ballads at the Kaustinen Folk Music Institute in Finland. They
returned for another tour of Finland in 1999.
During any given concert the Hokkanens may take you on a dizzying
tour that may include music from Scandinavia, the British Isles,
Portugal, Mexico, France, other Eastern/Western European countries,
Greece, China, Japan and other Asian countries, as well as American
styles from Appalachian to Tex-Mex, bluegrass to blues. The time
frame of the music can range from medieval tunes and 1,000-year-old
rune tunes to Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and blues
ala Bonnie Raitt!