Mala Gassman

“Bluegrass connects people all over the world!”

Interview with Mala Gassman, Swiss singer and fiddle player
© Lilly Drumeva-O’Reilly.

Mala Gassman is a lovely young lady from Switzerland; with her band Mala & FyrMoon, she performs a mix of country, folk and bluegrass; she writes most of the songs as well and is an accomplished fiddle player and vocalist.

I met Mala in Raleigh, North Carolina, during the International Bluegrass Music Association conference in September 2013. We booth performed at the “International Suite” and had a chance to talk a little. Here are Mala’s answers to some of my questions:

-How did you get involved in bluegrass music?

I played classical violin for many years and loved to sing. I always dreamed of having a country band one day (because I liked country music). Through country music, I got in touch with bluegrass and bluegrass related genres. I soon felt that this is more where my heart lies in. I remember I bought my first appalachian fiddle tune book in 1997. I think I started diving more into bluegrass music about 2003 or 2004 (in 2004 I visited for the first time the IBMA conference). My old band mates and friends came up with some albums of Alison Krauss and Nickel Creek, etc. I suppose, I never was a big traditional bluegrass listener. I know of course where its roots come from. I look at Bill Monroe like I look at my grandparents, who I never knew. I owe my musical roots to him, but I have not known him.

-What do you like about it?

I love acoustic music. It comes from the heart. It is natural, it can be played everywhere, it brings people of all ages together, it connects people of all over the world. I love the happy mood of a fiddle tune and the sad songs, that bring tears to your eyes. It is down to earth music; it is pure and honest, just like life. I love the harmonies of the different voices and the sounds of the instruments. I love how you can express feelings and moods through singing or playing an instrument.

-How would you describe it?

Well, I suppose a lot is said above. It is somewhat related to country music, but is more folk oriented. It has some Irish influence I would say. It is totally acoustic, that means that in general, it has no drums or electric instruments (of course, there are exeptions). It has songs and instrumental tunes. Traditional bluegrass has often very happy moods, although the words of the songs are sometimes dark and serious (a lot of heartbreaks and murders!). Songs are also about happy love, home, family and beautiful nature. There are gospel and acapella songs as well.

Lilly Drumeva