Boknakaran – "the bokna lads" - are four young, promising musicians and storytellers. None of us born later than 1950, and thus we are all worthy of the band name: "Bokna" means half dried, in Northern Norway mostly used about fish. You take a cod, hang it for a couple of weeks, then it’s bokna. It’s not quite fresh, and not quite dry – something in between, and very tasty. Just like us ("karan" means "the lads").

As you probably understand by now, we live on the North Norwegian coast, more precisely in the city of Tromsø (at almost 70 degrees north). Our music and lyrics are made from a Northern point of view, but we may collect ideas and inspiration from all over the world. The bokna music is acoustic and based on traditional folk music, but we add flavours from any musical style that fits in.


The band was started in 1992, and has since then become quite popular in the Northern part of Norway. This is where we play and tour, and it’s natural because our songs are related to this region. The region, by the way, is quite big, so we have our hands full trying to cover most of it during the year. We like to visit small places in the fiords and on the islands. In this way we get close contact with – and inspiration from – people all along our long-stretched coast.

Boknakaran also have been abroad, playing at festivals. The first time was in –93, when we visited the Richmond Folk Week-end in Yorkshire. A couple of years later we played at the big Redcar Festival, and the Frederikssund Folk Song Festival in Denmark.

We have visited Petrozavodsk in the Russian republic Karelia, as well as the city of Arkhangelsk.

The trip to Petrozavodsk resulted in a unique concert project, called "Moja på tvoja". This involves Russian vocal ensemble "Rosynka" and Sámi joik artist Ánde Somby , and of course Boknakaran. In the concert we play and sing together, combining three very different musical traditions. The response has been overwhelming on our tours in Norway, and in June 2001 we had a great experience visiting Karelia and playing on the Kantele festival in Petrozavodsk. At the same time we released a CD with live recordings of the Moja på tvoja concert, and this CD has been very well received. If you look at the "Moja på tvoja" page you will find a copy of the review in Folk World magazine (in English). We are ready for festivals all over the world, so just send us an invitation!

In the meantime, Boknakaran keep on playing for the North Norwegian people, and try to sell the three CDs we have released on our own label, Steinbeat. On this web site you can listen to a few songs from each of them, and if you want to buy one or two, mail us!


Malvin Skulbru

sings his own songs and plays a few instruments: Guitar, mandolin, Swedish bagpipe, melodeon, harmonica, hardanger fiddle and bodhran.

His solo instrumental CD "Blådansen" ("The Blue Dance") is released on Boknakaran’s label Steinbeat. This is the only CD in the world with original hardanger fiddle music from North Norway.

Malvin is an author and poet, with nine books published. One of them dramatized for Norwegian TV. He has participated, with his own lyrics and music, in several music/poetry performances.

Since 1990 Malvin has been on many visits to Yorkshire, England, and he has lots of friends there. This has affected his songs and music, and some years ago he produced a cassette featuring folk singer Freda White (81) from Wensleydale. He has also written a popular Song for Freda, which is recorded on the Boknakaran CD "Unbløgged".

In 2001 Malvin released his first CD in English. It is "a poetic slowJazz production" called "Grass Is A Slow Thing", containing poems, music on hardanger fiddle and clarinet (oops – one more instrument!), and background noise recorded in Firenze!

Ragnar Olsen

makes his own songs and sings them, in Boknakaran or alone with his guitar. He also plays the banjo, mandocello, button accordeon, and – occasionally – a little percussion and tin whistle.

Ragnar combines his singing/songwriting with writing and translating for the theatre. He has translated three Shakespeare plays to North Norwegian dialect, as he has done with works of other great masters like Sofokles, Euripides, Brecht and Jacques Brel.

Ragnar has won several awards for his songs and translations.

His interest in the Irish tenor banjo was aroused on a visit to Ireland in 1997, and he has been a frequent guest at the South Sligo Summer School in Tubbercurry, taking banjo classes and – subsequently – playing in sessions. He also likes to play Norwegian traditional music on the Irish banjo, a somewhat unusual combination.


Jan Arvid Johansen

sings his own melodies to lyrics written by the North Norwegian poet Helge Stangnes. His poems are very popular in our part of the world, as they brilliantly relate the nature, the people, the history and the humour of the Arctic coast. Jan Arvid has worked together with Helge for years, and their best songs are represented on the Boknakaran CDs.

Jan Arvid plays the guitar, mandolin, harmonica, organ and bodhran.

He was educated at the Music Conservatorium in Tromsø, and has been a freelance musician since. In the seventies he was a member of the legendary "Nordnorsk Visegruppe", a band of young Tromsø musicians who performed new arrangements of old North Norwegian folk songs and tunes. The group was very popular on a national scale, and won prestigious awards.

After this Jan Arvid has worked in theatre groups and together with many of the great North Norwegian singers and musicians. Besides his own compositions he has a big repertoire of various songs, among them many Irish ones.

Pål Thorstensen

is the double base player of Boknakaran, and our musical anchor. He is the only "boknakar" born in the South of Norway, and also the only one to own a genuine North Norwegian veteran fishing smack.

After finishing his education at The High School of Music in Oslo, Pål has played mostly jazz and folk music. He has played jazz with Terje Rypdal, Bendik Hofset and Jon Eberson; and with the ragtime pianist Morten Gunnar Larsen, with whom he visited the US (New Orleans!).

Pål has worked a lot with gipsy and Baltic music, and has studied the gipsy style of double base in Budapest. Now he’s a member of "Gjertrud’s Gipsy Orchestra". He also plays Irish traditional music on the flatback bouzouki. Norwegian folk music he performs with the well-known fiddler Nils Økland ("Blå harding").