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Nordika

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!

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