About Nelly



Nelly Östlund was born in 1920 in Lenninge, Hälsingland, where she grew up and learned how to fiddle. Since her marriage to farmer Folke Östlund (1945) she has lived in Rossberga, situated some 20 km north of Avesta in the southern parts of Dalarna (Södra Dalarna). Nelly bears a tradition consisting of both Hälsinge and Dalarna tunes.

Notable for Swedish folk music is that it will not be captured by a transcription. Traditionally, it has been passed on by heart from one generation of fiddlers to the next. To bear a tradition is to know a lot more than shows on a sheet. Nelly is one of few fiddlers of the old school who are still alive and capable of giving us guidance in the way Swedish folk music was once performed, preserved and passed on. She knows two traditions well from having heard fiddlers who left us many years ago, and from having performed herself for about sixty peaking years both on stage and as a dance musician. She plays in harmony like few fiddlers ever, her repertoire is huge and her technical skills are only to be beaten by her deep understanding of the essence of music. She has been greatly awarded over the years. She was acknowledged with the Zorn medal in both silver (1950) and gold (1991; for “extraordinary deeds for the preservation and forthliving of Swedish folk music from both Hälsingland and Dalarna”), she received the Avesta municipality cultural award of 1999 (“Fridolin of the year”) and just recently she received the first issue of the Spel-Stina medal (2004), which in that year was instigated to be given to prominent female folk musicians. Nelly especially cares for the rhythm and the originality of the tunes she passes on to us.  

As a young woman, Nelly was part of the successful ladies’ orchestra Hälsingeflickorna (“The Hälsinge Girls”). As a farmer’s wife and mother of three later on, she has not always been free to fiddle as much as her heart would have desired. Even so, she and her husband Folke (also awarded the Zorn silver medal), became famous in all of Sweden as a fiddlers couple during the seventies when folk music in Sweden had a period of great popularity. In her retirement years, Nelly has engaged herself in the By Folkdanslag (the By folk dance organisation), playing at their regular rehearsals and following them around the country performing with the program “Weddings of all times”. She has also engaged herself in being the artistic leader of Avesta Spelmanslag, for which we are grateful. Even when health does not permit her to use her instrument, she keeps inspiring us by pointing out to us the beauty and joy of music.

Do you wish to learn more about Nelly’s life and deeds? Contact Lisa


Nelly Östlund

Kurbits painted by Gunn Andersson, Arvika



Nellys magiska kista med konsert- och turneprogram m.m.